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article imageBlu-ray/DVD Essentials: Katey Sagal on 'Sons Of Anarchy' Special

By Earl Dittman     Oct 8, 2014 in Entertainment
For seven seasons, fans of 'SOA' have had an intense love/hate relationship with Gemma Teller Morrow. The brilliant actress who portrays the matriarchal head of the outlaw motorcycle club SAMCRO talks about portraying the mother of all characters.
"There's a melancholy that is starting to set in," Katey Sagal says about filming the final season of Sons Of Anarchy. "Everybody sort of clings onto every moment because we know that there's a countdown. It's kind of bittersweet, but what's really cool about our show is, I think, that it's one big story. There's a big story in mind. So, it's nice to have that … and to be at this part of it. Nice is a weird word to use, actually, because it's going to be bloody."
For seven seasons, Golden Globe-winning actress, singer and songwriter Katey Sagal has portrayed Gemma Teller Morrow — an outlaw motorcycle club's matriarch who is as fierce as she is nurturing — on the adrenalized, highly-rated FX drama series Sons Of Anarchy. Created by her real-life husband, Kurt Sutter (executive producer, actor and writer for the series), Sons Of Anarchy explores a notorious outlaw motorcycle club’s (MC) desire to protect its livelihood while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, California remains exactly that, charming. The MC must confront threats from drug dealers, corporate developers, and overzealous law officers. Behind the MC’s familial lifestyle and legally thriving automotive shop is a ruthless and illegal arms business driven by the seduction of money, power and blood.
As the mother of the SAMCRO's (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) president Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam), Gemma has continually demonstrated she's willing to go to any lengths to protect her family and domain. She proved that in Season Six, when she murdered Jax’s wife, Dr. Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff), in a misguided effort to keep her son out of jail — adding to the wealth of dark secrets she already keeps. While Sagal (who portrayed Peggy Bundy in the long-running comedy series Married...With Children) doesn't condone her character's behavior, the actress certainly understands why Gemma justifies her acts of vengeance and betrayal in the name of taking care of her family.
"You have a group of people that live outside the grid," she explains. "The whole point of anarchists is that they have their own rules and regulations and responses and this is the little world that they have created. So, if you really think what that must feel like, it's sort of you against everybody else. It brings a certain intensity to protecting and honoring that group. It is her security, it is her survival. She's a person that left home, left her family, has no roots. These are her roots. Her back story is that she ran away from home when she was a teenager, she hooked up with this group of motorcycle guys that were coming right out of Vietnam and that became her life. She has babies within it, the women she knows are the women that are also with these guys, so it's their own little society. So yes, she would fiercely, fiercely protect that system. Without it, what is she?
"Sometimes I trip about it," the mother of three children — Sarah, Jackson, and Esmé — with Sutter confesses. "These are people that don't necessarily have retirement funds and 401-K's, do you know what I mean? That's not the world they live in. They live literally dollar to dollar. I'm not even going to say paycheck to paycheck. I think it's all in a mattress under the bed. So, I think there is a certain amount of intensity surrounding the protective quality of all that."
Tara (Maggie Siff) and Gemma (Katey Sagal) in a scene from Season Six of  Sons Of Anarchy
Tara (Maggie Siff) and Gemma (Katey Sagal) in a scene from Season Six of 'Sons Of Anarchy'
FX
While almost all of the characters on Sons Of Anarchy have made some morally questionable decisions, many fans of the series feel that Gemma is the most evil and least redeemable character on the show. Sagal totally disagrees with that assessment."I don't see her as evil at all," Katey admits. "I rather like her. I think she has conscience about some of the things that have happened along the way, but I think a lot of what she thinks is she's protecting herself and protecting her family. They're a crime syndicate. They're outlaws. From my perspective, from Katey Sagal's perspective, yes, I see the heinous things they're doing. From someone who lives within that, and that's what they do in their world, I really do believe that these are kind and loving people to those that they're kind and loving to within their inner circle.
"There's code that they all live by," she adds. "There's honor to what they all live by. I think that's where she keeps it. In other words, there's justification. I'm not saying from where I'm sitting in my house right now that I necessarily agree with all that, but playing the character, I think they're very honorable and have a code and I think she has justification for everything she does. I don't think she's evil. So I can see where someone from the outside looking in might think that, but I don't think that."
