The cast of Sons of Anarchy included four actors who are or were part of the Hells Angels motorcycle club – here’s who they are and who they played.
Sons of Anarchy took inspiration from real-life motorcycle clubs, among those the Hells Angels, and a couple of members of that club were part of the cast – here’s who they are and who they played. Created by Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy premiered on FX in 2008 and came to an end in 2014 after seven seasons full of drama, betrayal, and action. The series was very well received throughout its whole run, with critics praising its story, themes, and the performances of the main cast, particularly that of Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller-Morrow.
Sons of Anarchy tells the story of Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam), VP of the motorcycle club Sons of Anarchy in the fictional town of Charming, California. The series is kickstarted when Jax finds a manifesto written by his late father, John Teller, one of the founding members of the club, and in which he shared his plans and vision for the club. However, these were very different from those of the current President (and Jax’s stepfather), Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), sending Jax on a personal journey that makes him question his path, role in the club, relationships, family, and more. In order to bring Sons of Anarchy to life, Sutter took inspiration from different sources – from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet to real-life motorcycle clubs, particularly the Hells Angels.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide club whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Hells Angels have gained a reputation of being a dangerous crew, with various police and international intelligence agencies considering the group to be an organized crime syndicate. In order to make Sons of Anarchy as realistic as possible, Sutter brought a member of the Hells Angels in as a technical consultant and later cast him in a recurrent role, and after him, others were cast as guest or recurring characters. The first HAMC member to join the show was David Labrava, who played Happy Lowman, one of the most dangerous members of the club. Happy began as part of the Tacoma, Washington charter and later became part of the Nomads, and became a full patched member of SAMCRO in season 3.
After Labrava, three other members of the Hells Angels were cast in Sons of Anarchy. Rusty Coones played Rane Quinn, a member of the Indian Hills charter and President of the Nomad charter who was brought to SAMCRO by Bobby (Mark Boone Jr) when he was looking for new members. Quinn, just like Happy, made it to the final episode of Sons of Anarchy and voted in favor of Jax meeting Mr. Mayhem. Next was Chuck Zito, who played Frankie Diamonds, a member of the Nomads charter who was transferred to SAMCRO as part of a bigger plan by Clay. Along with GoGo and Greg the Peg, he committed a series of home-invasions to discredit the club and Jax, who was already President, but he was killed when his betrayal was discovered. Last but not least, Ralph “Sonny” Barger played Lenny Janowitz, one of the First 9 a.k.a. the founders of SAMCRO. Barger is a founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels and was present at the infamous Altamont Free Concert in 1969, as seen in the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter. Lenny appears in only three episodes in Sons of Anarchy but that was enough to leave a powerful impression.
Sutter took his research on motorcycle clubs very seriously, and having these four members of the Hells Angels playing members of the Sons of Anarchy club definitely added to the realism of the show. Of course, what Happy, Quinn, Frankie, and Lenny went through in the show can’t be compared to what their actors lived through as members of the HAMC, but those experiences definitely helped shape the rest of the series.