‘Sons of Anarchy’: Why Katey Sagal Says She’s Very Different From Gemma

by Taylor Cunningham

Katey Sagal has played dozen of iconic characters in her life, and each persona gave her unique challenges. But her most challenging was Gemma from Sons of Anarchy because her on-screen personality was so wildly different from her real-life personality—which probably isn’t a bad thing.

In the show, Katey starred as a cunning and ruthless unofficial leader of SAMCRO. Though she didn’t ride the bikes or wear the ring, she was making decisions and pulling moves on the enemies at all times. Gemma even went as far as being the executioner when needed. And she proved just how limitless she was when she killed her son’s wife to keep him out of jail.

The majority of Sagal’s TV characters have also been somewhat complicated, but with an air of wholesomeness or humor—think Peg Bundy (Married With Children), Louise (The Conners), and Cate Hennessy (8 Simple Rule). So Gemma Teller Morrow was slightly out of her wheelhouse. Nonetheless, the actress flawlessly pulled off the Machiavelian personality for six years and won several awards for doing so.

While chatting with Collider in 2014, just ahead of the Sons of Anarchy series finale, however, she admitted that she made the role look easier than it was. Playing Gemma was one of her most difficult tasks to date. And it was because she had a hard time identifying with her lifestyle.

Katey Sagal Doesn’t ‘Live in an Outlaw World’ Like her ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Character

Sagal admitted that the role was “constantly challenging,” but she appreciated that aspect. Because as an actor, she’s always looking for jobs that make her stronger and more talented. And Sons of Anarchy constantly gave her new opportunities to better her craft.

“I felt every season brought a new set of things that I’ve never done before and that needed exploring,” she said.

But what Katey Sagal found hardest was connecting with Gemma. While she and her character had some slight similarities, they were wholly different in so many pivotal ways. And connecting with those parts was sometimes uncomfortable.

“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,” she continued. “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 opportunity to meet that challenge will always be a highlight in Sagal’s career.

“It was a great working environment.  I’ll miss the people.  That’s what you really connect to.  And I’ll miss the writing,” she added. “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.”