Last season on Sons Of Anarchy, Jax had finally solidified his leadership of SAMCRO by murdering Clay Morrow (Ron Pearlman), his stepfather, for past sins. Season Six ended with his formidable mother, Gemma — unbeknownst to Jax —committing the unpardonable sin of murdering the love of his life. Juice Ortiz (Theo Rossi) kills the sheriff to protect Gemma. Season Seven begins ten days later with Jax in jail on a parole violation, grappling with the loss of the woman he loved. With the club’s full support, he sets in motion the brutal machinations that will lead to complete and merciless retribution.
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Katey Sagal on Sons Of Anarchy:
How does it feel to be part of a hit series that has lasted seven seasons? "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 it's really rare, that it doesn't happen very often. Everybody has a sense of that, that this just does not happen that often with television shows, that you're able to continue your story, that your audience rises each season and that we've all made such close relationships and close friendships and done really, really wonderful work together. It's very bonding."
Maggie Siff once told me that your hubby, Kurt (Sutter) has a real savvy way of digging into the personalities of his actors to help create his SOA characters. If Maggie is correct, that begs the obvious question: Is there much of the real Katey Sagal in Gemma Teller? "Yeah, absolutely, there are certain aspects. I'm a real family person. I have three children. It's of utmost importance to me how my children are raised, and I'm really involved, so that's something, a quality that Gemma also has. She's all about her family and keeping this lifestyle of hers together and keeping this group together. There's that similarity. I think that Gemma tends to be vain, as do I in certain ways. Then it expounds on it. I think what you saw in Gemma, early last season, which was really interesting to play, was not a softer side but more a Zen-like approach. What's interesting to play is when people start to have conscience about really where their lives are going and what's been happening. I think a lot of her viewpoint is being influenced by Nero (Jimmy Smits), who is not as ruthless, you know what I mean? So, I think that it shades her. She tends to soften a little bit around him, which I think she likes. It's nice.
"As an actor, it's really fun, to rather than say when you get a script, 'Oh, that character would never say that,' to be able to say, 'Oh, this is a different aspect of that character. This is not who this character was before.' But in life, we're never the same. We are never the same day-to-day. I mean, we have certain things, certain codes that we live by, but our responses and reactions will change as our circumstances change. I think that these characters do the same thing."
Katey Sagal with Jimmy Smits on  Sons Of Anarchy
Katey Sagal with Jimmy Smits on 'Sons Of Anarchy'
FX
When an actor plays a doctor they can go talk to a physician. When an actor plays a lawyer they speak to someone in the legal profession. When an actor plays the wife or mother of the leader of a motorcycle gang, who do you go talk to in order to check the authenticity of your performance? "That's a good question. I tried to do research on the women in the motorcycle culture when I got the job. There's very little written about them. There's really a lot written about the presidents of very famous motorcycle clubs. We actually have TA's on our show and Kurt has relationships with some of those people since beginning the show, so it was kind of easy to find out that. What I did with Gemma is she's quite a bit of creative license in that she's the matriarch of any little society. Definitely, her wardrobe and her saunter and all of that is an easy thing to find from even observing the women in the culture. Her manner and stand by her man attitude is reminiscent of any high political or regal figure that you could really name. She's the queen bee of that society. I don't know if that really answers your question, but I guess the answer was that it was very difficult to find actual people to talk to."
Does Gemma often surprise you with the tough, often shocking decisions she makes? "Not really, because she kind of comes out of any situation and she has to think on her feet right at the moment, so I think at the time she never thinks there's that tough a decision; they're really what she has to do, if that makes sense. I don't know if that makes sense. In other words, there are people that live — 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, a week or two weeks. So there are high stakes going on all the time. They pretty much react instinctively and there's not a lot of time to think. 'Is this a hard thing to do'? you know what I'm saying?"
