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The Reason Clay Morrow Was Recast In Sons Of Anarchy

In the annals of small screen infamy, few characters have been quite as simultaneously adored, and reviled, as Sons of Anarchy's Clay Morrow. And the truth is, few characters have ever done so much to earn love and ire from a fan base. 

Given that Sons of Anarchy viewers are among the most fervent in the history of television, their passionate love-hate relationship with this man over his five season tenure as the head of the SAMCRO brotherhood isn't entirely unexpected, because even if he burned or bloodied every bridge he crossed on the show, he did so in Shakespearean fashion. But as far as adjectives go, "memorable" is a legitimate understatement regarding the work Ron Perlman delivered in the role. "Towering" is maybe a bit more accurate — possibly even "grandstanding." 

Whatever word you use, Perlman's portrayal of Clay Morrow is about as unforgettable as you can get, and it seems we almost never saw him on Sons of Anarchy at all.

Impossible as it is to imagine any actor other than Ron Perlman in the role of SAMCRO's baddest brother, another was indeed cast as Clay Morrow before Perlman played the part. Said actor even played the part when series creator Kurt Sutter and company shot the Sons of Anarchy pilot. That actor in question was none other than beloved supporting player Scott Glenn, perhaps best known for his roles in films like The Right Stuff (1983), Backdraft (1991) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and small screen offerings like HBO's The Leftovers and Netflix's Daredevil (where he played Stick).

Glenn's Sons of Anarchy tenure didn't last beyond the pilot episode, however. And if you want to know why, well, it depends on who you talk to. Ultimately, it seems Glenn just didn't go big enough for the role.

That Sons of Anarchy recast is a tale of two Clays

For the record, there's no ill-will between Scott Glenn and either Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, or the actor who replaced him. In fact, during a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club, Glenn praised Sutter's work before admitting he was relieved SOA didn't work out.

"I think he's a really good writer [Sutter], so this is no reflection on him. It was ultimately probably one of the better things that could've happened to me. Because of how long the series ran, and because, you know, if you're going to be in a series and it has commercial breaks...people say, 'Oh, there's a difference between cable and network,' and my response to that is, 'No, there's a difference between sponsored and not sponsored.' Non-sponsored is a degree of free air that you're breathing that sponsored doesn't give you. They don't take a break every 15 minutes to try and sell you Tylenol."

Perlman addressed the SOA cast shakeup to NPR's Terry Gross the same year, throwing some love towards Glenn, while admitting he might've had an inside read on how Sutter wanted the role of Morrow to be played.

"The original actor is a brilliant actor. I'm a huge fan of his. But he's a very subtle guy. And he has a very kind of a quiet, understated presence about him, which, in terms of this particular guy, Clay Morrow, they were looking for way more dynamic. They were looking for higher highs and lower lows [...] So I understood going into it that, you know — that they were looking for a more operatic version of this guy."

Thankfully, this is one of those rare Hollywood scenarios where everyone involved more or less got what they wanted. And yes, that even includes Sons of Anarchy fandom.