Katey Sagal on ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Season Finale — and How It All Ends

How those letters will keep haunting her family

Ask Katey Sagal if being married to "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter means she knows how the series will end, and she lets out a sigh.

"Oh," she says. "No. I wish I did … but it's better for me just to find out when everybody else finds out. You know, I get little tidbits here and there. I don't get much."

Her daughter, however, believes she has the inside track on the "Hamlet" inspired biker-gang drama, which airs its season four finale tonight at 10/9c on FX.

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"She knows 'Hamlet' very well. And she keeps saying, 'Oh, if he's following this, this is going to happen!' We all try to figure it out. But I don't know how close he's going to stick to that … I'm not sure what he's going to do."

One thing the show has done this season is move the story forward with a tense, terrific series of changes: Club president Clay turned to the dark side, original member Piney was murdered, and Sagal's character, Gemma, struggled to keep their family together.

Sagal, a Golden Globe winner also well-known for "Married … with Children" and "Futurama," talked to TheWrap about Gemma's future and how her past will continue to haunt her.

This season has been so tension-filled, and then the finale feels like it could have been a series finale …
I'll tell you, for me, this season was the most complicated to track as I was going. Because really what you're doing is, over a 13‑episode arc, you're telling a story that just keeps extending. And you know, it's really only a two‑week time period, I think, that the whole season takes place, maybe even less.

So it was just more complicated this season to track where Gemma was emotionally, because there were so many twists and turns. From realizing that the letters were stateside to realizing that Tara knew about them, and then there were copies of them. You know, thinking for a moment that we were in the clear because I really thought that they'd been burned. (Gemma) didn't realize they were copied until much later, so yes, there was a lot of ups and downs through the entire season.

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Do you feel like this was a different Gemma this season than we've really seen before? This was maybe the first time that she was truly rattled a little bit?
Yes, I think what you're seeing towards the end of the season is a little bit of a rattle. I thought it was really interesting, that whole Tara and Gemma part of it all. Because Gemma's whole focus is keeping her family together. She simply lives for that club, and lives for her grandchildren, and her son. In her perfect vision of the world, everybody just kind of sticks together. This is the first time that I think she's … I mean, when she looks at Jax and she says, "yes, I know you're leaving," and she looks at Tara, she says, "yes, I know you're leaving," I think really she thinks, "yes, but you're not really." (Laughing)

And she never really lets go of that idea, that she will find a way to keep Jax in Charming.
She definitely has a plan in place that will hopefully tie Jax to the club.

Without spoiling too much, the final scene in the finale really brings things full circle, and not in a way that's totally in line with Gemma's plans. Where does that leave her?
I think it sets up some really good drama for next season. Like, I would argue that even though the (season) finale could sort of be a series ender, not really. I mean, I think that what Kurt (Sutter, series creator and Sagal's real-life husband) does is set up some pretty interesting stories to tell. If you're the elder in a group, what happens if you are pushed aside? What does a character like Gemma do if she's suddenly not the queen? That's a pretty interesting story to tell. I'm not sure how he's going to tell that, but he definitely sets it up.

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The show is very testosterone‑driven, obviously, but this season, especially, with Gemma and Tara, you could make a strong argument that it was the women who ran things … agree?
You know, you should ask Kurt that question, because I think that's what he thinks, too. I don't know. I think that ultimately, this story is being told through the eyes of the women. It is really testosterone‑driven, but I think what makes it work so well is that there's a nice balance. You get a really good glimpse into the lives of these women and their families. I think he balances it really well.

Kurt has a strong feminine side, that's what I would say. (Laughing) As a husband, he's a very compassionate man. He just understands women.

We go right to the brink with those letters, in terms of finding out Clay's role in John Teller's death, but Gemma thinks she's still controlling some of the information, keeping a bit of the information to herself. Will that continue to play out, maybe through next season?
Yes, that's sort of the big unspoken elephant. I'm just not really even sure what (all the letters) say, either. I think that, too, is something that will be revealed. I'm not sure if that implicates Gemma, or to what extent it implicates Gemma. Clearly it does, but I'm not sure what happens next.

One of the things viewers were most riled about this season was the storyline with Juice, how it would be a big issue if the club found out his father was black. Fans were upset that the club had these racist ideas, but as Kurt pointed out on Twitter, we're more upset about that than the fact that they've killed people … are you ever surprised by the reactions to these characters?
Well, you know, racism is alive and well in our country, and I think that it pushes buttons in people. It's deep‑rooted, and people really don't like to talk about it. I was sort of surprised, but Kurt made a very good point, that we're very accepting of the killer in them, but we don't want them to be racist.

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But I knew the rules of the club … I don't think it was really clearly explained right at the beginning that this is one of the rules of the club. One of the rules of motorcycle clubs, the one that we are depicting, is that there are no black members.

It's one of those things that they just kind of do, because that's just what they've always done. But it's almost like how Chibs explained it, which was, well, it's not that big a deal, and what does it say on your birth certificate? That's what you are. He kind of glosses it all over. But yes, I was kind of surprised that people did respond to that, that that would get under their skin. But racism is tricky in people's minds.

It's cool, though, that fans are so into the show that it provokes these conversations.
I think it's cool people talk about it, too. Kurt addresses the issue of race a lot in our show. There's different clubs, and there's a black sheriff, and there's different ethnic groups being represented. I'm sure it sparks conversation, which is good. That's what you want it to do.

Do you know when you're starting on season five?
Well, we'll probably do what we did (for season four). We'll probably start shooting end of April, beginning of May, right around there. We usually go back on the air early September. I'm sure it'll be right around the same schedule.

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Are you working on "Futurama" now also?
Yes, we are. I'm doing that. They're probably happy I'm done with my other job, because I can show up more for their job. That's a great job. I love that job. Yes, I think we're halfway through. We got an order of 26 episodes.

Is it a fun shift to go do that after such a tense drama?
Oh, yes. "Futurama" is so funny, and the actors are so funny, and the writing is so smart. So yes, it's nice, and plus, you don't have to do hair and makeup, which I like. Because Gemma's really labor‑intensive, I must say.

As labor‑intensive as Peggy Bundy was, though, with the hair and makeup?
Even more. You know, Peg eventually had a wig. After about two seasons, they just got me a wig. So I had it down pretty quick that I could get into that drag. But Gemma … the blonde in my hair takes a lot of maintenance. Just the whole thing. The makeup doesn't take so long, but the hair is a lot of maintenance. You can't really fake it. Some of that is tattered pieces, but a lot of it's just my own hair. And my nails … I mean, there's a whole thing about Gemma. As I look right now, I don't look like Gemma. You know, I have brown hair and short fingernails. I'm not wearing leather.

I like that about playing a character. I think what's so great about their world is their wardrobe, and their vehicles, and everything just informs it. You know, you just become that energy when you have all the hair and the makeup and the clothes.