Sons Of Anarchy is such a testosterone-fueled show, but it seems as though Kurt has this really great insight into the female psyche, especially in writing your, Maggie (Siff) and Drea's (De Matteo) characters. Even in The Shield, he penned these really great female roles. What does Kurt know about women that a lot of us don't and is able to write these great parts for them? "First of all, he loves women. He's a very sensitive guy. I mean, nobody really wants to realize it, but for him to write the way he writes, there's a very deep emotional place that he has. I don't know? He writes women better than anybody I've read before. He really has a deep understanding. He would tell you he has a strong feminine side that he is able to tap into. He's a mush at heart."
Katey Sagal with her husband Kurt Sutter
Katey Sagal with her husband Kurt Sutter
FX
When you played Peg Bundy on Married…With Children you were able to have creative input in her wardrobe, and you made a statement on the '60s American housewife. What other creative ideas were you able to use with that character, and how much creative involvement have you been allowed to have on Sons of Anarchy? "It is that sort of thing that happens when you're on a show for a long time between the writer and actor. They kind of pick up from you and you give them stuff they can use. I mean, certainly with Peg Bundy, a lot of it was her physicality. Certainly, with Gemma, a lot of it is the physicality. To me, they're both very extreme characters coming from their look. I don't look that way. I like the whole costume, wardrobe and hair. I like all that. I think in creating who somebody is, particularly in these two different worlds, Gemma — it's part of the entire character of what it is. Peg Bundy was just the housewife that she was, which was that she didn't want to be a housewife. She wanted to be dolled up. That was my choice about her. I thought, 'No, no, no, she doesn't want to cook and clean. She wants to wear high heels and tight clothes.' That was a choice. Those were contributions that I made."
Katey Sagal as Peg Bundy in  Married...With Children
Katey Sagal as Peg Bundy in 'Married...With Children'
Fox
In addition to your acting, you're an incredible singer and songwriter. I have to admit, the first time I ever saw you was when you were a Harlette, singing backup for Bette Midler. Last year, you released the album Covered, which featured your brilliant rendition of the Tom Petty song, “Free Fallin.” As an artist, how important is music to you? "Music has always been — I call it my unrequited career because I have done it longer than anything. Covered was my third solo record. I made records all through my twenties, and it was always the career that was like the one that got away. To kind of have it at this time in my life — and we sold out at a big place in Los Angeles — it'd been amazing for me. It's sort of like I pinch myself, like 'Wow, as a kid this is what I dreamed of doing, being able to sing and entertain people.' It's been very self-fulfilling. I kind of 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, it's kind of amazing. So yes, I hope that people will buy my record, and like it because it was really fun to make it."
Did you always want to be an actress more than a singer? "No, no, I really just wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I started writing music when I was like 14-years-old. I taught myself music. No, there was a certain point in my career, when I was in my late-20s, when nothing was happening. I was like, 'Man, I wish I knew how to do something else,' but I couldn't figure out what else to do. Really, I had no skills. I was clearly just an arty kid and that was all I knew how to do. This was either going to work out or I don't know what I was going to do. So, it was either music or acting. Those were my choices. I probably would have figured something out, but I was lucky that things started to happen."
When you're not busy shooting Sons Of Anarchy, what do you like to watch on television? "I love TV. Ray Donovan, I think, is great. I think Jon Voight is unbelievably great. I like that one. I'm in the Breaking Bad club. And, I really do love Boardwalk Empire. But I don't have tons of time to watch TV, but I love the whole DVR/Netflix thing. I watched all of Orange Is The New Black in like a day or two days. I like all those shows. Kurt and I love to watch — our favorite show is Home Hunters International on HGTV. That's one of our favorites. That's it. I really love those dramas that are similar to Sons in that they are complex and have intricate storylines and I never quite know what's going to happen next and I'm screaming at my TV like, 'Are you kidding?' I like all that involvement. That's what I watch when I get a chance."
Jax (Charlie Hunnam)  Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Wendy (Drea de Matteo) in a scene from  Sons Of Anarch...
