The popular character actor reflects on his career highlights.
Clancy Brown
Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

When Clancy Brown Zooms EW, it is a relief to see him looking hale, hearty, and several decades younger than he appears in the new horror anthology movie The Mortuary Collection (premieres on Shudder Oct. 15), in which he plays an aged mortician. The actor explains that his makeup was originally "a lot more grotesque than ended up. There were gloves where I had big long fingers at one point. My makeup was a lot more involved. But they did great work. Most of the effects [in the film] were practical, which you hardly see anymore. They were very serious about spending all the money in the right places. You know, it’s one thing to do a job for no money and the money’s not spent right, this I did for no money and had every confidence the money was being spent correctly."

Written and directed by Ryan Spindell, The Mortuary Collection finds Brown playing Montgomery Dark, proprietor of a small town's mortuary who, in the film's linking sequences, regales a potential employee, portrayed by Caitlin Custer, with disturbing stories about the recently deceased.

"They’re all horror morality stories and each one gets a little more edgy and creepy, but they’re all beautifully told," says Brown. "I think Ryan did a great job."

Brown himself has done grand work in a jaw-droppingly diverse array of films and TV shows. Below, the actor talks about some of his career highlights.

Highlander (1986)

Brown played The Kurgan — the immortal enemy of Christopher Lambert's Connor MacLeod — in the franchise-inaugurating sci-fi-fantasy movie.

CLANCY BROWN: I think they had tried to get Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role. He had said no because he had just done Terminator. He said, "I just played a bad guy, I don’t want to do that again." Russell Mulcahy, the director, was a big music video director and so he was in that scene. I've heard second-hand that he found himself with Sting, and Sting said, "I just worked with this big Yank named Clancy Brown on The Bride, and he seems like a good guy and decent actor, so you should look up him." So, they called me in, and I was cheap enough, so they hired me to do that.

I thought the script was terrific. Greg Widen (co-writer) had developed a wonderful world. I wish they had just left it with him and let him turn it into whatever franchise it could be. They'd have been a lot better off than what they ended up doing. It was a neat little story. And you can’t beat having a sword fight with Sean Connery. How can you say no to that?

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Frank Darabont cast Brown as Byron Hadley, the brutal captain of the guards in the director's beloved adaptation of Stephen King's prison-set tale.

CB: Shawshank was one of those scripts. I think everybody in Hollywood read it, and everybody thought it was wonderful, and everybody wanted to be in it. I was no exception. I auditioned for it and I didn’t actually audition very well. The scene they wanted me to audition with was the scene where Captain Hadley is addressing the new inmates, and he swears a blue streak, and threatens them, and all sorts of verbal profanities. The casting director was this little woman who was dressed very nicely in a flowery blouse. I had to lean down and scream at her and I found it very difficult to do that. I just didn’t want to perpetrate that violence on somebody. And so, I blew the audition. I think they got such a kick out of the fact that I was so flummoxed by having to yell at a woman that they said, "Let’s give him the role." I’m sure there were other reasons.

Starship Troopers (1997)

Brown portrayed a drill instructor in Paul Verhoeven's satirical adaptation of Robert Heinlen's sci-fi novel.  

CB: I’m a big Heinlein fan and that's one of those Heinlein books that is so of the ‘50s. The spin that Verhoeven put on it just made it kind of genius, I thought. I thought it was probably the most sophisticated science fiction film I had ever seen, technically, and philosophically, just a great rebooting of Heinlein’s ‘50s classic. And of course, it did no business, because nobody saw it for the political comment that it actually was — they saw it for the blood and guts.

SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present)

The actor has ensured he keeps the wolf from the door — and his offspring in schoolbooks — by voicing SpongeBob's boss Mr. Krabs.

CB: Mr. Krabs! Yeah, that was a complete lark. It was a crazy little cartoon that they were putting together for Nickelodeon back in the day. I just went in and did sort of a pirate-y voice and I got lucky and Steve (Hillenburg, the show's late creator) said, "You’re the guy." Nobody thought it was going to go on for 20-frigging years for crying out loud, but it has, and it’s a lot of fun, they're a great group of people. It put my kid through college, so I can’t complain.

Billions (2016-present)

Brown joined the cast of Billions in the third season of the Paul Giamatti-Damian Lewis financial drama, playing foul-mouthed Attorney General Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat.

CB: Paul and I go way back. His very first film was a film I was in in Seattle called Past Midnight. It was his first gig, so we have this kind of odd history together. But the history [with Billions] was with Koppelman and Levien (show co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien). I had met them on Knockaround Guys, which they were going to direct, and they ran me down and they said, "Let’s have a drink and we want to offer you this role." I would have loved to have done it but I later found out that the role was offered to somebody else, so I just kind of backed away from there. But ever since then they’ve always said, "We want to work with you," whatever that is worth. They called up, and they’re spectacular writers, and I read it, and I say, "I’d love to do this." Billions is a fun show. It’s completely nonsense, but it’s kind of a fun little exercise.

The Mortuary Collection (2020)

Spindell's film costars Jacob Elordi from HBO's Euphoria, among others.

CB: My manager sent the script to me. He said, "There’s no money in this, but see if you like it." So, I read it, and I was completely captivated by the format, and by the character. I just thought I could have a lot of fun camping it up, if they were serious about makeup and stuff. And they were! They didn’t have any money, but they got some great craftsmen, some great artists, and turned them loose and, boy, it really looks spectacular!

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