Katey Segal is a TV legend She has starred in Married With Children and 8 Simple Rules and is now on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. To celebrate the show’s final season, TVGrapevine has a special interview (via conference call) with the star. 

Question: Gemma has shown a full range of good and bad, but 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 and protect them?

Katey: I think what we’re seeing now is her own conscience finally grabbing her. I still think, though, she believes that her momentary rageful act at the end of Season VI killing Tara was not premeditated and was not something that—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 sort of a perfect storm, and not that she doesn’t realize the heinous nature of it, but I do believe that what’s happening now is that in times before, she was able to compartmentalize and almost rationalize. I think this one was just too much for her.

Question: Now that it’s coming to an end, looking back, I know there’s probably the big and high points, but what were some of the biggest high points that you can look back and go, God, that was great; and what were some of the challenges, maybe not low points, but challenges that you had to get through as an actress?

Katey: It’s constantly challenging, which as an actor you only hope for, so I felt every season brought a new set of things that I’ve never done before and needed exploring, so it was that kind of job where week to week, episode to episode there was always a little something that I felt like this will 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 I don’t do those things. And the high points were numerous, so it’s difficult to zero in on—that’s a hard question. I’m about to rewatch the whole thing.

Question: Several members of the cast were recently on Conan and unfortunately you weren’t there, but apparently you were making a film. I was just wondering what you were working on and do you feel you’ve already mentally moved on to what’s coming next for you? And also I would imagine 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?

Katey: I watched them all on Conan and I wished I was there. They were all so fantastic and you could just feel the vibe of our show. It was lovely to see, but 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, and it takes place in the ‘80s. It’s a pretty cool movie, so I’ve been working on that and that’s why I wasn’t there. I would have been at Conan no matter what, but this movie started right away. It’s been an interesting, we’ve all sort of known the end was coming, but I don’t think any of us really acknowledged it till the last couple of weeks. We’d have moments on set where people would tear up and we’d say good-bye 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. I think Kurt and I are just—part of us are in denial and 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 and we’ll recognize it, but I think overwhelmingly we’re both so grateful that it’s seven years and it’s been such a great experience, so I don’t know that you get too sad really. Things happen. I think it’s ending at the perfect time, I really do.

Question: I love the scenes where you’re just sitting there and you’re talking to the ghost of Tara. Can you talk about doing those and why do you think they’re so important for Gemma?

Katey: 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 so it’s easy for me, and Gemma felt very close to Tara, ultimately. I think that they had such an intricate relationship, but also very mother/daughter, so I think that I just can put her there very easily and speak to her. And it just speaks to Gemma’s own—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’s like I keep reiterating it wasn’t intentional what happened. It really wasn’t and so it kind of shows her just continuing to connect. To me it’s interesting, too, that she believes that it speaks to what she believed happens after we die. Clearly she thinks she’s being heard, I would think.

Question: So we know the guys have got to keep their cuts and their motorcycles, so what keepsakes have you gotten from the show?

Katey: The thing I really wanted and I did get was in the pilot Gemma wore a brown leather coat down to her knees, and 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, but no, that was the one I really wanted.

Question: I wanted to ask you about the dynamic between you and Wendy this season because we’ve seen a multitude of highs and lows between Gemma and Wendy, from Gemma trying to get Wendy to kill herself in the beginning to suddenly realizing maybe Tara wasn’t the best option and she should go with Wendy and put her in that position of being in charge of the boys. So now the last episode when Jax asks Wendy to move in, we see this look in Gemma’s eyes and on her face that was just priceless. Was she finally realizing that all these efforts to be the main influence in Jax’s life has completely backfired at this point?

Katey: No, I thought those looks were a little bit—she was despondent. I think that she has allied with Wendy, Gemma is smart. She needed to have someone to help her out with those boys. Wendy has proven herself, she did leave rehab early, but she allied with her on the whole juice of it all. and Wendy didn’t throw her under the bus. She kept the secret. She tested her all season and I think the thing with the boys and Jax, I think she really—Wendy was giving her empathy and for seeing what was happening. I think that Wendy loves the boys in a similar way to Gemma does. Abel is her real child. I think the journey for Wendy is so not what she’d expected and all of a sudden like she’s in the boys’ lives; she’s accepted by Jax. I think Wendy has sort of a grateful thing about her, and I think Gemma is aligned with Wendy at this point.

