As far as Katey Sagal is concerned, Sons of Anarchy, which starts its second season on FX on September 8, is a show about family. Oh, maybe a tough-as-nails, gun-running, rival-biker-gang-murdering family with overtones of the well-adjusted types you find in Hamlet and Macbeth, but a family nonetheless. And you know what? She’s absolutely right. Sagal, best known for playing Peg Bundy on Married With Children, is fiercely maternal (and flat-out marvelous) as Gemma, the matriarch of the motorcycle club that rules the fictional town of Charming, California, with an iron fist in a studded leather glove. Sagal, whose husband, Kurt Sutter, created the show (he also worked on The Shield), talked to MORE about playing an outlaw motorcycle mama.
MORE: What’s it like working with your husband on this?
KATEY SAGAL: We were trying to find something to do together, and I’m honored that he would put me in his show because he’s such a great writer. We get to have lunch together, which is nice. And then every once in a while we’re faced with, "Oh, maybe we shouldn’t talk about this at home so much."
Do you have a lot of input into your character?
Not really. Kurt is kind of proprietary over his storytelling, and that’s fine with me. But, you know, the writers take on what you bring to it, so without even knowing it, you’re having input—but it’s not in the way you would think, where I just go to him and say, "Why doesn’t she do this?"
How about the way she looks?
That was a collaborative thing. I wanted to put big blonde streaks in my hair. Gemma is a little bit of creative license—it’s hard to find information on the women in a biker gang. It’s a very misogynistic culture. There’s not a lot written about the wives.
Does she have any special tattoos?
All the women have a crow tattoo; Gemma has one above her left breast, a crow with a skull in the middle of it. The tattoos are easy to apply, not so easy to get off. They’re like those stick-on-with-a-sponge tattoos. The guys keep theirs on for days in a row.
What’s the key to Gemma for you?
Well, Kurt always says that he wrote the character with me in mind. I have a pretty intense maternal instinct; I’m a very hands-on, involved mom, and Gemma’s whole thing is about protection and loyalty to her family. So, yeah, I relate to that, but her ways of going about it are definitely more intense than mine.
I would hope so! Do you think there are any similarities between Gemma and Peg Bundy?
Not really, except that maybe Peg would have ridden on the back of a motorcycle at some point. She was kind of a tough broad.
I read that you sang with Gene Simmons of Kiss on one of his albums.
I did. Gene got me a record deal when I was 18. I was dating him—me and a whole bunch of other people, that’s what I’ll say to that. But he’s an absolutely great guy, and I had a band at the time, and he brought us to Casablanca Records and they gave us a deal. We were a good band.
And you released an album of your own fairly recently, didn’t you?
It’s been about four years. Yeah, it’s on my website, kateysagal.net. I sing all the time; I have a band and I go out and perform.
Tell us something we’d be surprised to know about you.
I knit; I do needlepoint. I’m very crafty.
So are you doing crafts on the set in between intense biker scenes?
No. I think it might, you know, start an uproar. Also, we shoot our show in summer; it’s really hot, and I have so much leather on already that the last thing I want is wool around me!
Gemma is also going through menopause, isn’t she? There was that one episode where in midst of all the heat, she was having hot flashes.
Yes, where she punched the girl with the skateboard. That was menopausal woes, too. You know, it’s really fun to be this age and to play a woman this age, with all the real stuff that goes on. I find it really liberating.