Three Great Things: Theo Rossi

The Sons of Anarchy fan favorite, soon to be seen in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, on fatherhood, running and creating awareness.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the upcoming release on Netflix of Army of the Dead, one of the film’s stars, Theo Rossi – the prolific actor maybe best known for playing Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz on Sons of Anarchy shares some of the things that give his life meaning. — N.D.

I’ve got two young sons, who are five to three, and every day I try to set an example for them in every way, being the best husband, father, friend, everything. I wasn’t raised by my father, and I realize both the negative and the positive impact of that. A lot of people don’t talk about the positive aspect of not having a parental figure around, but it became extremely motivating for me in my life. It’s made me want to be the best father, especially in the past 12 months, when I’ve had more time with my sons.

Even though I worked on three projects this past year, I was more connected to my sons than ever, and it’s come at the perfect age for them. My older son becoming five made him aware of everything, and that, in turn, has made my three-year-old grow up faster. I look at little things – I’m an observer of life, in every way – and what it’s shown me is when they mimic me, whether it be in a physical or a verbal or an emotional way, they’re going to do that for the rest of their life. They’re going to do things I don’t even realize I’m doing, that my mother did or my birth father or my uncle who raised me did too.

Theo Rossi with his two sons. (Image via Instagram.)

I’m able to step outside myself, because the ego is not just the death of the artist, it’s the death of people. So I don’t have an ego. I try to pull back and ask myself how I’m acting around my sons, so I’m aware of it. Even in my mistakes, I say, “OK, that was not good. I shouldn’t have done that,” because I’ve become hyper aware in this past year. More importantly, it’s been amazing to watch my sons’ growth, and how it’s affected me. Let me give an example: For the extreme characters I play, I would always think dark thoughts about my birth father when I had to go to a difficult emotional place for a scene. But now I have kids myself, I thank him. I’ve realized that him not being around made me a better father, a better actor. I’ve come around to the other side of it, and I think that’s how it should be: that we have a growth mindset by taking these things that seem so terrible and changing them into something good.

Running is really part of the foundation of my life. I started about 11 years ago; I made a giant, seismic shift, when I decided to take more control over my life and career. I realized time was going to fly by and I had to stop putting obstacles in my way when life was going to put obstacles in my way anyway. So I started to look at what I ate and at my health, because we don’t have a lot of time here. I thought about how I could be healthy, physically and but also mentally.

Theo Rossi running the Austin Half Marathon in January 2020. (Image via Instagram.)

We don’t have a lot of time to ourselves, especially if we have a family, kids, friends and an active work life. For me, running is the surefire way I can be alone. For 45 minutes to an hour every morning before the world wakes up, I can run six or eight miles. Later on, I’ll walk the dogs. In those moments, I get to be alone and just assess, and it’s where I’ve done my best decision making, where I’ve created my best characters. I’m getting fit physically, which is a bonus, but I’m doing it more for the mental aspect, to disconnect, rather than going down rabbit holes all day on my phone. Running is my way to fully escape, to shift into a different mode.

The Search for Awareness
I consider myself a free thinker. I’m legitimately on a search every day, and all I want to do is learn. I’m always listening to one book and reading another book; it might not even be stuff that I agree with, I just want to take in people’s perspectives. I’m always talking to people, researching, watching documentaries, exploring all aspects of history and life. It’s not necessarily that I’m looking for an answer, I’m just trying to be aware. I always tell my friends and my sons and sometimes people I don’t even know, if I could wish anything upon them, it’s awareness. For me, awareness means I can understand someone saying something I don’t agree with, that I know where their feelings and opinions come from. I’ve played really nefarious characters, some really bad people, and when I embody them, I need to think what they’re doing is the right thing. So I’m always on the search for that all day, every day. For some people ignorance is bliss, but Nina Simone said that an artist’s job is to portray the current times. I have to make my characters believable, and the only way I’m going to do that is if I understand as many facets of human behavior as possible.

The Alchemist and Siddhartha are books that have changed my life. I’ve studied every single religion, and I go deep into history, because every moment in history has different perspectives. I might listen to a 90-minute Alan Watts lecture just to hear different views of things. I don’t really have opinions, I only have knowledge. I’ve always been an outsider in the world of acting and in the way I look at life, and all of that goes towards me having a really open mind in every aspect. I think that’s really important.

Actor Theo Rossi will next be seen in Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead for Netflix releasing globally May 21, and he is currently in production on the Netflix series True Story, opposite Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes. He was one of the stars of FX’s hit show Sons of Anarchy, playing Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz, and also portrayed Shades on the Marvel Netflix series Luke Cage. On the big screen, Rossi was most recently seen in Nate Parker’s American Skin, while his other notable film credits include Lowriders, opposite Demián Birchir, and Vault, also starring Don Johnson. In 2015, Rossi starred in and produced Bad Hurt, his first film with Emma Tillinger Koskoff under his DosDudes Pictures banner. When not filming, Rossi is the host of the podcast THEOry, with fellow actor Kim Coates and resides with his wife and two children in Austin, Texas.