Question: So I’m curious to know a little bit about how you feel about the legacy that Sons of Anarchy has left on the world of television and what that will be like now?

Katey: I think Sons, it’s an entertainment show and I always look at what I do and what the services entertainment is that it is just that. It’s service, so you’re providing something for people. The fact that people had become so engaged and so invested in the story and the characters, that’s done something for them. I think that’s its own legacy is that it has become a successful way for people to be entertained. And so I think, too, that it’s sort of in that wave of everybody talks about of cable dramas that have—it’s sort of like the little independent film world now in television. I think that Sons has helped to open all those doors just as The Shield did, so I would imagine that it will be in the wave of those shows, the Mad Men and those kinds of shows that have come around at this time. I think legacy is such a big word. Really our job is to entertain and I think we’ve done that.

Question: There’s been so much speculation about what is going to happen to Gemma. I’m not asking you what you think or what will happen, but what you think of the speculation and also whether or not there is a prequel, what advice would Gemma give to her younger self?

Katey: What advice would she give to her younger self? That’s so interesting. I don’t know, because I’ve always thought of Gemma as somebody who doesn’t—she doesn’t reflect back. She is in forward motion. She doesn’t sit around and think—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 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 sort of this underlying spiritual quest all these seven years actually, so maybe some of that would have come to her in her younger years. In terms of what happens with her next, I don’t know a lot of the speculation. I read some things. I don’t read a lot, but I’m sure some people want her dead and I’m sure some people want her to live forever, so I can’t really speak to where it’s going. You’re going to have to watch.

Question: There are three episodes left. Do you think fans will be satisfied with the ending and like how did you feel filming it? What were your thoughts on it?

Katey: You’ll be really satisfied with the ending. I think Kurt has even spoken about this, but he was trying to approach it like another episode, like the story keeps going. But I think it’s very satisfying and it was very satisfying filming it and I will say that for Charlie and myself. Both of us sort of felt—you’ll have to talk to Charlie, but he liked it, too. It was satisfying for all involved; that’s what I’ll say.

Question: So Gemma almost killed Juice earlier this season or at least she intended to and I’m pretty sure she would have followed through with it. That said, is there anyone on the show aside from Jax, then her grandkids, of course, who you think Gemma would never be able to kill no matter what, like even if they had her backed into a corner?

Katey: 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

Question: if Katey could speak to Gemma, what would she tell her? Would she have any advice for Gemma?

Katey: Just calm down, calm down.

Question: Now that your time with the series is coming to an end, what will you personally miss most about being involved with the show?

Katey:  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 and you don’t find 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.

Question: It’s not everybody who gets lucky enough to work with their husband on a show. Can you just talk about how he created the role for you and what you thought when you first saw the role of Gemma? Also can you just talk about what it’s like working with the FX Network execs and how they support you, how the network guides you, etc?

Katey: My husband was working on an idea about an outlaw motorcycle club and he came to me and said that he wanted me to be in it and he was writing me a part. I had no idea what it was, but I liked the idea of that world. I knew him to be a really excellent writer, so I was excited about that. And then we had to go get approval and he had to write the script and the network had to sign off, so it wasn’t just a slam dunk, but it was really that’s kind of how it happened. FX has been incredibly creatively supportive. I know they all wear suits, but they never feel like a bunch of suits to me and they just really stood by what they’ve always said that they’re about, which is that they stand by the creator and that they are there to support the vision of who they’re putting their trust and faith and money in; and that’s what I’ve observed them to do. They’ve really nurtured Kurt along the way, and it’s just been a very compatible relationship I would say. And then the same with us as actors, I’ve never felt anything but supported by the FX network.

