TV Drama Actors Talk About What Filming Their Final Scenes As Characters Was Like

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Though there are many reasons TV series succeed or fail, frequently it is the actors - and the characters they bring to life - who are key ingredients. These are the people who often devote years of their life to sculpting and creating their on-screen persona, whether it’s Walter White of Breaking Bad or Arya Stark of Game of Thrones.

Their performances are often so strong, they leave the viewer with an impression long after their final scene has aired. In fact, a number of notable stars have been very forthcoming about the mix of emotions they felt during the filming of their final scenes as their most notable characters.

  • Charlie Hunnam Said After ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Wrapped, He Had Difficulty Trying To ‘Exorcise’ Jax From His Psyche
    Photo: FX

    Charlie Hunnam has had a diverse career in Hollywood, but one of his most notable roles was in the series Sons of Anarchy, in which he plays Jax Teller, the leader of an outlaw motorcycle club. In keeping with the antihero craze that swept television throughout much of the 2000s and 2010s, Teller is both charismatic and yet, as the series reveals, deeply damaged, with a darkness in his soul. 

    Hunnam delivers a powerful performance, and the finale sees Jax leading the police on a suicidal chase. The actor demonstrated a profound commitment to his role, to such an extent he had trouble shaking him off after the finale ended, he recalled:

     I've never had an experience of getting so close and so deeply meshed with a character before. I felt when I finished Sons that it was a real process to get back to center, and try to exorcise him out of my psyche for as much as possible. Because I'd been living with him for eight years, you know, trying to bring him to life… "You know Kurt [Sutter]'s writing, he doesn't shy away from high drama, so we swing for the fences in almost every scene. So we're filming four or five massive scenes a day on that show, and so after eight years of that, I felt like I graduated. But because my education came from that show, I'm sure I bring a lot of that into everything I do.

  • Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki Said They Both ‘Broke Character’ During The Last Moments Of ‘Supernatural’
    Photo: The CW

    Throughout its run, Supernatural became one of the most popular and beloved dramas on the CW. What begins as a story about a pair of brothers pursuing various supernatural creatures and contending with the trauma of their mother’s death slowly blossoms into something far more profound, involving demons, angels, and the fate of the cosmos. Through it all, it is the undeniable chemistry between lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki that keeps the story grounded.

    The finale is a particularly powerful one, and the last scene between the brothers sees Dean dying in Sam’s arms. It was, apparently, a wrenching moment for the actors, as well. Ackles recounted in an interview:

    It was weighty because we knew it was coming and we had had a long time to see it on the horizon, and when it came and it was there, it was almost like… uh, I don’t know, I know I certainly broke character, I’ll tell you that much.

    Padalecki chimed in:

    “We both did."

  • James Gandolfini Said It Was ‘A Relief’ To Let Tony Soprano Go
    Photo: The Sopranos / HBO

    The Sopranos is widely regarded as not only one of the greatest series about the Mafia, but also one of the best series of all time, period. In large part, this stems from James Gandolfini’s masterful performance as Tony Soprano, a brutal man who nevertheless emerges as someone far more complex than one might think, tormented by his own demons and neuroses. 

    The series features one of the most controversial endings in television, with an abrupt cut to black leaving Tony’s fate unknown. For his part, Gandolfini was more than a little relieved to be done with the role, as he told Fox News:

    The character has been with me for so long, it's a relief to let him go… It's kind of one thing after another. Let's just say, it was a lot easier to like him in the beginning, than in the last few years. 

  • Bryan Cranston Said He Avoided Overacting In His Final Scene As Walter White In ‘Breaking Bad’ By Not Thinking Too Much
    Photo: AMC

    Throughout its run, Breaking Bad was hailed as a tour de force, a powerful and searing look into one man’s turn to darkness. Its main character, Walter White, was a chemistry teacher who, after his cancer diagnosis, turned to cooking meth as a means of supporting his family. Slowly but surely, however, he became ever more powerful and connected to the drug world. 

    His final scene is haunting, as it shows Walter sprawled on the floor, gazing at the ceiling as he slips away. Actor Bryan Cranston said to get the look he wanted on Walter’s face as the character embraces death, he tried to avoid overthinking and taking himself out of the moment. In an interview, he described the perils inherent in overthinking and, just as important, overacting:

    The overacting part of it comes in when you’re saying, “Oh, let me see what that looks like, let me look in the mirror.” [...] That’s when you start overthinking and you come out of your body, really, and the whole point of acting is to stay in the moment. Chances are you’re more effective that way.