Best known for playing boisterous Peg Bundy on the popular sitcom "Married ... With Children," Katey Sagal tackles another force-of-nature mom as Gemma in FX's critically acclaimed series "Sons of Anarchy." But acting was not Sagal's first choice of creative endeavors.
Born into a Jewish show biz family in Hollywood, Katey's dad, Boris Sagal, was a sought-after director who cast his daughter in several of his made-for-TV movies, such as Columbo's "Candidate for Crime." But Katey Sagal turned her sights to music and began a career as a backup singer for several acts, including Gene Simmons, Olivia Newton-John and Bette Midler, who hired her as one of The Harlettes for her 1978 tour.
The music business soon soured Sagal, who was tiring of being relegated to backup vocalist. The singer-songwriter, who continues with her music to this day, returned to television in the 1985 series "Mary," starring Mary Tyler Moore. It was fortuitous casting because it led to the sex-starved wife of shoe salesman Al Bundy. With tight-fitting capris, big hair and revealing tops, Peg Bundy became a TV icon who recently was honored with her other "Married" cast members at the 7th Annual TV Land Awards.
At 55, Sagal, married to writer-producer-actor Kurt Sutter with three children -- Sarah, 15, and Jackson, 13, from a previous marriage, and Esme, 2 -- she says her life is fuller, sweeter, calmer and more focused than ever.
Bankrate: You worked with many music legends -- Bette Midler, Bob Dylan, Tanya Tucker. So where did your confidence come from to be in this kind of company early on in your career?
Katey Sagal: I have been singing since I was a young kid, really, and I always felt my identifying factor was that I could sing. When I was in high school, at my prom I was in the band ... I didn't do all the other things. I just played music naturally. So when it became professionally for me to do so, I didn't really think about it. When I got hired for those jobs, I just felt I was in the right place. I taught myself how to play the piano. I wanted to be Joni Mitchell or Laura Nyro, one of those tormented girls that was writing and singing songs. It wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I sort of turned the corner and decided maybe I could be an actor. I'd done a little bit of acting in my early 20s. My father was a director, and he put me in some small things. But it wasn't really my intention.
Bankrate: You began acting rather late compared to today's actors. Was there ever a point in your life when you felt like giving up?
Katey Sagal: Well, I got very discouraged by the music business in my mid-20s. I had been sort of groomed my whole life that I would be successful. As my 20s went on and I kept missing the boat, I worked a lot with famous people as a background singer but I did not want to be a background singer. I was very motivated and very ambitious. I was everybody's next best thing, but it never really happened. And I did have the thought that I needed to do something else, but it wasn't about giving up creative endeavors. I'm not skilled in anything else so really what I did was, I opened my mind.
Bankrate: Do you think finding success in your 30s was sweeter than finding it in your 20s or teens?
Katey Sagal: At the time, you couldn't have told me that, but in hindsight, absolutely. I have enormous appreciation for everyday being able to have a job. Because in my 20s as a struggling musician, I worked and then didn't work, I worked and didn't work, and I just scraped by. So I struggled. And I've worked with a lot of kids who have been extremely successful, extremely young. But you get that sense that they don't know how great this all is that they're employed, and it's so great to be an artist with a job (laughs) because so many of us are artists without a job.