[Interview] Katey Sagal for TORN HEARTS
Courtesy Blumhouse TV & EPIX

Peggy Bundy. Gemma Teller Morrow. Turanga Leela. These iconic characters range from comedies to animated series, and intense dramas. And they’re all played by one person: Katey Sagal. An accomplished actor and singer, Katey Sagal has been a household name since the late 80s when she played the unabashed Peggy Bundy in “Married…with Children”. In her latest role, which also marks Sagal’s first foray into horror, she plays Harper Dutch, a famous country music singer who has faded away from the public eye after her sister’s sudden demise.

In TORN HEARTS, two friends, rising artists on the brink of a big break, will do just about anything to realize their dream – including a pilgrimage to the legendary and reclusive Harper Dutch’s (Golden Globe winner Katey Sagal) mansion in hopes she’ll record a song with them. While their life-long idol seems intent to help, the visit devolves into a twisted series of mental and physical torment as the pair discover Harper – and each other – may have other motives. With no other choice and desperate to record a song, the duo must go to dangerous lengths to prove their dedication to their dream of becoming Nashville’s next country music stars.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with Katey Sagal for her role as Harper Dutch in TORN HEARTS. During their chat, they discussed everything from this marking her first venture into the horror genre, utilizing her background in music to help her with the role, and the complications of Harper Dutch.

It’s such an honor and pleasure to speak with you today, Katey! How did TORN HEARTS come your way and what was it about the script that made you want to be a part of this project? 

Katey Sagal: It came the way of most things through my agency and they offered me this role. And all I heard about it before I read the script was it was a country-western star gone bad—a cross between Reba McEntire and Lucinda Williams [Laughs]. And the character gets to play some music, and I’d never done a horror film, and it was Blumhouse. And I was like okay, well, I don’t even need to read this script because I’d never done a horror film before so I was really thrilled to be in that genre. I love the whole country singer, Grey Gardens, Sunset Blvd, living alone and in a delusional world. So, there were a million reasons to do it, actually.

Courtesy Blumhouse TV & EPIX

With this being your first horror film, what did you enjoy about being part of that genre?

Katey Sagal: It was great because I didn’t realize that there’s a different way to shoot it. There are a lot of different ways to light it. The DP Yaron Levy had done a bunch of horror stuff so it was lit a certain way. And Brea [Grant], the director, comes from that [background], and so she directed a certain way. It was just a different approach all around, and so I really liked that. I don’t know what it is. I’m not a violent person but I love the stabbing and the shooting [Laughs].

Do you enjoy horror movies?

Katey Sagal: You know, some of them I do, yes. I wouldn’t say…I’m a scaredy-cat. I’m the one who jumps in your lap if I’m sitting next to you in the movie theater [Laughs].

With your background in music, it must have been exciting to be able to perform in this film. What was that experience like?

Katey Sagal: It was great! Anytime I get to sing in something where it makes sense… a lot of times people ask me to sing in something that just doesn’t make sense. Also, the girls were very good singers in the movie, so that was really fun. And I love country music. It was great to be able to do that.

I loved that the film was written and directed by women. How was it being in that atmosphere during filming? 

Katey Sagal: So great! Brea Grant was so clear and direct and accessible and a really good director. I really thought she was wonderful to work with. The whole crew respected her and loved her. A good director is collaborative. They just are. They’re just sort of like working within the environment and seeing what everybody brings to it. She was very much that way.

Courtesy Blumhouse TV & EPIX

When seeing Harper Dutch on screen, it’s easy to villainize her for her actions, but she’s much more complicated than that. What did you enjoy most about exploring this character?

Katey Sagal: Well, I think, first of all, Harper Dutch is a person that has been defined by her fame. I mean, some of the themes that I thought it really hit on were sibling rivalry, the lengths we will go to be famous, or what happens to a person who is just hugely famous and then not. What happens to a person when they define themselves by what they do, you know? So, those themes were really interesting which made it so it didn’t feel so much like a one-dimensional horror movie. It felt like it had dimension to it and in the characters.

And you see the girls and the lengths they’ll go to and not go to [in order] to be famous, to get around fame, you know? Fame is so seductive to people and I’m not at the iconic level of this character, but I would imagine that it’s just got to feel so weird if that’s your only self. This is a woman not married, no kids, you know, that was her whole thing. And the consequences of that happened out of fear and insecurity, and they aren’t great.

Did you have a favorite scene from the film? And is there anything you hope people take away from your character?

Katey Sagal: I don’t want to give away a lot but I did like Harper Dutch’s choice of weapon. I pretty much liked it all. There was none of that, oh no, we have to do this. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

As for Harper Dutch, I’ll tell you this, we are all as sick as our secrets and she has a big secret that drives her cuckoo. And she lives with that secret and the result of that, you know? If anybody takes away anything from it, it’s to speak the truth or don’t do what she did [Laughs].

TORN HEARTS is now available on Digital from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Shannon McGrew
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