Katey Sagal Talks SONS OF ANARCHY, Her Comments on the Season 6 Debut and Reaction to the Parents Television Council, and Justifying Gemma’s Decisions

     September 22, 2013


In Season 6 of the hit FX drama series Sons of Anarchy, SAMCRO’s new President Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), must face the consequences of the MC’s criminal deeds before it tears the club apart.  And with this being the penultimate season, things are clearly going to be more challenging and heart-breaking than ever.

During this recent interview to promote the new season, actress Katey Sagal (“Gemma”) talked about her reaction to the comments made by the Parents Television Council about the Season 6 debut, balancing Gemma’s feelings for both Nero (Jimmy Smits) and Clay (Ron Perlman), which of Gemma’s decisions she’s found the hardest to justify, the ways that she relates to her character, how difficult it is to lose an actor when their character gets killed off, how much more paparazzi hangs around the set since the casting announcement of Charlie Hunnam in Fifty Shades of Grey, and how she feels about the show’s quickly approaching end (Season 7 is expected to be its last).  Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.  

Sons-of-Anarchy-Katey-SagalQuestion:  What is your reaction to some of the comments from the Parents Television Council about the Season 6 debut?

KATEY SAGAL:  I have pretty strong views about censorship, and I don’t like it.  I believe that we should be able to monitor our own families and our own children.  I tend to agree with my husband, that to continue the conversation about something that is an important topic, particularly now, which is that of gun control, through his narrative, which is actually what’s happened, I don’t think it was a conscious decision of, “That’s what we’re going to do,” but that’s what seems to have happened, and that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a conversation that nobody really likes to have, and it seems that we never can get to a solution with it and something horrific happens.  We all stand back and say, “How could we let that happen?” and then it goes away and we move on.  Kurt’s story is about a guy who runs guns and has a son.  He’s a father.  And for him not to tell that story didn’t seem true to the world and to the story that he’s telling.  How could he not tell that story?

How does Gemma balance her feelings for Nero (Jimmy Smits) and Clay (Ron Perlman), and what do you see for her, coming ahead in this season?

SAGAL:  I think, like all the relationships in the show, it’s a lot of duality.  I think that Clay crossed some lines with her that she can’t get back from.  At the time, when he tried to kill Tara (Maggie Siff), it wasn’t even so much the beat down that he laid on her, but it was the things that he did to other people.  Gemma’s very family-oriented.  What Jax (Charlie Hunnam) asked her to do, which then ultimately landed him in jail, she had a conflict about it, but she made somewhat of a peace about it and knew that that’s what was going to happen.  At the same time, she had this new relationship with a very different kind of outlaw.  Nero is an outlaw, too, but he may not be quite the ruthless, cold-blooded type that Clay is.  

Up to this point, Nero has made it really clear that he’s not so much a fan of guns, but for Gemma, it’s just so ingrained in her and her life, as part of the club.  Is that something that will cause them tension, this season? 

SAGAL:  Well, this whole season really gets set up by that school shooting, which involves everybody’s ideas about guns.  Clearly, the guns got into the hands of the wrong people.  Nero is somewhat connected to that.  We will see how he feels about that.  It’s a big statement about the misuse and handling of guns from a show that’s about gun runners.  I think that everybody’s going to have their opinion, and Nero clearly will have his opinion about that, as well.  When he has that speech with Jax, he says, “We don’t do this.  We can’t do this.”  So, I have the sense that Nero is in a little bit further than he’s really comfortable with, but he’s in, and he’s conflicted by that. 

Gemma has pretty complex relationships with a number of the characters on the show, but the ones that are most intriguing are her relationships with Tig (Kim Coates) and Unser (Dayton Callie).  How do you see the relationships between Gemma and both Tig and Unser?

sons-of-anarchy-katey-sagal-charlie-hunnamSAGAL:  Well, I think they’re a very close knit group.  They are their own family members.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a sexual tension amongst all of them, really, because they are a very bonded group, and not by blood.  I definitely think Tig has eyed Gemma, as she has him.  In that culture, there is that unspoken thing.  Some of the guys, when they’re out of town, they do what they want with other women.  I think that there’s a loose approach to all of that.  But out of respect to his best friend, Tig would never do anything like that, and I think Gemma feels the same way towards him.  She feels really close to all those guys, which I think may blur the line.  She grew up with Unser.  To me, I’ve always imagined that he’s like an older brother to her.  He’s also from Charming, which is where Gemma is from.  They’ve known each other since she was a kid.  She had a very strained relationship with her parents.  She wasn’t close to her own family, so he’s like a family member to her.  Then, he has that unrequited crush on her, which he’s always had.

