If you’re a fan of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, you already know what’s happened with Katey Sagal‘s Gemma. I won’t reveal anything here and thankfully, nothing in the interview below talks about the past couple of episodes. So, if you’re not caught up, don’t worry!
In this interview with the always awesome Sagal talks about this last season of SOA, getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and what’s next for her.
Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on FX
Now that it’s coming to an end, looking back, I know there’s probably the big and high points, but what were some of the biggest high points that you can look back and go, God, that was great; and what were some of the challenges, maybe not low points, but challenges that you had to get through as an actress?
Katey 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, so 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. I guess 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.
And the high points were numerous, so it’s difficult to zero in on—that’s a hard question.
Several members of the cast were recently on Conan and unfortunately you weren’t there, but apparently you were making a film. I was just wondering what you were working on and do you feel you’ve already mentally moved on to what’s coming next for you? And also I would imagine because your husband is also the creator of Sons of Anarchy, have you gone through a little bit of a mourning period at home now that everything is wrapped up?
Katey Sagal: First of all, I was really—I watched them all on Conan and I wished I was 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. I’m doing a movie called Bleed for This, which is the life story of Vinny Pazienza. Miles Teller is playing Vinny and I play his mother, and 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 there. I would have been at Conan no matter what, but this movie started right away.
It’s been an 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 good-bye 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—part of us are in 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.
The scenes where you’re just sitting there and you’re talking to the ghost of Tara. Can you talk about doing those and why do you think they’re so important for Gemma?
Katey Sagal: I think it’s very indicative of her unraveling. They’re super easy to do, because I felt very close to Maggie, who played Tara, and so it’s easy for such an intricate relationship, but also very mother/daughter, so I think that I just can put her there very easily and speak to her. And it just speaks to Gemma’s own—as the season goes on, her remorseful moments get stronger and start to eek out and the walls start closing in, but I think that it keeps her connected. It’s like I keep reiterating it wasn’t intentional what happened. It really wasn’t and so it kind of shows her just continuing to connect.
To me it’s interesting, too, that she believes that it speaks to what she believed happens after we die. Clearly she thinks she’s being heard, I would think.
The guys have got to keep their cuts and their motorcycles, so what keepsakes have you gotten from the show?
Katey 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. That’s my cut.
Nothing else, none of the wardrobe?
Katey Sagal: No, not really, no. I might have taken another leather jacket, but no, that was the one I really wanted.
What do you think that the legacy that Sons of Anarchy has left on the world of television?
Katey Sagal: I think Sons, it’s an entertainment show and I always look at what I do and what the services entertainment is that it is just that. It’s service, so you’re providing something for people. The fact that people had become so engaged and so invested in the story and the characters, that’s done something for them. I think that’s its own legacy is that it has become a successful way for people to be entertained.
And so I think, too, that it’s sort of in that wave of everybody talks about of cable dramas that have—it’s sort of like the little independent film world now in television. I think that Sons has helped to open all those doors just as The Shield did, so I would imagine that it will be in the wave of those shows, the Mad Men and those kinds of shows that have come around at this time. I think legacy is such a big word. Really our job is to entertain and I think we’ve done that.
Do you think fans will be satisfied with the ending and like how did you feel filming it? What were your thoughts on it?
Katey Sagal: You’ll be really satisfied with the ending. I think 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 and myself. Both of us sort of felt—you’ll have to talk to Charlie, but he liked it, too. It was satisfying for all involved; that’s what I’ll say.
Now that your time with the series is coming to an end, what will you personally miss most about being involved with the show.
Katey 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.
It’s not everybody who gets lucky enough to work with their 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?
Katey 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.
You have some wonderful—there are powerful scenes with obviously the younger actor Ryder Lando, who plays your grandson. Can you speak about what it’s like working with him and how you guys can get him to that point, that dramatic point on screen?
Katey Sagal: He’s wild. It’s funny when we’re shooting the scenes, you don’t get the impact about it as much as when I’ve watched them. It’s like with a lot of actors, you’re not quite sure what’s going on. He’s a little kid. He’s five years old, so the fact that he can sit still that long is impressive to me, and they’ve done great. There are two of them, Evan and Ryder and they’re just they’re very committed and between shots, they’re playing with their Game Boys.
How has it been for you to embody a woman and a female character that is so powerful?
Katey 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.
Peter Weller as a director. I know he’s directed several episodes through the course of the show including tomorrow night’s, and I speak with him pretty regularly, but I wanted to get a talent’s perspective of how he works and what he brings to the table compared to the other series’ directors.
Katey Sagal: For me I love to work with directors that are also actors. They have a certain way of speaking that we just relate to and Peter definitely comes at it from that standpoint. He’s a really interesting guy. If you’ve ever talked to Peter very much, he’s certainly a Renaissance man and knows a lot of things about a lot of things. Each director has their own sort of way of doing things and with Peter, you can really talk about the emotional landscape of where you are at that given time and it’s great.
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 because she’s gone through everything from an assault to just anything under the sun, she’s kind of dealt with that. What was that like for you?
Katey 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. It’s been great. It’s been absolutely great. That’s what you want.
What is it like for you to have played two of the most iconic characters on television, Peggy Bundy and now Gemma Morrow?
Katey Sagal: I’m enormously grateful because I know that that’s difficult to do. That’s a big word, but I’m always glad to get a job. That’s what I’ll say.
Many have called the show kind of a great Shakespearean tragedy sort of like Hamlet with motorcycles or your character has been more Lady Macbeth with the way her guilt has been eating at her this season. Do you kind of see it that way and have those plays and those characters been any kind of an influence in how you play the role?
Katey Sagal: I had from the very beginning I tried to do some research on women in that culture, in the motorcycle culture, and there’s not a lot of information about them, so I took creative license and modeled her after some royal figures and some high political figures and not so much a Shakespearian. I think that those are sort of the prototypes that Kurt shaped the series around, but no, I didn’t use a lot of those myself.
What did it mean to get the long overdue star on the Walk of Fame?
Katey Sagal: It was so thrilling.
Was it really?
Katey Sagal: Yes, it really was great. You know it’s interesting because I grew up my dad was in show business and my family, it was sort of the family business, so it wasn’t that I aspired to that, but I like to work. I’m always pleased that’s the best reward. I’m glad to get the job. I’m glad to go to work. I know this sounds somewhat self effacing, that’s not where my emphasis is. It’s not about popularity or celebrity or awards really. Even though the few things that I have won have felt very, very good, but it’s never been my goal or my aspiration. I’m glad to go to work, so I didn’t think too much about it till I got there. Then I was just so humbled by the whole experience. It was fantastic, especially it’s my hometown. I was born right near there where my star is, so that was really cool.