Why Charlie Hunnam Was Never The Same After Sons Of Anarchy

Perhaps you first caught Charlie Hunnam in one of his early television roles on Queer as Folk or Undeclared. Or maybe you remember his performance as Raleigh Beckett in the sci-fi monster movie Pacific Rim. But chances are good you were introduced to Hunnam as Jax Teller, the vice president (and eventually, president) of a motorcycle club on Sons of Anarchy. The role represented a turning point in Hunnam's career, and suddenly, he found himself attracting a fan club. 

Sons of Anarchy ran for seven seasons from 2008 through 2014, and Hunnam remained an audience favorite throughout the entire run. The series finale aired about five years ago, and fans who've followed Hunnam's subsequent work have probably noticed he's taken his career in a different direction since then. In interviews, he's quick to dispense life advice inspired by Zen philosophy, and he's shifted towards working in film rather than getting on board with another TV show. He also made some controversial decisions that had people wondering if his career could bounce back. Here's why Hunnam hasn't been quite the same man since Sons of Anarchy ended.

He's had some trouble moving on

Moving on from a role after a beloved TV shows ends is never easy for an actor, especially when they've been playing that character for several years. For Hunnam, saying goodbye to Jax Teller was difficult. In fact, the way he describes the experience makes it sound as though he went through some sort of grieving process. 

Hunnam has been honest about his life post-Sons of Anarchy, and he's said that getting Jax out of his head didn't happen overnight. He was overwhelmingly nostalgic for his time on Sons of Anarchy, and he admitted that he would make up excuses to visit the set and relive his days on the show. "I knew the security guards and for a couple of days said, 'Oh, I forgot something'," Hunnam told Glamour. "So they'd let me onto the set, and I'd just walk around at night because I wanted to be in that environment and go through a personal process of saying goodbye." After spending so long as Jax, moving on to the next role and jumping into the unknown was a challenge for Hunnam, and it's clear that he still remembers Sons of Anarchy fondly. 

He's been dealing with loss

The loss of a parent could cause anyone to rethink their life. In 2013, Hunnam had just shot the final season of Sons of Anarchy, and he knew he was about enter a transition phase in his career. But his personal life also took an unexpected turn. His father passed away, and the tragedy forced him to reconsider his career decisions. This was one factor that contributed to Hunnam's choice to drop out of the role of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, a decision that made everyone wonder what would happen to his career.

Of course, family comes before film, but Hunnam had a complicated relationship with his dad. His father was a scrap-metal dealer who had a tough reputation in Newcastle, the English town where Hunnam grew up. But his parents divorced when Hunnam was young, and his dad wasn't around often. However, Hunnam is going forward with a project that he hopes will allow him to fully process their relationship and reflect on his dad's life. In 2017, Hunnam said that he was planning a film about his father, in which he hopes to star as the late Mr. Hunnam. He described it as "a biographical family drama about love and conflict between ambition and family," and said that he's been wanting to act in a film like this for a while. 

Hunnam worries about work

For six years, Hunnam knew that he had a secure paycheck as Jax Teller. As long as Sons of Anarchy earned solid ratings, he didn't have much to worry about. All he had to do was show up on set, do his job, and call it a day. But once the show finished its run, he was responsible for making big decisions about his next career-defining move, and he felt very intimidated by the process. 

Yes, Hunnam is clearly set financially, but anyone who makes a living off their art always worries the work — and therefore, the money — will eventually dry up. Hunnam says that he struggles with this particular insecurity. "It's a tricky thing to quantify one's career," he told The Talks, "because on some ways I am in a position where I want to be, I am getting to work with good directors and tell interesting stories ... But I always feel like I am one failed movie away from being unemployable."

It seems like Hunnam can be fairly critical of himself. He isn't a fan of the process of choosing roles, and he doesn't enjoy feeling the pressure to succeed at the box office every time. Instead, he finds it exceedingly stressful, and worrying about work is something we can all relate to.

He wants to change his image

It's no secret that Hunnam is well known for his good looks. He's not shy about saying that he's "always been well-received by the female audience," and when he played Jax, female fans of Sons of Anarchy swooned over him. But Hunnam is an actor at heart, not a model, and he wants to earn respect and attention for his talents, not his looks. He became uncomfortable with the way some people perceived him during his time on Sons of Anarchy, as someone who coasted to fame on physical appearance alone.

Hunnam has struggled with the fact that, yes, being good-looking is certainly an advantage in Hollywood, but he still wants to be recognized for his hard work and land roles based on merit. When it comes to how other people see him, Hunnam told InStyle, "I try not to think about that too much because I'm just attempting to shape my own perception of myself and feel confident in my own identity." Hunnam then admitted there will always be people who see him as just the "pretty boy," but despite the stigma, he still wants to face the challenge of making each and every performance work to the best of his ability.

Charlie Hunnam has been hitting the gym

While shooting Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam was under a lot of pressure to stay in good shape. He had to look fit and toned on set. After all, Jax wouldn't let himself go, so neither could Hunnam. The actor says that nowadays, eating a healthy diet and sticking to a challenging exercise routine are two of his top priorities. He confessed that when he lived in England, he wasn't too concerned with nutrition or working out. But now that he's been in Los Angeles for so long, where every popular wellness trend seems to start, he says that he's "gone a bit Californian" when it comes to food and fitness.