Question: There are powerful scenes with obviously the younger actor Ryder Lando, who plays your grandson. Can you speak about what it’s like working with him and how you guys can get him to that point, that dramatic point on screen?

Katey: He’s wild. It’s funny when we’re shooting the scenes, you don’t get the impact about it as much as when I’ve watched them. It’s like with a lot of actors, you’re not quite sure what’s going on. He’s a little kid. He’s five years old, so the fact that he can sit still that long is impressive to me, and they’ve done great. There are two of them, Evan and Ryder and they’re just they’re very committed and between shots, they’re playing with their Game Boys.

Question: I know you talked about challenges and rewards, but Gemma to me is one of like the strongest and toughest female characters on TV. How has it been for you to embody a woman and a female character that is so powerful?

Katey: That’s been great. That’s been absolutely great and 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. But I would like to think that she is—even though not her actions per se, but her strong stand is something that I think is really awesome to see. I think you’re seeing it more and more on television and I think it’s there.

Question: I wanted to ask you about Peter Weller as a director. I know he’s directed several episodes through the course of the show including tomorrow night’s, and I speak with him pretty regularly, but I wanted to get a talent’s perspective of how he works and what he brings to the table compared to the other series’ directors.

Katey: For me I love to work with directors that are also actors. They have a certain way of speaking that we just relate to and Peter definitely comes at it from that standpoint. He’s a really interesting guy. If you’ve ever talked to Peter very much, he’s certainly a Renaissance man and knows a lot of things about a lot of things. Each director has their own sort of way of doing things and with Peter, you can really talk about the emotional landscape of where you are at that given time and it’s great.

Question: So with only three episodes left, obviously we’re in for a lot of action and drama, so what are you most excited for fans to see from the final three episodes?

Katey: The conclusion, 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. And I think the whole season just has a more fluid approach, so I’ve really enjoyed watching this year
and 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.

Question: Kurt talked a little bit about how he’s known since the beginning of the season that he wanted Abel to be the one to tell Gemma’s secret. I was wondering if you could talk about why you think that was so important and what it means for Gemma to have Abel who she’d been trying to protect to be the one to ultimately undo her

Katey: I suppose, how can she do anything but forgive him really? It’s out of the mouths of babes and I wonder sometimes if Gemma really thought she could get away with all of this. I don’t know; it’s really an interesting whatsoever. You have to watch; you’ll have to see some more. I don’t want to talk too much about that.

Question: And what do you think it was about Sons that made it such a fast fan favorite show?

Katey: I think there are lots of things. I think that people are fascinated with the outlaw world on bikes. Everybody thinks that’s a sexy world. I think that the family drama element of it has really been a strong component that we see people that we have a view into a world and then we see that they’re just like us in a lot of ways. And then I think the action of it all, I think that it really has an exciting action component to it. And then there’s that you just don’t know, who knows what? I don’t know why; it’s the unspeakable, the unknowable, who knows. I’m just glad they do.

Question: Gemma, because she does things for her family essentially and yet unless I’m missing something, this season there’s been very little about the cover-up that has been for the family. The cover-up has been kind of exclusively for her and for self preservation. Do you see this character almost as a like embodied in one character it’s the struggle that human beings face between how far will we actually go, because we can tell ourselves we’re doing something for other people, but sometimes our actions are just for us if you know what I mean?

Katey: If you remember in the first episode of this season, she explains to Juice that they need to have this secret about who killed Tara because if Gemma goes to jail, the boys will never know a strong woman. So her motivation is absolutely to protect herself, so that the boys have her, so that Jax has her. Sure, is she selfishly motivated? I believe so, but I think her most—most of her motivation comes from what will happen to them if she’s in jail. It will do no good. It won’t do any good, so because she also believes that this was not done premeditatively or even maliciously, I don’t think she—it was a blind rage. She had no intention to do it, so afterwards she doesn’t see the benefit in turning herself in or telling herself what happened, because then ultimately everybody is left without her, and she feels that she is absolutely—I think that’s one of the reasons that she starts to rely more and more on Wendy, because I think she realizes more and more that she may need Wendy to also be helping her with those kids, because who knows what’s going to happen with her as things start to unravel

Question: So what was it like for you not only playing Gemma over the course of the seven seasons, but as sitting back and watching it as a fan because she’s gone through everything from an assault to just anything under the sun, she’s kind of dealt with that. What was that like for you?

