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Frank Ockenfels

As the matriarch of a motorcycle club on Sons of Anarchy, Katey Sagal is always in command. But her personal path to on-screen success had some unexpected turns.

What do Gene Simmons, Etta James and Bob Dylan have in common? Katey Sagal was a backup vocalist for all of them in her early career as a singer/songwriter. Since 1987, though, ?Sagal has become television’s go-to gal for women that mix brains with brawn in a way very few actresses? can. Sagal’s comedic chops on shows such as ?Married with Children and Futurama and her dramatic depths on shows like Lost and Sons of Anarchy — the FX drama centered around a motorcycle club that just launched its hotly anticipated fifth season — reveal a gift for displaying both hurt and heart. Sagal chatted with American Way about her varied career and false perceptions.

AMERICAN WAY: You’ve played some very ?formidable women in your career. Does that come naturally to you?
KATEY SAGAL: I think I tend to be very equality-based in my family, even if the women I play are “her way or the highway.” I don’t think I’m like that in real life. I’m kind of a pushover.

AW: You and your husband, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, are the Bonnie and Clyde of the entertainment industry: outspoken, enigmatic purveyors of brass-knuckled entertainment.
KS: I’ve always been on the outside of the in-crowd. I came from a music background, so the acting community was very slow to warm to me, and then the parts that have found me have certainly been edgy. My husband likes to play outside the box. He calls it like he sees it, and so do I.

AW: Tell me about making that transition from music to acting.
KS: I struggled as a musician, and it became clear to me at a certain point that I had to broaden my options if I was going to pay my rent. I said, “OK, universe, I’m walking through whatever door opens next.” The next door that swung open was a musical, which required that I sing and act, which led to television, and I just kept saying yes.

AW: Each season of Anarchy, you’ve contributed a song to the soundtrack. When can we expect a new album from you? It’s been almost 10 years.
KS: I’m actually making my third record right now. It should be out [this month].

AW: Do you feel people overlook the show thinking it’s just about motorcycles?
KS: Audiences who really invest in our show know it’s not just about people on motorcycles. It’s kind of epic, I think. If you haven’t watched yet, check us out. You won’t leave.