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How Sons Of Anarchy's Ron Perlman Says The Show Did Its Homework

For arguably an entire generation of television lovers, Clay Morrow was — and is — the epitome of the bad boy tough guy. For six seasons on FX's hit biker drama "Sons of Anarchy," Ron Perlman was the actor tasked with making Morrow the baddest of the beloved series' many morally vacant bad boys. And for six seasons, Perlman embodied a character who was one of the most flawed, fascinating, and densely layered baddies to ever grace the screen.

Some die-hard fans of "Sons of Anarchy" might even argue the often dodgy, and often lethal Morrow ranked among the more despicably authentic villainous characters in the small screen landscape during "Sons of Anarchy" run. They'd likely also argue that during its original run, the show — aside from its arguably overindulgent penchant for Shakespearean melodrama — genuinely excelled at depicting as realistic a version of tough guy motorcycle club culture as viewers had ever seen. 

According to Perlman, the series' bruising, lived-in authenticity was hardly a fluke. Rather, the actor claims it resulted directly from series creator Kurt Sutter undertaking years of real-world homework on biker gangs.  

Perlman says Sons of Anarchy mastermind Kurt Sutter went above and beyond to ensure authenticity

Ron Perlman made that claim during his 2014 appearance on Terry Gross' long-running NPR program "Fresh Air." During the interview, Perlman spoke candidly about his path to playing Clay Morrow on "Sons of Anarchy," even admitting that, despite spending considerable time on one for the show, he's no particular fan of motorcycles. When Gross asked whether Perlman hung out with legit bikers in preparation for the role, he admitted Kurt Sutter had already done enough research on that front.

"That was all done for us," Perlman said, adding "You know, Kurt Sutter created the show. He spent a lot of time in Northern Cali, hanging out with the real deal guys." 

The actor went on to say that one of Sutter's goals with "Sons" was to get away from the cartoonish version of bikers we've historically seen in projects that explore the world of motorcycle clubs. And what Sutter conjured for the show was indeed a far cry from the hyper-violent, belly-scratching figures viewers may have expected from popular culture. More importantly, Perlman says Sutter wanted to make a show real bikers wouldn't be embarrassed by. "Kurt really went out of his way to make sure that we had the endorsement of the MC [Motorcycle Club] world," he noted, adding, "We took the time to be as authentic and as subtle and as gray — rather than black and white — as we possibly could be." 

Given the enduring legacy of "Sons of Anarchy," Sutter, Perlman, and the rest of the cast and crew clearly succeeded across the board.