By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Katey Sagal is suiting up for her last ride on “Sons of Anarchy.” For seven seasons, the actress has played Gemma Taylor Martin, the conspiring, dangerous matriarch of a biker gang. In playing such a ruthless and also fiercely protective character (toward her family and her motorcycle club), she has managed to wipe out most viewers memories of the goofy housewife Peggy Bundy she played for 11 seasons on “Married… With Children.”
Now 60, the L.A. born actress is set to wind up the popular FX series soon. By phone, the versatile actress with an easy laugh, acknowledges that it is tough letting go of her character, but she is proud to have been part of the popular series created by her husband producer Kurt Sutter and is looking forward to being in his next series.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you had with this character over the years and what were the high points?
Sagal: It’s constantly challenging, which as an actor you only hope for, so I felt every season brought a new set of things that I’ve never done before and needed exploring. It was that kind of job where week to week, episode to episode, there was always a little something that I felt like, “This will be great!” The overall challenge of it was playing somebody that was so very different from myself. Her maternal instincts are similar to mine, but her ways and means of doing things were something very foreign to me. I don’t live in an outlaw world and I don’t carry a gun and I don’t do those things. The high points were numerous, so it’s difficult to zero in on. I’m about to re-watch the whole thing.
Q: Several members of the cast were recently on Conan O’Brien’s talk show but you weren’t there because you were making a film. What are you were working on and do you feel you’ve already mentally moved on from the series?
Sagal: I watched them all on “Conan,” and I wished I had been there. They were all so fantastic and you could just feel the vibe of our show. It was lovely to see, but I’m in Rhode Island now doing a movie called “Bleed for This,” which is the life story of (boxer) Vinny Pazienza. Miles Teller is playing Vinny and I play his mother. It takes place in the ‘80s. It’s a pretty cool movie, so I’ve been working on that and that’s why I wasn’t with the rest of the cast on “Conan.”[private]
Q: Since both you and your husband have devoted the last seven years of your life to “Sons of Anarchy,” are you going through a bit of a mourning period at home right now?
Sagal: It’s been interesting. We’ve all sort of known the end was coming, but I don’t think any of us really acknowledged it till the last couple of weeks. We’d have moments on set where people would tear up and we’d say goodbye to one director, but the work really requires you to be pretty much where you are. It’s complicated to keep everything in place in your brain and your character and where you are, so that pulled focused.
I think Kurt and I are just in partial denial and we have lots of other stuff in life, so it takes the onus off it. I’m sure at some point we’ll probably crash from it all and we’ll recognize it, but I think overwhelmingly we’re both so grateful that it’s seven years and it’s been such a great experience, so I don’t know that you get too sad really. Things happen. I think it’s ending at the perfect time. I really do.
Q: What keepsakes have you gotten from the show?
Sagal: The thing I really wanted and I did get was in the pilot Gemma wore a brown leather coat down to her knees, and I wanted that coat. That was the first piece of clothing that we had made for her, so that’s my keepsake.
Q: How you feel about the legacy that “Sons of Anarchy” has left on the world of television and what that will be like now?
Sagal: I think it’s is an entertaining show and I always look at what I do and what the services entertainment is that it is just that. It’s a service, so you’re providing something for people. The fact that people have become so engaged and so invested in the story and the characters—that it has done something for them. Its legacy is that it has become a successful way for people to be entertained. Legacy is such a big word. Our job is to entertain, and I think we’ve done that.
Q: Do you think fans will be satisfied with the ending: How did you feel filming it?
Sagal: I think they’ll be really satisfied with the ending Kurt has even spoken about this, but he was trying to approach it like another episode, like the story keeps going. But I think it’s very satisfying and it was very satisfying filming it and I will say that for Charlie (Hunnam, who plays her son) and myself. It was satisfying for all involved. That’s all I can say.
Q: If you could give some advice to your character, what would you tell her?
Sagal: Just calm down, calm down.
Q: It’s not everybody who gets lucky enough to work with her husband on a show. Can you just talk about how he created the role for you and what you thought when you first saw the role of Gemma?
Sagal: My husband was working on an idea about an outlaw motorcycle club and he came to me and said that he wanted me to be in it and he was writing me a part. I had no idea what it was, but I liked the idea of that world. I knew him to be a really excellent writer, so I was excited about that. And then we had to go get approval and he had to write the script and the network had to sign off, so it wasn’t just a slam dunk, but it was really that’s kind of how it happened.
Q: Gemma is one of like the strongest and toughest female characters on TV. How has it been for you to embody a woman and a female character that is so powerful?
Sagal: That’s been great. That’s been absolutely great and I like to think that that is a contribution to why we have such a strong female following, even though I know we have beautiful men around us. But I would like to think that she is—even though not her actions per se, but her strong stand is something that I think is really awesome to see. I think you’re seeing it more and more on television and I think it’s there.
Q: What was it like for you not only playing Gemma over the course of the seven seasons, but as sitting back and watching it as a fan?
Sagal: It’s fantastic. It was fantastic as an actor and it was super fun to watch and that’s what I love to watch myself all the time. I definitely had my critical moments, but this was something I really wanted—I’ve worked in television for so many years in comedy and I really, really wanted to do more dramatic work because I never even think I’m funny. I always thought I’m supposed to be in a drama, so it’s been very satisfying for me to push myself and go places I haven’t gone.
Q: Did you ever have reservations in doing this dramatic role, since you are most known for your comedic characters?
Sagal: No, I had no reservations at all.
Q: Kurt is developing another show for FX called “The Bastard Executioner.” Are you going to be involved in that project with him?
Sagal: Yes, I’m going to be in it. We don’t know in what capacity yet, because he’s now working on it, but that is where we’re going. I will definitely be involved in it.
Q: What is it like for you to have played two iconic characters on television: Peggy Bundy and Gemma Morrow?
Sagal: I’m enormously grateful because I know that that’s difficult to do. I’m always glad to get a job.
Q: Now that your time with the series is coming to an end, what will you personally miss most about being involved with the show?
Sagal: I’ll miss so many things. It was a great working environment. I’ll miss the people. That’s what you really connect to and I’ll miss the writing. I’ve been in television a long time and you don’t find great parts that readily and you don’t find great writing that readily. It’s been just a great creative experience to be able to have both of those things, and it’s a colorful bunch of people to work with, so going to work was never boring. I will miss them all terribly.[/private]