Jax (Charlie Hunnam), Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Wendy (Drea de Matteo) in a scene from 'Sons Of Anarchy'
FX
Bryan Cranston said that his Breaking Bad character, Walter White, has been the role of a lifetime for him. I was wondering if you felt the same way about Gemma. "Yes, absolutely. I relate to Bryan only because we both were so well known as comedians on funny Fox sitcoms. I don't know if he bumped up against it like I did, but it was hard for me to move past that, which I was really grateful for that job and I loved playing on Married…With Children all those years, but it was hard to, as an actor, say, 'No, I really want to do a drama' and, 'Let me do that.' I don't know if he had that experience, but for me it was a minute before I could find something like Sons Of Anarchy. Luckily, my husband wrote it, which was awesome. But yes, it had been definitely career changing and career opening. Yes, I'd say it's the part of a lifetime for me, absolutely."
When an established, major Sons Of Anarchy character like Tara, Opie, Piney or Half-Sack is killed — a member of the family — does that affect you personally, not just as an actor? Is there a period of grieving for you or is it just another day at the office? "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 have life to them. Not only do you love the actor, I love Ryan Hurst, William Lucking and Maggie Siff. So, no, it never feels just like that, but it's also in a world of what we do as actors. Characters come, characters go. Jobs come, jobs go. So I say that, but also, there's a certain amount of detachment that is natural to what is we do. Who knows? That character that dies, next week they're wearing a suit and walking into a lawyer show. Who knows? So, you kind of have to separate that. So, certainly, when anybody goes it's very sad. We have a celebration, we have a party for everybody that dies, all our major people. Then when we all get together everybody comes. It doesn't just stop at the job. It definitely has an impact. I'm sure with Season Seven we're all going to be dropping like flies. That's what I think. So we'll see. There may be a lot of parties. (laughs) That's not a spoiler, by the way. That's just my assumption."
Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10:00p.m.EST&PST / 9:00p.m.CST only on FX.
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Fox
Sons Of Anarchy: Season Six Blu-ray Bonus Features: Audio Commentaries; "Anarchy Afterword" on Select Episodes; Deleted Scenes; Gag Reel; "The Reaper Calls" and "Sons Ford Sandy."
RELATED ARTICLES: Jimmy Smits, Harold Perrineau, Drea de Matteo, Ron Pearlman, Henry Rollins and Charlie Hunnam & Kurt Sutter discuss their journeys throughout the seasons of Sons Of Anarchy.
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Canteen Outlaws
Floating Skyscrapers
Strong and disciplined champion swimmer Kuba is sideswiped by the feelings unearthed when he meets the handsome Mikal. Their connection is instantaneous and intoxicating, leaving Kuba to grapple with conflicting emotions. Suddenly his comfortable life with his girlfriend Sylwie is less interesting, and after training for fifteen years, his motivation to compete as a top-tier athlete dissipates. Unable to deny himself any longer, Kuba begins a relationship with Mikal. As Sylwie's dreams of a life with Kuba slip away, Kuba accepts who he is and what he wants, only to find himself drowning in the destruction of his desires. This intimate and bold second feature from Wasilewski captures the myriad consequences of forbidden love. Mikal's love acts as a vessel of self-liberation for Kuba amid the restrictive structures of Warsaw. With symbolism and an artful eye, Wasilewski illustrates the often-twisted nature of life, as the young men find happiness in each other within a dogmatic society.
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Lionsgate
Duck Dynasty: Season Six
Season Six of Duck Dynasty brings more family funny business from the Robertsons. There are goings-on with everyone, from the guys re-branding Duck Commander to the governor of Louisiana giving Willie an award to the return of the dreaded beavers! Watch as the elder Robertsons share their special brand of wisdom with the kids along the way: Phil teaches Bella more than Willie was hoping about nature, Willie and Si insist on helping John Luke with his speech introducing the governor, and Jep and Jessica chaperone Lily's first date. Jase takes Reed frog-hunting the night before his high school graduation — like he did before his own — and Jep and the ladies pull a senior prank by toilet-papering Missy and Jase's house. Willie also sponsors a radio contest and finds himself competing against Si for a wood chipper. Somehow, it all comes together.