Katey: It’s fantastic. It was fantastic as an actor and it was super fun to watch and that’s what I love to watch myself all the time. I definitely had my critical moments, but this was something I really wanted—I’ve worked in television for so many years in comedy and I really, really wanted to do more dramatic work because I never even think I’m funny. I always thought I’m supposed to be in a drama, so it’s been very satisfying for me to push myself and go places I haven’t gone. It’s been great. It’s been absolutely great. That’s what you want.

Question: So was there any reservations then initially with the character going from a comedic role to a dramatic role?

Katey: No, I had no reservations at all, no, absolutely not.

Question: So I think as far as the fans go, I think there are two schools of thoughts at this point. I think a larger contingent of the fans they definitely want to see Gemma be punished and some people want her to pay for her crimes or sins or what have you with her life. And then I think there’s another subset of fans that almost think it would be a more fitting punishment if she’s forced to live with the fallout from everything that she had done. So I’ve wanted to get your perspective and ask you what you thought would be the more fitting punishment for Gemma?

Katey: I’d say that is a tough call. That’s a really tough call, because I don’t know given where she’s at now, I don’t know. This is what’s interesting about denial. You know how you read in the news and like you’ll see some, like that one guy they arrested this guy in Santa Monica. He was a mob guy and had been hiding for 40 years. He killed a bunch of people and there he is living in Santa Monica and he’s fine and then they arrested him. So you wonder what the psychology is of somebody that’s really done heinous things how far can we hide that from ourselves and would Gemma actually be able to. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s gone so far. To me it seems like either way is horrible, so you will see the way it all pans out, but it’s a tough call. It’s a tough call, but people do do heinous things and continue to have lives. Yes, they do.

Question: We know that Kurt is developing another show for FX called The Bastard Executioner. I wanted to know if you have heard anything about possibly being involved in that project with him.

Katey: 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, yes. I will definitely be involved in it.

Question: So at the end of last week’s episode we saw Jax get the news that Gemma actually killed Tara and I know that you can’t say much about the upcoming episodes, but what can you say about the dynamic between Jax and Gemma in these final three?

Katey: You just have to watch. I can tell you there’s lots of tears that were shed.

Question: We’ve seen you go through so many things through the course of being Gemma Teller Morrow, and ultimately you’ve done a lot of things your character has more than crossed the line a time or two, but you’ve always been able to justify that by doing it for your family and doing it for the good of the club and just being that strong head of the family, so to speak. But this time we’re actually seeing your character struggle with the fallout from your actions. Do you think that she’s struggling more because ultimately she’s feeling that facing her son and seeing his reaction to knowing maybe what she did is what’s driving her to this level of remorse, or do you think she’s really feeling that loss of Tara? Do you think she misses having Tara there ultimately and finally realizing what she’s done just as a person?

Katey: I think it’s all of that and I think it’s all of the war that she has seen now come about. 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, I think even she cannot avoid the fact that her action has caused all 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.

Question: And the fans have had a huge reaction to all that Charlie’s character has done over the season. There’s been a lot of fans just really disappointed with where his character has gone, but I would think that it took him going to these very strong places to finally make Gemma realize what she’s done. Am I wrong?

Katey: He didn’t know what Gemma had done. His darkness is in response to losing his wife. His darkness is born out of just the worst of the worst that could have happened and his guilt about that. He brought her back into this world and Tara was always struggling with getting out, you know what I mean, so I think that’s where the darkness of Jax began and then it just continues. The lie has caught him up, too, as the war keeps getting bigger and the behavior gets worse and worse and worse and worse, but you know at the core of it, it all began with the lie Gemma told and with the killing of Tara. To me it makes perfect sense that that’s where Jax went.

