McNally Sagal [Interview]

Today’s interviewee is somebody extremely special to the TWS world, and someone we have wanted to talk to for a very long time. A few years ago we had the fortunate experience to receive some great words from actors like Christopher Reed and Michael Ornstein, both known for their brilliant performances on the hit TV series Sons of Anarchy. And today we have reached a whole new level in the SoA universe. Today we have the brilliant McNally Sagal on the site! McNally as you will definitely remember portrayed the brilliant Margaret Murphy, the doctor who wants to help all the wrong people, probably because she has a few secrets herself. She was absolutely brilliant in this role, and was definitely a major highlight of the program.

Now, as per usual, McNally Sagal is a brilliant actress who has managed to not be pigeonholed into being known for one performances. Since SoA, McNally has been a regular on the hit series Secrets & Lies, and has appeared on other great shows like Scandal and Jane the Virgin. And even before SoA, McNally appeared in another project that has been very special to us here at TWS, the brilliant indie classic film SLC Punk, directed by our old friend James Merendino and featuring our new friend Michael Goorjian. And that is all without even mentioning the fact that she appeared in one of the most underrated comedies of all time, a classic in my book, High School High. As well as a break out role in Clive Barker’s horror masterpiece, Night Breed.

Yes, McNally Sagal is a brilliant actress who has been proving for decades that she has the goods and is one of the greatest in the business for very obvious reasons. And we are so very excited to have her as our featured guest here today at Trainwreck’d Society. So please enjoy some great words from the amazing McNally Sagal!

When did you decide that you wanted play pretend for a living? Was it always an aspiration of yours, or did it just sort of happen?

I grew up in the middle of 10 children outside of Chicago, IL. My father is a reconstructive plastic surgeon. He clearly loved his work and his hope for all of us was that we found something we loved to do and make a living doing it. His often repeated phrase was, “Convert your hobby to your job and it will never feel like work.” I was an excellent student in high school, and thought that my parents might have their hearts set on my going into dentistry or medicine. I was shocked when I told them I wanted to study theater and they just said, “Great!” I graduated from Boston University, and then moved cold to NYC.
And after all of these years in the business, appearing on dozens of the best television shows and in some amazing films, what is it that you still enjoy about the business as it evolves into what it is now?

I love that I never really know what I will be doing or where I will be as the days unfold. I look forward to getting an audition for something that I know nothing about…then I work hard on it…and lo and behold, some days I get the opportunity to experience a whole new world that had never crossed my mind until that moment. For example, I had not seen The X Files when I got an audition for the show…it was 2 full days of multiple call backs…then the next day I am on a night shoot, standing on top of a flying saucer, holding an infant, with wind machines blowing and cursing at the top of my lungs! Ya know, things like that.

This might be a bit of a specific stretch here….but, Nightbreed is one of my favorite horror films of all time, and what I still consider Clive Barker’s most honest work. And it was one of your first on screen roles, according to my little research. So I am compelled to ask about what it was like working so early on a film like Nightbreed? Was it a positive experience overall?

I love Clive Barker! I was pretty scared doing the role actually….screaming my head off as a severed head is plopped on the counter and I am getting stabbed in the chest. I so enjoyed his sense of humor. He cast me again in Lord Of Illusions as what he described as a lip stick lesbian. We spent a lot of time together actually. I went to his home with my then 3 year old son, Boris. There was Clive’s artwork displayed all around the house, and my son was in awe….and then he said, “This is scary pretty.” Clive encouraged me to submit a story for his Hellraiser series of comic books for Epic Comics and I had a story published. That was pretty cool…although it is a pretty gruesome story about stand up comics in hell being pulled apart on stage when the audience yells for , “The Hook!”


How long was it into your career when you realized…I am an actress! When did you realize you were living as a working actor in the business? Was there a specific project or time period where it really hit you?

Well, uhhh, I moved to NYC right after graduating from college…and beleive it or not…I was offered a role in Amadeus on Broadway, 3 weeks after my arrival. So, yeah, I figured I had gambled correctly. Although, I was sure that I had nowhere to go but down. I did that job for a year and a half…so I was able to save some money and support myself as an actor ever since.

We have had the fortunate experience of talking with fellow Sons of Anarchy alum Christopher Reed and Michael Ornstein about their experience with the show. And you were absolutely AMAZING on the show, one of the major highlights in my opinion. So what was it like working with this strangely complex and conflicted character? How was the experience overall, and how much of the characters personality was of your own creation?
First off…shout out to Chris and Michael. They were great in their roles and really fun to work with!
I came in to audition for Kurt Sutter for a role where I had to literally turn myself inside out with grief and horror at the death of my teenage daughter. I totally lost it (as my real daughter was the same age as the daughter in the show) One of those times when I think the casting director thought maybe they should call an ambulance. Kurt told me there in the room….”I can’t see you doing this….you will not get this role….but I have something else in mind.”  Then of course, a year goes by and I let it go….

Then I got a call to come play a role on SOA…it was a very short scene in the hospital with Maggie Siff who played Tara on the show. I thought that was going to be it…I am a team player/trooper…just go where I am hired…had no more expectations. But then my character kept popping up, and the story and character arcs were so fun and amazing. I never knew what to expect or what might happen…I would just open my email to see if I was in the episode or not and what was going on. One day I was reading a script and I kind of made a yelp squeal and almost fell out of my chair….because I found out that my character literally had a “Back story”…and that I would sport a full back tattoo, get kidnapped, tied up in an attic, shoot a gun, get punched and strangled, kicked in the chest and thrown to the floor, black eyed, past heroin use, punch others in the face, lie on legal forms, lie to murderers, lie to the cops…you know, that kind of stuff. It was a blast!

Another close tie in we have is our relationship to the filmmaker and cast of the film SLC Punk, in which you had a wonderful role in as well. What can you tell us about set life on an independent flick based around the world of punk rock? Was it a memorable shoot for you?

It was very memorable because…and as I said earlier, why I love what I do…..I got a call at 9 p.m. one night, from a frightened, soft voiced, young woman….she was whispering….I could barely hear her. She said, “I have to be quiet because they are shooting a film on set. I don’t know if you remember me, but I used to work for your agent. I am here in Utah doing this movie, I am P.A…..and Julie Haggarty is very sick and unable to play a role…it works tomorrow in Salt Lake City….and um, as everyone was freaking out about who could play the role, all of a sudden…I kind of said that you could do it in a heartbeat…and so, now they want to hire you. But, um, now I am really nervous and my job depends on this. so, um, can you really do it? and can you leave RIGHT NOW?” I jumped on a plane and basically ran on the set and did that fun scene with Mathew Lillard and Christopher McDonald.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
My son is going to be a senior in high school next year…one more year before I have an empty nest! Who knows where he will go to college…or where I will be? Or what the future holds? That’s what makes it fun and keeps me on my toes!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Well, thank god, I smile a lot…and have lots to be happy about. But, a few months ago, I was visiting my daughter who is in college in Boston. I was sad to say good by, and kind of sad that I would be flying home to LA during the Academy Awards….I got a txt that said my flight was cancelled. They re-ticketed me for the next morning and said they would cover my hotel and dinner that night. I was so happy to call my daughter…who came running into the hotel room and we put on the white robes and had room service and wine and watched the Awards on TV. Fun, unexpected joy! And…. then the whole Warren Beatty thing….we were in ecstasy!
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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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