Katey Sagal talks explosive new memoir, past drug addiction and how she met and dated Kiss' Gene Simmons

"Sons of Anarchy" actress talks about her big break on "Married With Children.

March 23, 2017, 8:47 PM

— -- Katey Sagal was the heartbeat of the popular 1980s sitcom "Married ... With Children" for 11 years.

Playing the big-haired, smart-mouth matriarch Peg Bundy, it was her first lead TV role.

"I read the script, I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect for me because this is so outside the box,'" Sagal said. "We hadn't seen anything so outrageous on television before ... and I really thought, 'Oh this won't last very long.'"

But the show became a cult hit that lasted 11 seasons. Sagal said Peg was originally written to be "very slovenly," but she added her own flair.

"My take on her and that relationship between her and [Peg's husband], Al Bundy, was that there had to be something hot between the two of them to sustain this marriage for so many years," Sagal said. "So I just went into my audition all dolled up."

"You would be surprised how many people called our costume designer, wanting her clothes," she added. "People wanted to look like her."

The big hair was actually a wig, which Sagal said is now safely stored behind a big plexiglass box "in a safe place."

"People are always like, 'Do you wear it?' And I'm like, 'No,'" she said, laughing.

There is so much more to Sagal than the mouthy Peg Bundy, as she revealed in her new memoir, "Grace Notes."

For one, she has a beautiful singing voice, which she will showcase in ABC's 30th anniversary musical remake of the movie, "Dirty Dancing."

"I play Vivian," Sagal said. "In the original movie, you saw her ... the lonesome sexy divorcee. I sing and dance and seduce the young guy in the movie."

And there was that time when she was a teenager and the band Kiss came to town. Sagal says she started an affair with the band's frontman Gene Simmons.

"There was just this band of boys sitting at the table and I was their waitress and I sang them a song and, one thing led to another and I started this romance with Gene," Sagal said, laughing. "It was so long ago."

Sagal said her first love was music, and said she traveled all over the world singing backup for Bette Midler and Bob Dylan, who ended up firing her.

"He fired all the singers," Sagal said of Dylan. "I was so intimidated by him that I knew I was singing the wrong parts, but I didn't say anything."

As her music career struggled, Sagal began looking at other options.

"I met a casting director that I will never forget said to me, 'You will never work in television,'" she said. "This was in the days of 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty.' Everybody looked extremely glamorous ... I didn't look that way. I was a musician. I was in bands. I wore a lot of black makeup, a lot of black clothes."

"Years later when my struggling music career was just not going full steam ahead I said yes to being in a rock musical," she added. "From there my now manager discovered me."

A little arm-twisting later, she auditioned for and landed a role on the TV show, "Mary," with Mary Tyler Moore, then came "Married ... With Children."

For 11 years, she and Ed O'Neill, who played Al Bundy, lit up the small screen with their chemistry.

"We loved each other, I'd say instantly," she said. "He's such an everyman, down to earth guy, and he's such a guy guy."

Sagal's parents were also in show biz. Her mother was a screenwriter, and her father was a director; both died when Sagal was young.

My mother had been ill for a good part of my life," she said. "It wasn't quite as big a shock as my father, who I had literally spoken to the day before."

Sagal's father was killed in a helicopter accident on a television set.

"One of the reasons I wanted to say some of this in the book is that my way of dealing with things in the moment was to very much check out, was to kind of anesthetize myself, numb myself," she said. "It wasn't until I changed my lifestyle that I felt the full effect."

Sagal said she had been hooked on diet pills, prescribed by a doctor, since her teenage years. Coupled with booze, marijuana, a little cocaine and acid, she said it all became a problem.

"I had a drug and alcohol problem that lasted through my 20s," she said. "I had a tendency to sort of run with a crowd that had the same kind of problems that I did, or bigger ones."

It was a chance meeting on a TV set that helped her turn her life around.

"I met a person on a job who was sober. And she talked to me about it," she said. "Suddenly out of nowhere popped up a lot of people who were living clean and sober. And I didn't know about that."

Sagal said she has been clean now for 30 years, but she still says she takes it "one day at a time."

"What I've learned is I can do anything for 24 hours," she said.

Sagal is still acting and still making music. Her more recent projects have been starring in TV's "The Bastard Executioner" and "Sons of Anarchy," both written and directed by her husband, Kurt Sutter.

Even though there have been a lot of TV comebacks and reunions, Sagal said she doesn't see that happening with "Married ... With Children."

This summer, she is touring Southern California with the band the Reluctant Apostles.

And now she also has "author" on her resume.

"I had written pieces ... just writing about my life with the intention to give it to my children at some point," Sagal said. "I'm not supercomfortable. I'm pretty private, actually. Apparently not anymore."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events