“I’m a bit eccentric,” said Harold Perrineau. “My wife is always saying, ‘You don’t realize how eccentric you are.’ I’m the guy talking to himself and thinking about one thing. “
He didn’t sound like a freak in a recent phone interview. Can be compulsive, or even a little obsessive – like so many successful actors.
Maybe the weirdness was on his mind because he was on the phone to talk about his lead role in a new horror series,”Are from,“That, no question, To be freak. Imagine “Our Town” if George Romero got his hands on it.
In the series, the upcoming movie Sunday on Epix, Perrineau stars as Boyd Stevens, a no-nonsense sheriff charged with keeping his town safe from zombie tourists that stalk the streets after sunset. Bringing the grins of their neighbors, these ghouls beg to enter people’s homes. Not a great idea to let them in – unless you want to strip, like the little girl and her mother in the series’ terrifying first minutes.
Perrineau, 58, a father of three daughters who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Brittany, said: “They slowly wind their way towards you. “That’s what makes them so scary.”
For Perrineau, it’s familiar territory: the return to form of an actor whose roles are best known as similarly desperate men in dire situations, including Augustus Hill, the narrator Paralysis of the experimental HBO prison drama “Oz” (1997-2003), and Michael Dawson, the tragic father and frustrated artist on the landmark ABC series “Lost” (2004-10). As in “Lost,” a show where “From” shares two executive producers, Perrineau’s character finds himself stuck with an eclectic cast of characters, harassed by supernatural forces.
To hear Perrineau describe, the role once again allowed him, as an actor and as a human being, to ask: “What am I going to do?”
But it’s also the next step on a path that is nothing more than the obvious, a TV lead – his first since “Oz” – that are worlds away from the stage, where Perrineau , a talented singer and dancer, cut his teeth. And it’s been a long way since where he started.
Perrineau grew up in Cypress Hills, a Brooklyn, East New York neighborhood with a harsh history. He soon caught the performing arts bug. He says he loves to dance, and at Erasmus Hall High School, in Flatbush, he took violin lessons because he was “too short to play the bass well”.
He’s not a fan of horror; As a kid in the “70s hooded people,” he said, “there was no money and no funding, and people grew up on welfare and had guns and drugs.”
As he put it: “I’ve got enough bad images in my head.”
However, the pull of the performing arts was strong – he found his kind of exotic – so Perrineau said goodbye to Brooklyn to study musical theater at Shenandoah University, in Northern Virginia. But when his classmates found out he had left New York to prepare for a career on stage – “Are you crazy?” he remembers they asked – they pushed him to rethink his choice. After a year and a half, he returned to New York to study dance on a scholarship for Ailey school and take acting classes.
Perrineau took a break in 1986 when he was cast as a dancer on the NBC series “Fame.” This was followed in the 1990s with roles on “Oz” and on the big screen, including the deliciously seductive Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) and in the romantic comedy “Best Man” ” (1999), creating a sequel to 2103. (A Peacock series featuring the original cast, including Perrineau, is scheduled for later this year.)
In 2004, “Lost” marked his career and “raised it to the next level,” as he put it succinctly. (Translation: “I can’t walk down the street without being recognized.”) His character was killed off in Season 4 and returned in the sixth and final installment, an arc that Perrineau said he was frustrated at the time. It was also a development that, in retrospect, perhaps helped him avoid being defined by a single role.
“Fortunately, depending on when you ask me, I left ‘Lost’ pretty early, so people don’t just see me as Michael,” he said. “That helped me do as many other things as I could.”
To name a few, he has played a drug lord in the FX series Sons of Anarchy, a judge on the Amazon series “Goliath” and an angel on the NBC series “Constantine.” His theatrical career also continued: Six years ago, he made his Broadway debut in Chekhov’s play The Cherry Orchard.
But Perrineau said it was a dress — dresses, really — that fine-tuned his sense of self. Like the drag queen Rhea Ranged in the Netflix comedy “Dumplin”, “ Perrineau said he learned “this about:”Girlyou have to be you because there is no other way to be. ‘”
“Putting on a dress,” he said, “was the first time I felt I understood my interpretation of Weirdo Harold.”
Whoever Weirdo Harold is, he has fans. When “From” begins, one follower will be actress Niecy Nash. Perrineau plays Dean, Nash’s Desna’s autistic brother, South Florida nail salon owner and money launderer in the TNT movie “Claws”.
Nash said Perrineau “topped the list of favorite co-stars” on “Claws,” recently ended its four seasons run. Outside of work hours, she said, the guy was an avid man.
“He was a good time, and a great dad, and had one of the most infectious laughs I’ve ever heard,” she said. “He’s leading the attack against zombies which is what I’m watching.”
Like the road that leads out of town in “From” – the road that leads back into town supernaturally – Perrineau’s way out of “Lost” is, in a sense, full. Created by John Griffin, “From” is another show about doom, in every sense a slow-motion horror story about strangers stuck with history and shady motives.
If that sounds a bit familiar, it’s a bit disturbing. The show’s executive producers include Jack Bender and Jeff Pinkner, two of the executive producers of “Lost,” plus stories about stranded strangers. But listen, “Lost” fans have been outraged: The 10-episode first season of “From” will feature “a very discreet arc,” Pinkner said. said.
“That’s what they say about ‘Lost,’” Perrineau said with a laugh.
Those arcs, however, trace very different lines. Where “Lost” begins with a plane crash and only then – to the chagrin of many fans – leans into the afterlife, “From” is at first a supernatural horror-driven by two central mysteries: Why do these creatures return every night? And why can’t the townspeople escape? Add more layers of premium cable cars, and horror fans will be tickled.
Bender, on a recent video call, said that having worked with Perrineau on the movie “Lost”, he knew the actor as a “fantastic electric pole” whose warmth drew you in. His acting is close. Perrineau “brings within this deep well of integrity without promoting it,” added Pinkner, going on to describe the actor’s qualities as “charming and graceful, intense and heartbreaking.”
Griffin, the creator, who was on a video call with Bender and Pinkner, recalls a day on the set of “From” when one of Perrineau’s lines didn’t land; after asking back and forth what to do next, Griffin let go.
“So then I said, ‘Harold, do what feels right,’” Griffin said. “I walked away then watched him on the screen, and sure enough he opened his mouth and the magic appeared.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/arts/television/from-epix-harold-perrineau.html Harold Perrineau found his way