Every character has to make a lot of tough choices, and they have to live with the choices they make.  Thinking of all the tough decisions that Gemma had to make through the course of the show, what action was the hardest for you to wrap your head around and justify?

SAGAL:  Well, at the time, sending Clay to prison last season was a tough choice because she knew that that it was a set-up.  That was tough for her.  There have just been so many.  She comes out of a situation and has to think on her feet, right at the moment.  At the time, she never thinks there’s that tough of a decision.  It’s really what she has to do, if that makes sense.  I don’t know if that makes sense.  In other words, it’s high stakes, all the time.  If you think about it, our show takes place in about a week.  What you see in a season, is a week or two weeks.  They pretty much react instinctively, and there’s not a lot of time to think, “Is this a hard thing to do”?

How much do you relate to Gemma, as a woman?

SAGAL:  I’m a real family person.  I have three children.  How my children are raised is of utmost importance to me, and I’m really involved, which is a quality that Gemma also has.  She’s all about her family, and keeping this lifestyle of hers together.  There’s that similarity.  I think that Gemma tends to be vain, as do I, in certain ways.  What you’re seeing this season, which has been really interesting to play, is not a softer side, but a more Zen-like approach.  What’s interesting to play is when people start to have a conscience about where their lives are going and what’s been happening.  A lot of her viewpoint is being influenced by Nero, who is not as ruthless, and that shades her.  She tends to soften a little bit around him, which I think she likes.  It’s nice.  

katey sagal Jimmy Smits-sons of anarchyIt’s interesting.  All of these characters have been changing.  I really love how Juice (Theo RossI) is changing, and you can really see the difference in Chibs (Tommy Flanagan), now that he’s VP.  Over the course of the seven years, there’s actual life to all the characters.  They’re not just one thing.  As an actor, that’s really fun.  When I get a script, I would never say, “Oh, that character would never say that. That’s a different aspect of that character.  This is not who this character was before.”  But in life, we’re never the same, day-to-day.  We have certain codes that we live by, but our responses and reactions will change, as our circumstances change, and I think that these characters do the same thing.

Do you think that Gemma is happy with seeing Tara become more like the quintessential old lady, or do you think Gemma wants something different for Jax?

SAGAL:  I think it’s both.  I don’t remember which season it was, but I remember having Gemma say, “If you’re going to be here, this is what you have to know.”  She set about schooling her and saying, “This is who you need to be.  This is what we do, as the old ladies in this society.  This is what you need.”  To see the certain parts of Tara that have become so adept at all that and have possibly been used against her sometimes, I’m not so sure she likes that.  Tara is a smart girl.  So, as conflicted as she always seems to be, when she decides to do something, she’s pretty good at it.  I think that Gemma has the duality of “I’m proud of you,” and “Oh, shit, what are you doing?!”  There’s a lot of duality with all of these people, which is really, really interesting.  A lot of the relationships are love and hate.  “I love Clay.  I hate Clay.  I love Tara.  I hate Tara.  I love my son.”  I think she always loves Jax.  She gets mad at him, but I think she always loves Jax. 

If Tara goes through with the divorce and wants to leave, would Gemma take her out?

SAGAL:  I don’t know.  It’s really interesting where we are right now because I’m not sure how that whole thing is going to unfold.  We’re filming Episode 9 or 10 right now, and I can’t give away what I know, but I’m not quite sure.  I know that the loyalty to the club is paramount.  I’m not sure how far any of them will go to protect that, considering that there are kids involved, and that this is the wife of her son, who she loves more than anything, but I can’t rule out anything.  In the name of protection and loyalty, they really have no bounds, so I’m not quite sure.      

What can you say to tease the return of Wendy (Drea de Matteo)? 

SAGAL:  She’s up to some stuff.  What I will say is that, as we found out before, Wendy is clean and sober now.  She was around last year, too.  She’s up to some stuff, but that’s all I’ll say.

There’s a lot of violence, a lot of death and a lot of mayhem on this show.  How difficult is it to lose a main character?  Is there a period of grieving for you, or is it just another day at the office?

