Sons of Anarchy's Kim Coates On His New Thriller, Neon Lights

Kim Coates, best known to fans for his role on the beloved AMC drama Sons of Anarchy, plays a charming, manipulative, and dangerous man in the new film Neon Lights. Appearing opposite Dana Abraham, who plays an embattled tech tycoon, Coates delivers a performance that is far more nuanced and less aggressive than you might expect from him...but no less menacing, as it becomes clear that his ability to show his charming side, helps him hide his true darkness. Coates got to do the film in the early days of COVID, when there weren't that many productions up and running -- and to appear opposite his daughter, Brenna, who plays a psychiatrist trying to help Clay (Abraham).

"I had to read it three times before I understood what was going on," Coates told with a laugh. "It was 2020, so nothing was happening; there were no vaccines yet, everyone was scared. This little script came across my agent's desk, and she said, 'You're probably going to say no, but it's pretty cool, actually, and there's a good part for your daughter Brenna in it.'"

Pretty quickly, he saw the same appeal his agent did, and Coates was in a Zoom call with Abraham (who also co-wrote the film) and director Rouzbeh Heydari. Pretty early on, he established that tone was going to be key to the character of Denver Kane.  

"I said, the key for me to playing Denver is, he can't be on one side of the tracks; he's got to be on both," Coates explained. "There's got to be something about him that's charismatic, that's soothing, that's warm, that's manipulative, and then in a snap, I want him to be able to mentally abuse and to do the things you see him do in this movie."

For Coates, part of the performance was being able to understand how Kane was getting into Clay's head -- which gave him some insight into the main character that motivated the performance. 

"I just remember talking about the trauma and the drama that it must be like for Dana's character to have this upbringing that was so traumatic but so successful," Coates said. "He plays this tech tycoon that, at the beginning of hte movie, is losing all of his money, and he re-inhabits his foster family by inviting them to this escape, and what happens at this escape, is me. I'm sort of intertwined through the whole film. It's like, 'what's he saying, what does he mean? Did he do that?' And you don't know, and that's the joy of seeing this film."

Neon Lights is now available on digital platforms like Prime Video, Vudu, and Apple TV.