Katey Sagal has come a long way since her days as Peg Bundy in Fox’s classic 1980s sit-com “Married with Children.” And while she continues to excel at comedy (Yes, that’s her voicing Turanga in Fox animated hit “Futurama”), her dramatic turn as Gemma Teller Morrow on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” has been turning heads all over town. As if there was any doubt, Sagal can flat-out act. Like really act (She’s actually up for a CableFAX Program Award. See details HERE). And her character’s chilling but loyal dedication to her son and his motorcycle club has helped Sons become FX’s biggest hit yet. CableFAX Executive Editor Michael Grebb recently sat down with Sagal in L.A. to talk about how she views her character—and where she finds that darker side.
CableFAX: You’re mostly known for comedic roles on TV, especially as Peg Bundy on “Married with Children” and voice work on “Futurama.” How does it feel to sink your teeth into a dramatic role like this?
KS: It feels really good to have a dramatic role. I’ve really been wanting to branch out—and I was. I was on “Lost” a bit. I’ve done some other dramas. But it’s a really hard perception to shift unless you really have the right role, and… it’s been great, workwise. At a certain point, you have to stop thinking about perception and what other people think. It’s just more that you want sort of keep challenging yourself. So this has just been an opportunity to do that.
CableFAX: As an actress, which genre do you like better?
KS: I really like them all. I really like playing different kinds of characters. I’ve done a few parts that were very close to me, but I sort of like to stretch. I mean, Peg Bundy was very far away from me in terms of my lifestyle. And Gemma too. Gemma is an extreme—it’s a subculture that has been really interesting to explore—and she’s an extreme person.
CableFAX: And so was Peg Bundy.
KS: Yeah. Yeah.
CableFAX: You’ve also done some movies but far more TV. Which do you prefer?
KS: Well, I love television. Television loves me. I have much more employment with television than I do with movies. I’m not really sure why that is, but it has worked out really well for me. Television is much more… Doing a series is really challenging in a way in that you’re following a character arc for—it’s like doing a 10-hour movie or a 13-hour movie. So that has been really interesting to do. Television has afforded me a schedule in which I can stay home and raise my family, which is very important to me because I don’t have to go out on location.
CableFAX: You seem to be having a great time on set and with the show.
KS: Oh, yeah. I really am. I love it. I think it’s great storytelling. It’s so interesting to see where everybody is heading, and yeah, I hope it’s on the air a long time.
CableFAX: You mentioned the storytelling, which comes out of the mind of your husband and showrunner Kurt Sutter. How is it working with his scripts? Is there a lot of interaction between you on that front?
KS: No, actually. He’s a very clear storyteller. He knows what he wants to do. I mean, I’m sure as he would explain it himself, as he sees his characters develop, that informs the story that he’s telling and what the characters are doing. But it’s not like we have conversations at home where I say, “Well, what if they did this?” No. He’s got it clear in his brain.
CableFAX: As you mentioned before, your character Gemma is extreme and very different from yourself. As an actor, how do identify with someone so far removed from your own personality?
KS: Well, she has a very strong maternal instinct, which I do too… Her ways and means are much more extreme. They live in a world that is more immediate and where the stakes are higher. They’re anarchists. They’ve decided to live off the grid. They live by their own code—but they do have a code. And it’s a violent world that they’re in—so you’re a little bit more on guard. You’re a little bit more alert. But the impulses maternally are the same I would have. If you crossed my children, I would have a huge reaction. So you draw on that stuff.
CableFAX: Some might call this a crime drama, but others would say it’s a family drama. What say you?
KS: I think this is a family drama. And I think that’s what’s so interesting about it because you see not the stereotypical, one-dimensional biker, which is how they’ve always been perceived. You’re seeing three-dimensional characters and the interaction between them when they’re at their most vulnerable and their most successful—and, you know, all the everyday s—t that they go through, that everybody else goes through. And I think that’s really interesting to watch.
CableFAX: You’ve done a lot of broadcast TV, and now you’re in the more guerrilla world of cable. How’s it different?
KS: It’s a little more guerrilla nature, but it’s also a much more creative process, which is what I’m finding. I’d never worked on a cable show before. I had guested on “The Shield” a couple of times. But I find that the wonderful part about being on FX is that they really stand by their claim to be on the side of the creative. They really let us do the storytelling that my husband wants to do. On network, I think there are a lot more parameters and ramifications and what you can and can’t do. So this has been a much more creative process. We get to do stuff you can’t do on broadcast.
CableFAX: Does that make it more fun?
KS: Totally. I mean, I wish we could swear a little bit more. You have to go on pay cable to be able to say the big bomb squad.
CableFAX: Well, that can be your next series.
KS: Yeah. I’m warming up.