Another Clerks Actor Had To Audition For Jay Because Jason Mewes Suffered An Unfortunate Phobia

Kevin Smith’s Clerks is still celebrated to this day for changing the face of filmmaking. A semi-autobiographical comedy, it mixed pop culture convos in with the unfortunate realities of life, all with an acidic tongue and snappy dialogue. Part of that success came from the iconic duo of Smith and actor Jason Mewes, who would launch the characters of Jay and Silent Bob into notoriety.

Believe it or not, that particular dynamic duo almost didn’t happen. As it turns out, Mewes was very camera shy when making those first few movies. This in turn prompted Kevin Smith to audition another Clerks actor as a backup plan, and all of these details found their way into the open during the promotion of the upcoming movie Clerks III.

Jason Mewes shouts in front of the video store, while Kevin Smith smokes in Clerks.

(Image credit: Miramax)

Jason Mewes’ Battle With Camera Shyness During Clerks

New stories came from CinemaBlend’s interview suite at San Diego Comic-Con, which celebrated all things Clerks. Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes and a handful of other cast members were on hand to dish on projects old and new. Our own Jeff McCobb asked questions that ran that gamut, and an interesting tidbit came out about how accurate Clerks III’s long awaited/semi-autobiographical storyline was when it came to the real production of Clerks

In addition, Jason Mewes confirmed the new film’s plot, which features Jay being extremely camera-shy, was 100% accurate to his real life. Here’s what the star told CinemaBlend about the history behind that moment: 

That really happened, me asking people to go inside and not watch me, or to go out if we were filming inside. I was super nervous in front of the camera when we filmed Clerks, even though I was playing myself. … I think even during Mallrats, the next movie we did, I started warming up but I still was nervous. Even doing interviews, it took years for me to get comfortable in front of the camera.

It’s hard to believe that Mewes, the same man who reenacted Buffalo Bill’s dance scene from Silence of the Lambs in Clerks II, was a camera-shy actor. Yet Kevin Smith always had faith in his best friend’s abilities, and called him out on that during this same sit-down.

Kevin Smith’s recollection of Jason Mewes’ shyness included a discussion that reinforced just how much of his life he wrote into Clerks (a movie Paramount+ subscribers can currently re-watch through streaming, at the time of this writing). Here’s how Smith and Mewes bantered about the dialogue when they were making that first film: 

Doing the same exact shit you do when a camera’s not running. … I gave him the script on Clerks, I was like ‘Look man, I think you’d be great in this.’ [Jason] was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ I was like, ‘It’s you. It’s literally all the shit that you say.’ He’s like, ‘Right here I say ‘Snoochie Boochies.’ Why do I say that?’ I said, ‘Why do you say that? There’s a chance to figure this out.’

Digging further into the metaverse that occupies his life and his work, Clerks III sees longtime View Askewniverse favorite Randal (Jeff Anderson) going through a health scare himself. As we saw in the trailer for Kevin Smith’s next movie, one of New Jersey’s favorite smart-asses suffers his own heart attack and is motivated to make a movie of his own. If it wasn’t for Clerks history turning out the way it did, we may not have gotten that storyline at all due to Jason Mewes’ aversion to cameras.  

Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson having a discussion at the Quick Stop counter in Clerks III.

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

The Actor Who Auditioned For Jay As A Backup Plan For Clerks

Diving deeper into the history of Clerks, Jeff Anderson revealed the characters could have gone in a different direction in Kevin Smith’s first film. Jumping in on the conversation about Jason Mewes' shyness, Anderson also revealed that instead of playing Randal, he might have had a totally different trajectory in the franchise!

When you and I auditioned, you had me audition for Jay, just in case Jay couldn’t play Jay. That would have been a completely different movie.

Were it not for Mewes playing along and taking one for the team, Jeff Anderson could have been the alternative Jay to Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob. It’s not a notion that’s entirely wild, as Anderson has the snark and the general relationship with Smith to pull off the act. 

No matter how much you puzzle over this "what if" scenario, it still doesn’t change the fact that Jason Mewes was the person to play Jay. That’s even putting aside the fact that Kevin Smith just wrote his best friend into Clerks as a fictional character. Friends like that speak a special language, which also includes the more outgoing person putting their hetero-lifemate “on the spot.” Smith knows that very well, as he admitted to being that sort of pal. 

The beauty of that is he’s great on the spot. Sometimes you have to force him into the spot. In the beginning, it was like, we’d say with Jay it was like putting peanut butter in his mouth, and pushing him in front of the camera. He’d just come by, and be like (smacking his lips together), and we could put words in it later on. … But to watch him evolve as a performer, and find his own strength, it’s incredible.

It's weird to think about this alternate history that almost was. Like, we may have wound up in a reality where Jeff Anderson’s Jay meant that we’d see an alternate casting like, for instance, Ben Affleck as Randal. I could go on, but the what if possibilities here are fairly endless. 

Fans don’t have to worry about that, as in this universe, the View Askewniverse, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are Jay and Silent Bob. Clerks III will be returning their shenanigans, and Mewes' ever-evolving comedic prowess, to theaters, on September 13th and 15th. You can also attend the live shows slated for Clerks III: The Convenience Tour, complete with accompanying Q&As. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.