After seven seasons, the hit FX drama series Sons of Anarchy will have finished its run, bloodier, more intense and more heart-breaking than ever. Until then, fans of the show will be on the edge of their seats, wondering just who will make it out alive.
During this recent interview to discuss the end of the popular TV show, actress Katey Sagal (who plays Gemma Teller) talked about the biggest challenges in playing this character, what she’ll miss most about the show, what she’s most excited for fans to see from the final episodes, that she thinks fans will find the series’ conclusion very satisfying, what she kept from the set, the legacy that Sons of Anarchy has left on the world of television, already moving on to other work, and that she will definitely be involved with The Bastard Executioner, which her husband (and Sons of Anarchy creator) Kurt Sutter is developing for FX. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
COLLIDER: With the show coming to an end, what were some of the biggest high points, and what were some of the challenges, as an actress?
KATEY SAGAL: It’s constantly challenging, which as an actor, you only hope for. I felt every season brought a new set of things that I’ve never done before, and that needed exploring. It was that kind of job where, week-to-week and episode-to-episode there was always a little something that I felt would 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 the high points were numerous, so it’s difficult to zero in on specific ones. That’s a hard question. I’m about to re-watch the whole thing.
Gemma has shown a full range of good and bad. At what point do you think she really crossed the line beyond any help of redemption, or do you think that she hasn’t crossed that line because she does act out of trying to do what’s best for her family to protect them?
SAGAL: I think what we’re seeing now is her own conscience finally grabbing her. I still think that she believes that her momentary rageful act, at the end of Season 6, killing Tara, was not premeditated. She really did believe that Tara had turned the entire club in, and her son, and it was the downfall of her entire existence. At that moment, it was just a perfect storm. It’s not that she doesn’t realize the heinous nature of it, but she was able to compartmentalize and almost rationalize. I do believe that what’s happening now is that this one was just too much for her.
What was it like to do the scenes where Gemma was just sitting there and talking to the ghost of Tara, and why do you think they’re so important for Gemma?
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 Gemma felt very close to Tara, ultimately. They had such an intricate relationship, but also very mother/daughter, so I can just put her there, very easily, and speak to her. 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 wasn’t intentional, what happened. It really wasn’t. So that shows her just continuing to connect. To me, it’s interesting. It speaks to what she believes happens after we die. Clearly, she thinks she’s being heard.
Gemma almost killed Juice, earlier this season, or at least she intended to. That said, is there anyone on the show, aside from Jax and her grandkids, that Gemma would never be able to kill, no matter what, even if they had her backed into a corner?
SAGAL: No, I think she would kill anybody. I do. At the end of the day, if it was to protect her grandchildren, her son or herself, I think she would kill anybody.
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 or 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.
How has it been for you to embody a woman and a female character that is so powerful?
SAGAL: That’s been absolutely great. 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. Her strong stand is something that I think is really awesome to see, and I think you’re seeing it more and more on television.
What are you most excited for fans to see from the final episodes?
SAGAL: I’m excited for them to see the conclusion. I feel like this season, overall, has been so strong in the character department. It’s not that there’s not action. There’s a lot of action, but there’s also a lot of character-to-character conversation and slower beats. I think the whole season just has a more fluid approach, so I’ve really enjoyed watching this year. I think that all of the characters have been serviced really well. I just think it’ll be really great for fans. I don’t think they will be disappointed, at all.
Kurt Sutter has talked about how he’s known, since the beginning of the season, that he wanted Abel to be the one to tell Gemma’s secret. Why do you think that was so important, and what does it mean for Gemma to have Abel, who she’d been trying to protect, be the one to ultimately undo her?
SAGAL: How can she do anything but forgive him, really? It’s out of the mouths of babes. I wonder, sometimes, if Gemma really thought she could get away with all of this. I don’t know. It’s really an interesting question. I don’t think that she has animosity towards her grandson, whatsoever. You have to watch.
What do you think the more fitting punishment would be for Gemma?
