Mandi Bierly
September 11, 2014 AT 08:11 PM EDT

If you haven’t watched Sons of Anarchy‘s season 7 premiere, stop reading now. If you have, you’ve probably found yourself wondering about the actor who played Chris Dun, the Lin Triad member Gemma framed for Tara’s murder. It’s the first and only appearance for 32-year-old Tim Park on the show, but it sets the final season in motion. Not that he knew that when he landed the part.

He was just finishing up a recurring, non-speaking role as a member of the Yakuza on HBO’s True Blood when his agent sent him an email about auditioning for Sons. He knew the FX drama was huge, but he had to marathon episodes to catch up and learn its tone. He had his doubts going in: “They initially wanted a guy who was taller than what I am, and they wanted a character who had a shaved head,” he says. The audition piece was the bar scene with Gemma (Katey Sagal), but the draft he read made it sound like Chris Dun was flirting with her. “I was just trippin’ out because I grew up watching Katey on Married…With Children, and I thought, ‘If I book this, I’m gonna be doing this with Peggy Bundy,'” he says. He knows this will sound weird, but he tried to channel True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard when he was in the room: “I was on that show for like five weeks, observing how he operates and performs, and I learned so much. I was trying to mimic the way he talks, the intensity in his eyes,” Park says, laughing. “I wish I could tell Alex that, because I never got a chance to thank him. He probably won’t even remember who I am, but that’s the truth. I tried to copy that and make it my own.”

It was only after he won the role that he was told the character would be bound, gagged, brutally tortured, and murdered. “Part of me was thinking, ‘Man, they’re really taking a risk on a no-name.’ I actually went to law school. That’s what brought me to LA,” he says, laughing again. Moving there after graduating from Seattle University School of Law in 2011, he worked at a law firm for four months, decided it wasn’t for him and planned to go into the fitness field until he randomly met his agent at a park in Hollywood. He started his acting career last year. “For them to take a chance on such a dramatic scene, the pressure was on for me,” he says.

He credits the show’s head of makeup, Tracey Anderson, with helping him relax during his makeup test. “She was like, ‘Where did you study acting?’ And I told her, ‘I really didn’t.’ She’s like, ‘Listen, if you can’t really cry, don’t worry, I have fake tears for you. We can make it happen. If worst comes to worst, I can squirt something in your eye that will force you to cry,'” he says. “Ironically, having that comfort knowing there’s a backup plan, it frees you up to go for it. I just went for it.”

The reality of the scene he shot with Charlie Hunnam and the guys helped. “Once you’re in character, on set, and the guys come in, you’re tied up, you see all the blood on you—it helps you go into that make-believe state and believe it’s real: This is it. This is it. You’re dying,” he says. “Jax has that ability to become completely emotionless. That stare, that tone of voice. So in that state, he goes into the kitchen drawer, and he pulls out all those tools that he’s going to torture me with, and I see it, and he comes up to me telling me that he’s going to do to me what I did to his wife. I’m gagged, and I’m trying to say, ‘It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!’ But he has that stone-cold look on his face, that neutral monotone voice where there is no negotiating here—it’s done. It’s terrifying. And then oh yeah, looking around for some kind of sympathy from his boys and getting none,” Parks says, “that really helped. That was kind of a frightening experience.”

Initially, Park wanted to play the scene like a stoic warrior. “Instead of pleading for my life, I was like, ‘F you. Bring it on,'” he says. But exec producer Paris Barclay, who directed the premiere, found the reactions on the faces of the SAMCRO members watching the torture more interesting when he begged. “You can subtly see in some of the faces, ‘Maybe he didn’t do it, but we’ve got to stand by Jax,'” Park says.

Starstruck by the cast, “My whole plan was to go in as absolutely professional as possible, do my job well, and stand out of people’s way,” Park says. “But the cast was very, very friendly, starting with Niko Nicotera [who plays Ratboy], who was the first SAMCRO guy that I really met. I was intimidated, so I was so afraid to go up to any of them first, and Niko came up to me right away and was like, ‘Oh, you’re Chris Dun. Dude, I’m so sorry about what we’re gonna do to you.'”

Park originally wanted to play Dun’s bar scene as though he was more annoyed at Gemma, but Barclay suggested he play it flat, which would allow the audience to feel something for him later. “It was easy to be sympathetic because Gemma is so evil, and he’s just another victim,” Park says. “Working with Katey, she’s just so regal. She was fantastic,” he adds. “She was giving me words of encouragement, telling me I was doing a good job, helping me relax.”

His first choice of souvenir from the set was the life-size dummy of himself that Jax ultimately stabbed in the head with a carving fork. Unable to take that pricey item home, he settled for his blood-covered script pages. He hopes the memorable role will be the gift that launches his career. “I had been getting emails from agencies and managers [Tuesday night after the premiere aired],” he says. “So we’ll see.” For now, he has a small featured stunt role in the El Rey show Matador playing an armed militia member, and, even though his sister doesn’t think he should let his parents watch his Sons of Anarchy turn, perhaps mom and dad’s approval on that career change.

“My initial ambition was to do some kind of social activist/social justice-type law. But everybody goes into law school with that kind of naive, unspecific, general desire to do some kind of good,” he says, “and I was one of them. And then the brutal reality hits. When I came to LA, I was doing essentially civil litigation for personal injury, and it just wasn’t for me. Once I decided not to do it, my parents were like, ‘What?!’ But now that they’ve seen me on TV here and there, they’re totally supportive of my new career endeavor. The power of Hollywood, yeah?”

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