Question: Gemma had some awesome scenes throughout the years, so tough and always know how to put the guys in their place, which I love. Do you have a favorite scene or a line that you’ve done, whether it be from this season or previous seasons that have stood out to you as being one that you’re particularly proud of?

Katey: I am the worst person to ask that question to, because I have very good short-term memory, but who knows? I’ve said so many great things. Gemma has said so many great things. I cannot give you one. I’m super sorry about that.

Question:  If Gemma had come clean at the beginning to Jax and just told the truth, what do you think his reaction would have been if that had happened?

Katey: I don’t know. I’d like to think maybe this all could have been avoided, the war could have been avoided. I don’t know. I think that all those decisions were made, maybe I think ultimately Gemma might be afraid of Jax a little bit and it always gets back to the Gemma like she needs to stick around, because she’s afraid if she’s not around, everything will fall apart with the kids, with Jax. So I’m not sure what would have happened. As we saw Jax is off the chain from the junk.

Question: What is it like for you to have played two of the most iconic characters on television, Peggy Bundy and now Gemma Morrow?

Katey: 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.

Question: You know many have called the show this great Shakespearean tragedy sort of like Hamlet with motorcycles, although your character has been more Lady Macbeth with the way her guilt has been eating at her this season. Do you kind of see it that way and have those plays and those characters been any kind of an influence or inspiration of how you played the character?

Katey: I had from the very beginning I tried to do some research on women in that culture, in the motorcycle culture, and there’s not a lot of information about them, so I took creative license and modeled her after some royal figures and some high political figures and not so much a Shakespearian. I think that those are sort of the prototypes that Kurt shaped the series around, but no, I didn’t use a lot of those myself.

Question: What did it mean to get the long overdue star on the Walk of Fame?

Katey: It was so thrilling. Yes, it really was great. You know it’s interesting because I grew up my dad was in show business and my family, it was sort of the family business, so it wasn’t that I aspired to that, but I like to work. I’m always pleased that’s the best reward. I’m glad to get the job. I’m glad to go to work. I know this sounds somewhat self effacing, that’s not where my emphasis is. It’s not about popularity or celebrity or awards really. Even though the few things that I have won have felt very, very good, but it’s never been my goal or my aspiration. I’m glad to go to work, so I didn’t think too much about it till I got there. Then I was just so humbled by the whole experience. It was fantastic, especially it’s my hometown. I was born right near there where my star is, so that was really cool.

Question: Now that this album has come out and now that you have maybe a little bit of free time after you finish the movie, are you going to pursue more music, and are we going to see you out on tour? Is that something you’re thinking about still doing?

Katey: Yes, I was just talking to my agent about that, yes. I don’t want to go out for too long. I don’t like to leave town that much, but a couple weeks here, a couple weeks there, I always play music. This was my third record that came out and music is so much a part of my expression and my life and what I love to do. I love to play live, so I am hoping to put together some kind of touring situation.

Question: I just wanted to ask a little about Nero’s and Gemma’s relationship, because it seems like she’s finally allowed herself to open up to someone else in a way. Do you think that that love that she feels for him and that he feels for her has changed Gemma for the better?

Katey: Yes, I think that he’s a different kind of outlaw. He’s not as hard around the edges as Clay Morrow and not as sort of wimpy as John Teller ended up being, so I think that she had deep love for Nero. I think there’s a lot of regret about where that’s going to go with Nero given that he’s moving away and we don’t know what’s going to happen with her. I think she’s kind of bittersweet about that whole thing.

Question: Over the course of the series so many characters have died, both good guys and villains and sometimes in really brutal and horrific ways. Which character death really stuck with you the most or hit you the hardest?

Katey: Emotionally what hit me the hardest of the bad guys are you talking about? I thought June Stahl went out in a great way. I thought that was great the way they got Ally Walker. I cried and mourned for Opie. I cried and mourned for Donna at the beginning. They’ve all had impact really, but the bad guys, I would have to say June Stahl. I thought she was a great character.

Thank you to Katey and FX for this opportunity and keep checking back for more news on the final season of Sons of Anarchy!

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