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Nickelodeon
PAW Patrol: Winter Rescues
Prepare for an icy adventure this holiday season. The PAW Patrol pups are back for seven wintery missions that include a double-length adventure to save Christmas in this new DVD set. From a ski-lift rescue to tracking down a snow monster, no job is too big and no pup is too small. Plus, see how Rubble first joined the team by helping out in a snowy situation! Full of festive fun that fans won’t want to miss out on, this DVD set makes the perfect holiday gift for fans.
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Warner Bros
Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season
Prepare to sink your teeth into the complete fourth season of Adventure Time. A total of 26 episodes featuring fearsome creatures, such as wolves who like hugging, an unstoppable horde of penguins and a vampire queen who plays bass guitar! Oooo!!! The scariest though is when Jake flips out over a game of card wars. Yikes! Bonus (Blu-ray + UltraViolet) Features: Commentaries and "Distant Bands: The Music Of Adventure Time."
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Warner Bros
Steven Spielberg Presents: Animaniacs Wakko’s Wish
The outrageously zany Yakko, Wakko and their sister Dot star in Steven Spielberg Presents: Animaniacs Wakko’s Wish, the feature-length animated adventure featuring song-filled, joke-stuffed Animaniacs zaniness. Life is not the same in the little village of Acme Falls. The once-cheerful villagers are being taxed to the extreme by the greedy Baron Von Plotz. To make matters worse, Dot has fallen ill and needs medical attention. Out of options, Wakko wishes upon a star. His wish is granted, but with a catch – he must find the fallen star and touch it for his wish to come true. Word gets out about the lucky star, and the race is on! Pinky and the Brain, Slappy and Skippy Squirrel, Mindy and Buttons and many more well-known Animaniacs co-stars hit the road to animated pandemonium as they sprint to reach the star first. Join the hilarious hustle and your wildest wish will come true – an abundance of Animaniacs mania.
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Warner Bros
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated The Complete Season Two
The Mystery Inc. crew is on the run again in this spooky second season of the hit Cartoon Network series! Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Daphne, Fred and Velma are off on more outlandish adventures as the super-sleuths race to outwit everything from creepy clowns, to aliens, to an evil entity determined to destroy the world! The darkest secrets of their hometown of Crystal Cove, the “Most Hauntedest Place on Earth” are about to come to light, but will finally solving this mystery mean the end for Scooby-Doo and the Gang? Fans will want to bring this frighteningly fun collection home so the whole family can find out.
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Lionsgate
Alpha And Omega 2: A Howl-Day Adventure
Kate & Humphrey and their three wolf cubs (Smokey, Claudette and Runt) are happily preparing to celebrate their first winter holidays together when their smallest cub, Runt, mysteriously disappears. They must now go on a new journey across the wilderness to find Runt before the winter festivities begin at home. It's their greatest adventure yet, filled with both action and suspense as well as plenty of the humor and heartwarming moments first theatrical release. While their adventure does not go exactly as planned, in the end Kate & Humphrey discover that "Home is where the family is."
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Warner Bros
Roger & Me: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray
In 1989, Michael Moore, winner of 2002's Best Documentary Feature Academy Award and Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Bowling for Columbine, triumphantly burst upon the American moviemaking scene with Roger & Me, a hilarious, penetrating forerunner of the independent film movement to follow. Roger & Me is a highly original, personal and satire account of one of America’s greatest urban disasters told against the background of the tough times in Flint, Michigan, Moore's hometown. The birthplace of General Motors, Flint had been economically decimated by, among other things, plant closings and the elimination of 30,000 GM jobs. In Roger & Me, Moore gives cinematic voice to his razor-sharp, compassionate and often wryly humorous perceptions of what went wrong in Flint, and chronicles his much-thwarted efforts to meet face-to-face with then-GM Chairman Roger Smith. Blending humor with scathing indictment, Roger & Me ignited a national discussion about the cruelties of corporate America and inspired other filmmakers to make films that would be seen by wider audiences. Bonus (Blu-ray) Features: New Commentary by Michael Moore and Theatrical Trailer.
If you would like to win a copy of Roger & Me: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray, correctly answer the question, "Which song for R.E.M did Michael Moore direct a music video?" Tweet your answer to @EarlDittman1 by October 10, 2014 (11:59p.m.EST). A winner (with the correct answer) will be picked by random and notified through Twitter.
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