SAGAL: I’d say that’s a really tough call. Given where she’s at now, I don’t know. This is what’s interesting about denial. There was that one guy in the news that they arrested in Santa Monica. He was a mob guy who had been hiding for 40 years. He killed a bunch of people and was living in Santa Monica, and then they arrested him. So, you wonder what the psychology is of somebody that’s really done heinous things, and how far we can hide that from ourselves. Would Gemma actually be able to? I don’t know. It’s gone so far. To me, it seems like either way is horrible. You will see the way it all pans out, but it’s a tough call. People do heinous things and continue to have lives.
What can you say about the dynamic between Jax and Gemma, in these final episodes?
SAGAL: You just have to watch. I can tell you that there’s lots of tears that were shed, but I can’t really speak to that.
Do you think that Gemma is feeling remorse?
SAGAL: Yes. Bobby was killed. The lie has snowballed. No good has come from it. And I think that even Gemma, who’s able to rationalize and compartmentalize things, cannot avoid the fact that her action has caused all of this. If her and Juice hadn’t told the story about the Chinese, none of this would have gone down, and it’s gone down big, so there’s remorse on so many levels.
What do you think of all the speculation about what will happen to Gemma?
SAGAL: I don’t know a lot of the speculation. I read some things, but I don’t read a lot. I’m sure some people want her dead, and I’m sure some people want her to live forever. I can’t really speak to where it’s going. You’re going to have to watch.
Do you think fans will be satisfied with the ending?
How did you feel, filming it?
SAGAL: It was very satisfying filming it. I will say that for Charlie [Hunnam] and myself. He liked it, too. It was satisfying for all involved. That’s what I’ll say.
If Gemma had come clean, at the beginning, to Jax and just told him the truth, what do you think his reaction would have been?
SAGAL: I don’t know. I’d like to think maybe this all could have been avoided. The war could have been avoided. I think, ultimately, that Gemma might be afraid of Jax a little bit. It always gets back to Gemma needing to stick around, because she’s afraid that if she’s not around, everything will fall apart with the kids and with Jax. So, I’m not sure what would have happened.
What keepsakes were you able to keep from the show?
SAGAL: The thing that I really wanted and did get was in the pilot, when Gemma wore a brown leather coat down to her knees. 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. I might have taken another leather jacket too, but that was the one I really wanted.
Whether or not there is a prequel, what advice would Gemma give to her younger self?
SAGAL: That’s so interesting. I don’t know because I’ve always thought of Gemma as somebody who doesn’t reflect back. She is in forward motion. I don’t think she has a lot of regrets. At this point in her life, she probably does, but I don’t think that’s been her MO. I think she’s more of a reactor. She just moves forward. So, I’m not sure what she’d tell her younger self. It might have been about the John Teller of it all, if I speculated about that. Maybe she would speak to herself a little bit more about forgiveness. She’s been on this underlying spiritual quest, all these seven years, so maybe some of that would have come to her, in her younger years.
How do you feel about the legacy that Sons of Anarchy has left on the world of television?
SAGAL: Sons is an entertainment show. You’re providing something for people. The fact that people had become so engaged and so invested in the story and the characters, it’s done something for them. I think that’s its own legacy. It has become a successful way for people to be entertained. There’s this little independent film world in television now, and Sons helped to open all those doors, just as The Shield did and Mad Men, and those shows that came around, at this time. Legacy is such a big word. Really, our job is to entertain, and I think we’ve done that.
What is it like for you to have played two of the most iconic female characters on television, Peggy Bundy and now Gemma Morrow?
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.
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?
SAGAL: It’s been interesting. We’ve known the end was coming, but I don’t think any of us really acknowledged it until the last couple of weeks. We’d have moments on set where people would tear up when 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. With Kurt and I, part of us are in denial. 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, but we’re both overwhelmingly so grateful that it’s been such a great experience for seven years, that you don’t get too sad, really. Things happen. I think it’s ending at the perfect time. I really do.
Have you already mentally moved on from the show? What’s coming next for you?
SAGAL: First of all, 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. It takes place in the ‘80s. It’s a pretty cool movie. So, I’ve been working on that.
We know that Kurt Sutter is developing another show for FX, called The Bastard Executioner. Will you be involved with that?
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.
Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesday nights on FX.