She can play dramatic, comedic or badass, and even has the ability to morph into a cartoon character. Shows with actress Katey Sagal have proven her versatility every time she stands before a camera or speaks into a microphone.
It’s a talent that’s been evident since beginning her show biz career as a singer-songwriter, and working as a backup vocalist for top performers like Bob Dylan and Tanya Tucker in 1973, and Olivia Newton-John on “Soul Kiss” in 1985.
In between — in 1978 and again from 1982 to 1983 — Sagal was a member of Bette Midler’s back-up singers, The Harlettes, eventually going solo with the album Well… (1994), which she would follow up with Room (2004) and Covered (2013).
At the same time, co-starring on TV’s Sons of Anarchy wasn’t her only contribution to that hit drama, as she worked with the show’s “house band” The Forest Rangers, and sang on songs that became part of its soundtrack EPs, including Sons of Anarchy: Shelter (2013).
Katey Sagal’s early years
Born on January 19, 1954 in Los Angeles, Catherine Louise Sagal was raised in a show biz family. Her dad was noted TV and film director Boris Sagal, and her mom was singer Sara Zwilling. For her part, young Catherine began performing at age 5 and studied voice and acting at the California Institute of the Arts.
Before there were shows with Katey Sagal, an she took on an early acting role as a receptionist on Peter Falk’s Columbo, an episode directed by her father that put her on the Hollywood radar.
Since then, shows with Katey Sagal have made it clear that she’s been able to carve out an impressive resume that has earned her not only critical praise, but also adoration from fans — something which has probably been surprising to the actress, who has said there was no particular career plan; that she has enjoyed bouncing around from one genre to another.
“Some of the biggest challenges I’ve had is when I was trying to cross over into more dramatic roles, as I never thought I was funny,” Sagal has said. “I still don’t think I’m funny! Everybody would always want me to be in these comedic roles, but, for me, you just want to keep doing different things.” Appearing in different types of roles has become a trademark of shows with Katey Sagal.
“The biggest compliment I get is, ‘Wow, you’re still working,'” Sagal has said. “I’ve started to say it to myself sometimes. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is so great that I’m able to continue to be a working actor and still be interested in the roles that I’m getting to play.’ I feel very grateful about that.”
Shows with Katey Sagal
Take a look back at these shows with Katey Sagal, which really emphasize her diversity as an actress.
1. Mary (1985)
Katey’s first major role was as a newspaper columnist on the series Mary, starring Mary Tyler Moore, Sagal still remembers this as an awesome job, though short-lived.
“I was the last one to know that the show was not doing well. I thought it was fantastic. It was my first job on television, really, and I was with Mary Tyler Moore and Danny DeVito was the director who cast me,” Sagal recalls. “I had never been on a sitcom or even near a sitcom. I had no clue as to what was going on. Mary was very loving and supportive, so I just followed her lead. For my first experience on a sitcom, it was awesome.”
2. Married with Children (1987-1997)
As the lazy, sex-starved and big-haired Peg Bundy, Sagal rose to fame in the unusual and oftentimes crude family comedy Married with Children, all the while teetering on stiletto heels.
Actually, at the auditions for Peg, it was Katey’s own idea to dress Peg Bundy in clothes from the 1960s and to wear a voluminous red wig. “When I first got that job, it was so foreign to me from the way I grew up that I was, like, ‘Who’s gonna relate to this?'” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I think the overall reason people related to it is because it was funny. People like to laugh. It made me laugh all the time.”
3. Futurama (1999-2003, 2010-2013, 2023)
Sagal not only ventured into cartoon land with Futurama, but also into outer space as the voice of Leela, the no-nonsense, tough and aggressive captain of the Planet Express ship. The animated series gathered a cult viewership along its way through the galaxies. “The whole writers’ room were like scientists – way over my head. So people that responded to that – it was really an adult sense of humor.”
4. 8 Simple Rules (2002-2005)
8 Simple Rules was a rather standard family comedy starring John Ritter, who passed away suddenly while the show was filming an episode of its successful second season. Sagal played typical mom Cate Hennessy and was the wife and amusing partner of Ritter. Hennessy became a much more responsible parent and had to move to single-head of household after Ritter’s death in 2003 with highly successful results.
