Harold Perrineau

Harold Perrineau has had a long and very diverse acting career. He’s worked with Baz Luhrmann on the re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, and he played a transsexual in Woman on Top. He’s also appeared on several very iconic television shows, as a parapalegic narrator on Oz, and Michael Dawson on ABC’s megahit, Lost. Now he’s back on the small screen as Damon Pope, ex-drug kingpin who rose from the streets and built a legitimate empire and is now an influential adversary for SAMCRO. Recently, I had some time to talk with Perrineau about the new character of Damon Pope (pictured above) and some his iconic roles of past.

I know you mentioned earlier that you had approached Kurt about the role of “Damon Pope” and what I wanted to ask, I guess, in that same regard is had he already kind of started scripting for “Pope” or were you used as another point to kind of fashion the character around you specifically?

No.  He had already started scripting “Pope” and he had an idea about “Pope” at the end of Season 4.  He had been down the line of meeting people and stuff like that for the character and I guess those things didn’t work out.  When they didn’t work out and I knew I had some free time, I kind of thought whatever that idea was was a long shot—what his idea for “Pope” was is probably a long shot for me because I don’t normally cast like that, but I had confidence that I could probably pull something off.  So, it wasn’t fashioned after me at all.  I think as it’s going on there is a working together as I’m doing it, as he’s writing it, that somehow they start forming like the same person.  It all starts gelling together.  But yes, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have me in mind when he originally wrote “Damon Pope.”

Okay.  So, he just kind of picked up and ran from there.

Yes.

I just wanted to ask you; when you did receive the pilot script for Oz, did you at that time, did you foresee it being such a ground breaking series?  It was one of the first series for HBO.  How did you feel about that?

I called my mother.  I said, “Hey, ma, I’m about to do this thing that’s a little crazy. I just want you to know that I love you.  I don’t want to disrespect our family or anything.”  So, when we first read the pilot script, I thought, “Whoa.”  One, I couldn’t believe that we were going to do it on television and two, some of it was just so wild.  There are things that didn’t even make the screen that were just so like outrageous that I was a little nervous.  I really had that feeling of like,  what does this do for me.  Does it like help elevate my career or do I wind up going down as like, “Oh, he was part of that group of crazy people that tried to do that thing on HBO.”  And so, luckily, HBO kept doing wilder stuff.

And a kind of a side step question about another series.  I wanted to ask you how you felt about the cancellation of The Unusuals.  I really, really liked that show.

Oh, man, one of the biggest bummers ever; one of the biggest bummers ever.  Noah Hawley is such a great writer and showrunner and we were having such a great time.  We thought for sure the show would keep going.  Renner was a friend of mine from before and me and Adam Goldberg just had a great time working together.  So, when the show didn’t get picked up I was pretty bummed for a long time and I’ve been out there working and doing stuff for a while, so I try not to get too attached, but I was pretty attached to that.  I was having a really great time
playing “Leo Banks.”  I thought we were going to get explored that some more, but I’m bummed. I’m happy for Jeremy.  He kept going and doing lots of amazing things and Adam and I … but I was bummed about it.  That’s the answer.

I wanted to ask you was there any correlation between “Augustus Hill” and “Kareem Said,” on Oz and I guess the Wicked Witch of the East and the West?  I know that’s kind of a weird question.

How did you get to that comparison?

Well, Emerald City, Oz, the whole kind of Wizard of Oz mentality behind the show.  Itwas just kind of a question that had been kind of crossing my mind.

You said between “Augustus” and “Kareem Said.”

Right and them being subsequently the Wicked Witch of the East and the West.

You know what?  There was never any correlation for me between those characters, but I think what’s in the context of the show, Tom Fontana did mention The Wizard of Oz a few times and made correlations between characters.  That’s going to make me go back and think for a little while if there is something between “Augustus,” “Kareem Said,” and the Witches of the West and East.  I’m going to have to think about that some more.  I didn’t see the correlation, but I’m going to go try to figure out how you came up with that one.

And then finally, I noticed that the few characters you have played, so I guessthis is kind of tangentially a Lost question, but the two characters you played have been confined to a wheelchair.  Was that at all a challenge or a limitation to portray that, especially in “Augustus’” case, to play that on screen?

There was a little bit of challenge and I really felt grateful that I had a long history as a dancer before I was an actor because once I sort of kind of learned what you would do as a paraplegic, I knew what capabilities you had, then I could try to work on enhancing those things that I was able to use while not using my legs.  So, it took a little bit of practice.  It took a little bit of practice and rehearsing and I went to a couple of different places and talked to some people.  Every year, we tried to make it look like his legs were atrophying some more.  So, I’d buy bigger and bigger pants that I would wear on the show.  So, it took a little bit of work and practice.  And so, when I did it again in Lost, it was just kind of a throw back.  Even Damon Lindelof said, “I think it was funny to put ‘Michael’ in a wheelchair.”  It’s a “what’s up” to all the Oz fans.

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