by Ray Flook
As fans of the still-popular Charlie Hunnam-starring FX series Sons of Anarchy know, as amazing as the great Ron Perlman was as SAMCRO founding member Clarence “Clay” Morrow? He wasn’t the first actor to play the part, with also-great Scott Glenn playing the role in the pilot episode- only to not be part of the deal that brought the pilot to series (clearly, the pilot was reshot). Out of that move would come two modern classic television performances: Perlman’s Clay and Glenn’s Kevin Garvey, Sr. in Damon Lindelof (Lost, Watchmen) and HBO’s The Leftovers. During an interview with THR, Glenn explains why losing SOA was a career blessing in disguise and what real outlaw bikers thought about the FX series.
For Glenn, not moving forward with Son of Anarchy gave him the opportunity to work with Lindelof- only the second person Glenn credits with capturing his true voice in a performance (Pulitzer Prize-winning Killer Joe playwright Tracy Letts being the other). “You know what? I came out so far ahead at the end of the day. (Laughs.) Yeah, I mean, that’s very, very true. ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ what can I say about it? I was really disappointed when they shot the pilot and I got a call from Kurt Sutter saying, ‘They bought the pilot, Scott, but not you.’ And I knew why. My contract was, I’m sure from their point of view, unworkable. It had things like top billing, always, irregardless of who the guests were. You know, dumb things like that. But you know what? It was really fun doing the pilot for ‘Sons of Anarchy.'”
Along with having the opportunity to join The Leftovers, Glenn has another reason to be thankful for not being a part of the series: his outlaw motorcycle club friends weren’t big fans of it. “This is going to sound like I’m bad-mouthing that show, but I don’t really mean it in that way. I ride motorcycles and all kinds of bikes. So I have friends in an outlaw motorcycle club called Brother Speed. Once, when I was hanging out with those guys after the show came out, they said, ‘We’re so glad you didn’t do that show.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And they said, ‘Nobody commits crimes wearing colors ever. Nobody would do it. Do they think we’re fucking morons? So you’re driving around, you’re wearing colors, as ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ and you’re committing crimes? It doesn’t work and it doesn’t happen in the real world.” Glenn explained. “So I was kind of let off the hook, socially, in whatever weird life I live outside of making movies. But, yeah, you’re right. Anything that would’ve gotten in the way of ‘The Leftovers’ would’ve been really bad because it was the single best acting experience I’ve ever had.”
In a tweet-response from earlier this year to a question about why the change from Glenn to Pearlman happened, series creator Kurt Sutter offered some perspective. “We shot the SOA pilot twice. Did the same for Mayans interestingly enough. Almost the same reasons. Scott Glen is a powerhouse of an actor. His take on Clay was potent and compelling. But the first pilot lacked a buoyancy. It was too heavy, took itself too seriously. The thing I loved about hanging with MC’s was the reverie. These guys laughed and had fun. You have to find a release when you live in such a dangerous world,” Sutter wrote. “So I rewrote the script. Added a lot darker humor. With those changes, the character of Clay morphed into someone else. That’s when we decided to recast. John Landgraf and I each put together a list of who we thought was the best actor for this new incarnation. Ron Perlman was at the top of both of our lists.”