5. Lost (2005-2006, 2010)
The mysterious island show Lost chose Sagal to play the empathetic ex who got away from John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), though it was a role that was not easy to get. This was the actress’ dramatic transition in episodic television and Sagal had to fight hard for the role.
“I’ll never forget that after all my years on television, I had to audition twice for the producers, for the network, for everybody, to make sure that I was not going to come in there and be Peg Bundy,” Sagal said. “I knew I could do it though. Lost was definitely a big step forward for me in terms of network television.”
6. Sons Of Anarchy (2008-2014)
Playing Gemma Teller Morrow, the widow of Jax’s father and current wife of Clay Morrow, proved to be a hit on Sons of Anarchy. Gemma is the head matriarch who deeply cares for the members of the bikers club, but over the years reveals a darker side to her persona.
“It’s great to be mean. It is; it’s fun.” Sagal reinvented herself with this gritty drama series, winning a Golden Globe Award and a whole new generation of fans. “I was looking for a more dramatic role,” she says. “I had done comedy most of my career, which I love, but I wanted to expand. The series was sort of a dream job and a dream character to play. I don’t know that Gemma is as approachable as Peg Bundy. People feel afraid of Gemma; they think I’m really a biker.”
7. The Bastard Executioner (2015)
The Bastard Executioner is set in early 14th century Wales and tells the story of a warrior knight in King Edward I’s charge, betrayed by an Englishman with a lust for power who leaves him for dead. Broken by the ravages of war, he vows to lay down his sword, but when that violence finds him again, he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all. Sagal played Annora of the Alders for 10 episodes.
8. Superior Donuts (2017-2018)
Sagal is police officer Randy DeLuca in the short-lived family comedy starring Judd Hirsch, Superior Donuts. DeLuca continues to be a loyal patron of the donut shop, which is on her beat, doing what she can to keep the shop going in a changing, culturally mixed inner-city Chicago neighborhood. In Season 2, she gets promoted after passing the detective exam, but still enjoys Superior Donuts. This sitcom marked a return to the half-hour comedic format for Sagal after dark turns on Sons of Anarchy and The Bastard Executioner.
9. Shameless (2018-2019)
Sagal enters another dysfunctional family, this time as Ingrid, a troubled therapist who wants to have a baby with Shameless star Frank (William H. Macy).
“I’ve gotten quite a bit of recognition for that show because people loved it so much”, Sagal has said. “That fan base is surprising. Rabid. It’s across the board demographically – the same way Sons fans always surprised me.”
And the character’s antics not only surprised fans, but Katey herself. “She was really nuts, so that was super great.” Sagal became a Shameless cast member in Season 9, which was a guest gig at best. “It was liberating being on television and not having people all over you about what you look like. They’re just like, ‘Go, just do it!’”
10. Rebel (2021)
The short-lived drama Rebel stars Sagal as Annie “Rebel” Flynn Ray Bello, a funny, smart and fearless legal advocate with a blue collar background, who helps those in need — despite the fact she doesn’t have a law degree.
Annie cares desperately about the causes she fights for and the people she loves. The character was inspired by real-life consumer advocate Erin Brockovich. “This was all really intriguing to me”, said Sagal. “I love the fact that she’s a person of service, that she’s a person that gives voice to people who feel they don’t have a voice. I like playing a character that’s aligned with my philosophy of doing the right thing.”
11. The Conners (2018-Present)
Fans were shocked with the storyline of Roseanne Barr’s death on the first episode of Roseanne spinoff, The Conners. They were even more shocked with Sagal joining the cast as Louise, an old high school friend of Dan’s who becomes his first girlfriend since Roseanne’s passing. Circumstances were complicated and awkward with the addition of Sagal, but fans welcomed her into the Conner family dynamic.
“I liked that the fans liked her, that they’re not mad. There was part of me that thought people were going to be mad that there was somebody that Dan was interested in. But the people were accepting of having the Conners without Roseanne and happy that Dan has a girlfriend – and she’s very cool.” The two characters would eventually get married.
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