sons-of-anarchy-maggie-siff-charlie-hunnam-katey-sagalSAGAL:  No, none of it’s just another day at the office.  It’s different.  When you’re creating the make-believe world that we create, those relationships have intensity and life to them.  You love the actor.  I love Ryan Hurst.  I love William Lucking.  Those guys are great.  I loved Johnny Lewis.  I am so sorry about what happened to Johnny Lewis.  But, it’s also in the world of what we do as actors.  Characters come, and characters go.  Jobs come, and jobs go.  So, there’s a certain amount of detachment that is natural to what we do.  You have to separate that.  This was a show that, in the beginning, nobody was sure was even going to see the light of day.  There wasn’t a lot of support, at the beginning.  There was always support from John Landgraf and FX, but there were other people that were just not so sure about this.  It was a similar experience that I had with Married…with Children.  That was a network that nobody had even heard of.  When you get into those situations and, week after week, it’s getting bigger and more people like it, you are all rooting for each other.  It’s a wonderful experience that only those involved really understand.  So certainly, when anybody goes, it’s very sad.  We have a celebration.  We have a party for everybody that dies – all of our major people.  When we all get together, everybody comes.  It doesn’t just stop at the job.  It definitely has an impact.  I’m sure, going into Season 7, we’re all going to be dropping like flies.  That’s what I think.  We’ll see.  There may be a lot of parties.  That’s not a spoiler, by the way.  That’s just my assumption.

Have things changed on set, since Charlie Hunnam was cast as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie? 

SAGAL:  There’s a lot more paparazzi there.  We’re inundated now with them taking pictures of our movie star.  I love Charlie.  I know that he thought long and hard about taking that role because he would not take it lightly.  I don’t know the director, but he really likes the director.  I’ve watched Charlie work, for the last six years.  This is a kid that is 100% committed to what he gets committed to.  He’s somewhat method-y.  He embodies what it is he’s done on our show, and I’m sure he’s going to be just awesome and will bring all of it, whatever it is he needs to bring, if you know what I mean.  It’ll be great.

Do you feel that Gemma is really the role of a lifetime?

SAGAL:  Yes, absolutely.  I was so well known as a comedienne on a funny Fox sitcom, and it was hard for me to move past that.  I was really grateful for that job, and I loved playing on Married…with Children for all those years, but it was hard, as an actor, to say, “No, I really want to do a drama.”  It took a minute before I could find something like this.  Luckily, my husband wrote it, which was awesome.  So, it has definitely been career changing and career opening.  It’s the part of a lifetime for me, absolutely.

What is your most memorable moment, so far, as Gemma, and what was your most memorable moment as Peg Bundy?

sons of anarchy-Jimmy Smits charlie hunnam katey sagalSAGAL:  Memorable moments are hard for me to remember.  Being in Season 6 right now, I can’t give away a lot of stuff, but I did some really cool stuff coming up.  The entire arc of Gemma being raped, and then holding that secret so that it wouldn’t get the club in danger, was more than a moment, but was a fantastic arc to play.  As Peg Bundy, I laughed my ass off for 11 years, every day.  Ed O’Neill is one funny guy.  The entire environment was loving and hysterically funny.

How do you feel about the show ending soon? 

SAGAL:  We all know the end is near.  It’s a great vibe on the set, this year.  There’s something that happens when you realize that everybody really likes your show and the work that you’re doing.  It’s really fulfilling.  We think the storytelling is great, and then people respond, as well.  It’s an amazing experience.  I know from personal experience that is really rare.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Everybody has a sense of the fact that this just does not happen that often with television shows, where you’re able to continue your story, and that your audience rises each season.  We’ve all made such close relationships and friendships, and done really, really wonderful work together.  It’s very bonding.  So, there’s a melancholy that starts to set in.  Everybody clings onto every moment because we know that there’s a countdown about to happen.  It’s bittersweet.  But, what’s really cool about our show is that it’s one big story.  There’s a big story in mind.  It’s nice to have that, and to be a part of it.  “Nice” is a weird word to use because I’m sure it’s going to be bloody.

Is there anything that you would like to see Gemma tackle, before the series comes to an end?

SAGAL:  I’m fully convinced that I will hit all those notes and be required to go to places that will stretch me even further.  I’m pretty content.  Every week, I get the script and I’m asked to explore different pieces of her, which ultimately means different pieces of myself.  It’s been a good stretch, these last six years.  So, I couldn’t ask for what I’m sure will already come.

Will you be releasing a solo album, or maybe doing maybe another one with the Forest Rangers?


SAGAL:  I finished my solo record, and it’s coming out on either October 22nd or 29th.  I did another song for the show that’s going to be in Episode 10.  That’s on my solo record, which I feel really great about.  Music has always been my unrequited career because I have done it longer than anything.  This will be my third solo record.  I made records all through my 20s, and it was always the career that was like the one that got away.  To have it at this time in my life is amazing for me.  We just sold out at a big place in Los Angeles.  I pinch myself.  As a kid, I dreamed of being able to sing and entertain people, so it’s been very self-fulfilling.  I make these records with the idea of, “As long as a few people hear them, I’ll be happy.  If I can get some gigs booked off of them, I’ll be happy.”  To have more and more people like it, is amazing.  I hope that people will buy the record and like it.  It was really fun to make it.

Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesday nights on FX.

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