Hunnam also says that he consistently turns to exercise as his outlet for stress relief. His efforts in the gym and the kitchen have definitely paid off. Like many actors who've been in the business for a while, Hunnam isn't all about glitz and glamour. Instead, he's aiming to take good care of himself and find balance in life. 

He's been exploring new projects

Hunnam is an actor before anything else. It's his passion in life, and he's certainly not retiring any time soon. But he's also open to exploring new opportunities and creative mediums. Towards the end of his time on Sons of Anarchy, he even started writing screenplays.

For example, Hunnam wrote a screenplay about Vlad the Impaler, which he developed with Brad Pitt's production company, but the project never got off the ground. A few years later, he decided to try his hand at screenwriting again. He based his next script off the Rolling Stone article "An American Drug Lord in Acapulco," which told the sad story of Edgar Valdez, a promising high school football player who lost his scholarship — and his shot at getting out of poverty — after getting into a horrific car accident. Valdez then started down a dangerous path and became the leader of one of Mexico's biggest cartels. "It's an exploration of the death of the American dream," Hunnam told GQ. "That's what I'm interested in."

Hunnam has also worked on a screenplay about gypsy culture in the England. He hasn't quite made the leap to professional screenwriter yet, but it looks like Hunnam is ready to try on a few new hats. 

Hunnam has become a martial arts master

Hunnam has always felt that being able to handle himself in a fight was a necessary skill. When he was young, he lived in a rough neighborhood, and he had to know how to defend himself. And when he signed on to the film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, he had to go through a pretty intense training regimen, which included learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Hunnam ended up getting super into the sport, and he started feeling the benefits of consistent practice. In fact, he says that jiu-jitsu changed his mindset.

"It's not even as much the physical benefit of training; it's the mental," he told Men's Health. "When you're training every day in a combat discipline, it just gives you that eye of the tiger." Even after shooting for King Arthur ended, Hunnam stuck with jiu-jitsu. He even went on to earn his blue belt in 2018. Hunnam's new hobby seems to have had a profound impact on him. After all, he doesn't do anything halfway, and it's probably a good idea for everyone to stay on his good side now.

He's had a change in priorities

For Hunnam, life isn't really about material things ... but he didn't always hold this perspective. In fact, this is a relatively recent change. Hunnam has owned up to the fact that he used to be a big spender, particularly when it came to his sneaker collection. He knew he could afford the best, and he wanted to splurge, but as he got older, he realized that he was being wasteful. After all, having the perfect sneaker collection didn't really matter much in the long run. 

Hunnam decided to give most of his sneakers away to charity, and while he's not about to call himself a minimalist, he doesn't feel the need anymore to own the latest, best models of everything. Hunnam now names the author Henry David Thoreau as one of his inspirations. Sure, he's not going to ditch all of his possessions and move to the woods, but he's definitely come to realize that money doesn't buy happiness. 

He's saying goodbye to TV

Hunnam started his acting career by working in TV. He was discovered in a shoe store and was cast in the children's show Byker Grove shortly afterwards. He did a brief stint as a model, which he quickly decided was not for him, and then landed the role of Nathan on Queer as Folk. After that, he appeared on shows like Young AmericansUndeclared, and of course, Sons of Anarchy. These TV roles defined the early days of Hunnam's career, but ever since Sons of Anarchy ended, he actually hasn't worked on any other shows.

Although Hunnam has made it clear that he misses the peace of mind that comes with recurring, long-term TV roles, his priorities have changed. Over the past five years, Hunnam has made a conscious choice to solely focus on films like Triple Frontier and The Lost City of Z. Whether or not Hunnam will want to return to the small screen at some point in the future remains to be seen, but for now, you'll probably only be catching him in movies. 

Hunnam is being super selective

So how does Hunnam choose projects nowadays? He's been outspoken about the fact that it can be a difficult process for him. But he does have one major factor he relies on to make the final decision: the director. "For me, as I've gone through my career, it's now become all about the director," he told Uproxx. "A great story or a great character is really irrelevant if you don't have an amazing director at the center of it." 

For example, Hunnam says that he's always been a big fan of director Michael Noer's movies, so when he got the chance to work with him on the prison film Papillon, he jumped on it. He doesn't want to be part of a film unless he's truly on the same page as the director. He feels like this strategy is serving him pretty well so far. After all, an exciting script and a star-studded cast can't make up for a weak director. 

Charlie Hunnam's new outlook on success

Charlie Hunnam doesn't think that fame and wealth are necessarily indicators of success. At this point, he's had enough of both to know that neither will bring true fulfillment on their own. Today, he says he actually prefers to work on smaller projects with less financial backing because he feels like the director has more creative control in that scenario. He's not looking for more accolades or higher salaries. He just wants to create films that he's proud of. He wants to challenge himself and work alongside directors who have interesting ideas. 

"If I'm involved in a project that I feel excited about," he said to Uproxx, "and it gives me a sense of purpose, and it gives me a sense of creative fulfillment, that is deep fulfillment to me, and it evens out the balance for me in my own journey. My success, for me, is about getting to continue to work on things that make me excited." It seems like Hunnam has had a lot to reflect on since Sons of Anarchy ended, and although the journey wasn't always easy, he's confident about the direction he's going in now.