Theo Rossi is well known for playing Juice on the wildly popular biker drama “Sons of Anarchy” and Shades on the latest Netflix Marvel series “Luke Cage,” and the two characters couldn’t be more different. But Rossi said they do have at least a couple of similar traits.
“I seem to play people that are a little more emotionally driven and definitely a little more mentally unstable,” he said.
Rossi got his big break playing Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz when “Sons of Anarchy” debuted on FX in 2008. Over the course of seven wild, violent, Shakespearean and crime-ridden seasons, one could argue that nobody had a wilder emotional ride than Juice, whether he was killing important characters, having mental breakdowns, attempting to take his own life or simply botching an attempted break-in by accidentally feeding a guard dog crystal meth.
For Rossi, Juice’s unpredictability gave him plenty to sink his teeth into with each of writer-creator Kurt Sutter’s scripts, up to the very end.
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“Juice, literally, in seven seasons was almost like seven different characters,” Rossi said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever play a character who has that many different faces. He’s literally done everything, and that’s why people were so emotionally invested.”
The 41-year-old actor from Los Angeles by way of New York City got his start playing extras and bit parts in movies and TV shows before “Sons.” The show developed a huge following that led to plenty of comic con convention appearances, and the show’s stars were swarmed by die-hard fans. In fact, that’s part of the reason Rossi is finally visiting Central Kentucky.
“You could always tell where you got a ton of support from and where people were really excited for the show,” he said. “Lexington has always been a really great ‘Sons’ base for us.”
Now, when Rossi makes appearances such as the one at Lexington’s Comic Con, fans want to talk to him just as much about his recent portrayal of the cerebral and dangerous Hernan “Shades” Alvarez, one of the key villains in “Luke Cage.” He said the combination of “Sons” being a “living, breathing graphic novel” and its intense following was good preparation for being a part of the Marvel Universe, which he sometimes can’t believe.
“You’re (on the show) talking about the guy with the hammer (Thor) or the big green guy (The Hulk) and you exist in the same universe,” Rossi said. “You kind of geek out a little bit.”
Rossi has managed to recently branch out from his TV roles, directing his first independent release, 2015’s “Bad Hurt,” which was critically hailed at both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Sunscreen Film Festival. Rossi is taking a break from directing, and you can see him soon on the big screen as Francisco “Ghost” Alvarez opposite Melissa Benoist, Eva Longoria and Demian Bichir in “Lowriders,” a drama set to premiere this summer, chronicling another subculture Rossi is excited to reveal to audiences.
“The lowriding culture is almost like a religion,” he said of the custom car enthusiasts. “It’s a huge part of the community ... and it’s a lot deeper than people think it is.”
Rossi soaks up the love at conventions for characters he has played, and he feels fortunate to live the life of a character actor who at this point is ready slip into his next role —especially one that gets a reaction.
“Now, I like to tackle people,” he said. “I don’t care. I want people to hate me. I want people to love me. I just want people to feel something.”
If you go
Theo Rossi will have photo ops ($50-$65) in the Elkhorn Room at noon Saturday and 12:30 Sunday, and a Q&A at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Regency Ballroom.
If you go
Lexington Comic & Toy Convention
What: Sixth annual media extravaganza featuring exhibits, events, vendors, photo ops and celebrity guests, including Robin Lord Taylor (“Gotham”), Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Comic Book Men”), Lee Majors (“Six Million-Dollar Man”), Michael Rooker (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Jewel Staite (“Firefly”), Ric Flair (pro wrestler), Seth Gilliam (“Walking Dead”), Gates McFadden (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”), Bruce Boxleitner (“Tron,” “Babylon 5”) and many more actors, creatives and artists.
When: 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Times are for general admission open floor times. Check online for VIP admission times and special events.
Where: Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine St.
Tickets: $40 Fri. only, $45 Sat., $30 Sun., $60 Sat. and Sun., $80 VIP weekend.