Katey Sagal, <i>Sons of Anarchy</i> Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy

Rape. Murder. Getting religion. Katey Sagal's Sons of Anarchy character, Gemma Teller, went through a lot during the show's critically acclaimed and high-rated second season.

Check out photos of the Sons of Anarchy cast

"She's completely undone in a way that she's never been before, in a way that made her feel vulnerable," Sagal tells TVGuide.com of her character's Season 2 journey. "She just questions everything about herself. [The rape] threatened her sexuality, it threatened her marriage, it threatened everything about her."Whether she was enduring the brutal attack, finally confessing it to her warring son and husband or just living in the (few) quieter moments of SAMCRO's world, Sagal's portrayal was consistently brilliant. Clearly, she is Peg Bundy no more."As an actor, it's like a dream come true," Sagal says of the role. "You want to keep stretching yourself and doing things you haven't done before. It keeps you interested, keeps you curious, keeps you learning. It's been fantastic."

Sons of Anarchy creator on Season 2: Family comes first

It was Sagal's husband,

Sons creator Kurt Sutter, who asked her to be part of the show. She says she agreed with "not a moment's hesitation" — and she had that same level of trust in him when she learned about the rape scene. "Kurt had explained to me the story he wanted to tell and how it would affect the entire club," Sagal says. "I sort of knew it wasn't just for shock value. It wasn't gratuitous — it came out of a real story he was trying to tell."In trying to move beyond the attack, Gemma takes her son's girlfriend, Tara (Maggie Siff), under her wing. Sagal says the relationship began out of Gemma's fear of losing her son, but grew to be much more.

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"Gemma realized that Jax [Charlie Hunnam] was going to stay with Tara, and I think [with] the thought of losing her son if she alienated Tara, she made that choice right then: 'I'm going to embrace this woman,'" Sagal says. "But the fact that Gemma calls [Tara] right away... and that she came and did some stuff under the table, was very indicative [that] this is a woman who can be a part of this [world]. They're all about loyalty, these people... and I think that Tara proved herself. ... I think by the end of the season, [Gemma] genuinely loves Tara."Gemma's other comfort came from finding God, who she believes gave her the role of being a "fierce mother," a protector of her family and the club. However, Gemma's righteous path gave way to bloodshed in the Season 2 finale, as she murdered the woman who helped set up the attack."It's just like all the religious wars," Sagal says. "It's just like people being killed in the name of God. I don't know if it's misguided faith; I think it's the faith she's grabbed onto. I think she sees that as [her] mission. The ultimate thing she can do in protecting her family is try to take down these people."

Sons of Anarchy renewed for third season

Ironically, Gemma's decision sets off a domino effect that ultimately ends with the kidnapping of her grandson. Gemma, however, is on the lam — and at peace. Sagal says only Sutter knows what Season 3 holds, but she's glad Gemma has relief. "The look for Gemma is of contentment, finally," she says. "She needed to have some resolution for what went down, and she needed [there to be] repercussions."And if Sagal's brave performance puts her name in the minds of voters during the upcoming awards season and at next year's Emmys? Fine, but Sagal remains focused on the work."I'm very grateful to have a job," Sagal says. "The fact that people respond to it is super wonderful, but I feel so grateful to have a job I can really grow on and creatively do some stuff I haven't done before. It's great to be received in a good way. I love that people are so attached to the show... [and] that they're so invested. That's a tribute to great storytelling."