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'The Bastard Executioner' won't be 'a head in the basket every week,' says Kurt Sutter

'The Bastard Executioner' won't be 'a head in the basket every week,' says Kurt Sutter
Writer-director Kurt Sutterspeaks onstage during "The Bastard Executioner" panel discussion at the FX portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Kurt Sutter made history at FX with "Sons of Anarchy," his outlaw motorcycle saga that became the most popular series for the cable network and drew worshipful praise from millions of fans.

Sutter is back making history at FX, but he's in a whole different time zone: His new series is "The Bastard Executioner," an epic set in medieval times that couldn't be more different from "Sons of Anarchy" in look and feel.

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But as with his previous series, Sutter said the backdrop, which is flavored with violence and messy intrigue, will be grounded in the same DNA: characters and relationships. It's a true departure for FX, whose shows are contemporary and filled with edge.

Sutter said he and FX head John Landgraf were clear that the new show "would not be a series where there would be a head in the basket every week." He did extensive research exploring the religious and personal difficulties of the time. "It was not a hard sell," he said.

Still, "The Bastard Executioner" does present challenges for the network. It's a dense costume drama set and shot in Wales with no big-name stars and a complex mythology where fictional characters mix in the real world. Judging from the scenery and detail of the first installment, it's also likely one of the most expensive series the network has ever made.

"The Bastard Executioner" stars Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior who is compelled by a divine messenger to lay down his weapons and lead the life of a journeyman executioner. Brattle also has his own agenda -- he's recovering from the brutal murder of his pregnant wife and is trying to find answers to the attack.

Also starring in the series is Stephen Moyer ("True Blood") and Katey Sagal, who plays a mysterious healer (Sagal, who played the cunning motorcycle club matriarch Gemma Teller on "Sons of Anarchy," is married to Sutter).

Paris Barclay, an executive producer who also directs the series, described the style of the show as "messy." Moyer pointed out that even the actors' teeth are dirty.

Many of the outside scenes were shot in wildly remote areas: He said he had to travel as long as two hours by car to reach some of the locations. But he and Jones said that that remoteness adds to the show's authenticity. In addition, the majority of the cast is Welsh.

Sagal said she was excited to play a role that is so removed from her "Sons of Anarchy" days. "Gemma was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now I'm playing someone who is rooted in faith instead of fear."

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