USA TODAY US Edition
Sagal on higher plain in role of mystic
Katey Sagal trades in her ‘Sons of Anarchy’ leathers for ‘Bastard Executioner’ calm
Former ‘Anarchy’ star’s new show, ‘Bastard Executioner,’ starts tonight on FX.
It’s a long way from contemporary California to 14th-century Wales.
Sons of Anarchy star Katey Sagal is taking the trip — literally in miles and figuratively in years — to play the mystical healer Annora of the Alders in FX’s The Bastard
Executioner (two-hour premiere, Tuesday, 10 p.m. ET/PT).
“I’ve never been in a period drama, so that was exciting for me,” Sagal says from California as she prepares for a flight to the set in Wales. “It was such a different character from what I was playing for the last seven years.”
That would be Anarchy’s Gemma Teller Morrow, the family-protecting, daughter-in-law-killing motorcycle mama who survived until the penultimate episode, quite a feat on the popular, mayhem-fueled FX drama.
If Gemma was a club insider, Annora is a mysterious Slavic outsider, whose visions help forge a connection with title character Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones), a warrior who lays down his sword for a lower-key existence after a divine power saves him from battlefield death.
Annora is clad in flowing robes and framed by long, gray tresses that make her “quite ethereallooking,” Sagal says — and a contrast to Gemma’s form-fitting leather ensemble.
“Gemma was such a dark character and fear-based, very on her guard all the time,” says Sagal, who won a Golden Globe for her
Anarchy role. “Annora is a character of faith. She really understands that things have higher purpose, that things work out the way they’re supposed to. She’s not freaked out by everything that’s going on. She’s connected to divinity.”
Annora marks another dramatic turn for an actor known before Anarchy primarily for comedic roles, including the frustrated wife Peg on early Fox hit
Married … With Children. (She also plays the mother of real-life boxer Vinny Pazienza in the upcoming film, Bleed for This.)
Anarchy and Executioner creator Kurt Sutter, who is married to Sagal, saw her dramatic potential before writing Gemma with his wife in mind.
“She was a little bit of a secret weapon going into Sons, knowing that part of that transformation or reinvention would not be unlike what Michael Chiklis did in
The Shield,” says Sutter, who was a writer on that earlier FX series.
Annora is “a complete departure” from the earlier character, Sutter says.
“Gemma and Katey, to a certain extent, are very animated people. Gemma uses her hands a lot. That’s really not who Annora is. There’s a calmness and stillness,” he says, adding that the accent and wardrobe provide further separation. “All those things combined give Annora a different energy.”
Although Executioner’s era differs from Anarchy, connections to the motorcycle-club drama re- main. There’s blood and death, delivered by blade rather than bullet, and Sutter at the helm. “I love to work with my husband. He’s a good writer, and it’s so hard to find that,” Sagal says.
Being on the same show doesn’t mean always being in the same place.
“It’s not like we’re sitting across the desk from each other. He is in his world and I’m interpreting in my world,” says Sagal, who also is an accomplished singer. “Sometimes, your creative best self is at work. There’s something really great about being able to share that with each other.”
They’re together at times on set, too, as Sutter plays Annora’s partner, a man known only as The Dark Mute. “She lives with her Dark Mute. They’re definitely partners, they’re mates, they’re lovers,” she says.
Shooting Anarchy near their Los Angeles home helped in raising their three children; two, now adults, are from Sagal’s earlier marriage. Sutter and Sagal now juggle their time between the USA and Wales to spend as much time as possible in California with their 8-year-old daughter.
When in Wales, Sagal, 61, isn’t far from her older daughter, Sarah White, who plays Isabel Kiffin, handmaiden to Baroness Lowry “Love” Ventris (Flora Spencer-Longhurst). ( True
Blood’s Stephen Moyer plays the baron’s shrewd adviser, Milus.)
“She’s a theater major in college. She’s a really good, little actor,” Sagal says. Isabel and Love “were childhood friends from different classes, but every once in a while you see that they’re just young girls together.”
Despite jet lag from the back and forth between California and Wales, shooting in “the beautiful Wales countryside” has paid off, she says. “The location is as much of the story as anything else. It’s been pretty exhilarating.”
“Gemma and Katey, to a certain extent, are very animated people. Gemma uses her hands a lot. That’s really not who Annora is. There’s a calmness and stillness.”
Anarchy and Executioner creator Kurt Sutter