EXCLUSIVE: After ‘Lost,’ Perrineau Finds ‘Justice’

Harold Perrineau. ©Sthanlee Mirador


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Harold Perrineau still gets stopped by “Lost” fans on the street that question him about the much-debated series. The Brooklyn-born actor played the recurring character Michael Dawson, who went in search of his young son, Walt, after the Others kidnapped him in season one. He was written out of the show in season two, but returned briefly in season four and again in the show’s sixth and final season, where he appeared as a ghost to Hurley.

The 48-year-old  has a good sense of humor about the attention the episodic sci-fi show has gotten him but, in all seriousness, he believes it’s time to move on and leave the island once and for all.

Perrineau is a veteran stage and film actor whose credits include Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo +Juliet,”  “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Matrix Revolutions” as well as the TV series “Oz.” He has worked steadily since “Lost” wrapped. He’s starred in a couple of films like the vampire sequel, “30 Days of Night: Dark Days,” and he’s made guest appearances on “CSI” and “CSI: NY.”

During breaks while filming the last season of “Lost,” Perrineau was shuttling between the Aloha State and the Big Easy to make the crime thriller “Seeking Justice,” starring Nicolas Cage. Shot in New Orleans, the film is hitting theaters March 16.

Cage stars as a man whose wife (played by January Jones) is brutally raped and nearly killed. While Gil (Cage) waits for news of her condition at the hospital, a stranger approaches him and offers to have the rapist killed. In exchange, he asks for some unspecified future service. Initially hesitant, Gil eventually agrees to the proposal. Some time later, he gets a call from the mysterious stranger, who instructs him to kill someone. This idea doesn’t sit well with the law-abiding teacher who has no personal beef with his target, but the stranger is nothing if not persistent.

Perrineau plays Jimmy, Gil’s boss and school principal, who notices his normally reliable employee is acting strangely. He also has a prominent part as the story unfolds and secrets are revealed.

The actioner was written by Robert Tannen and directed by Roger Donaldson (“Cocktail,” “Thirteen Days”).

Perrineau, a musician and jazz lover, says he loved working in New Orleans with Cage and Jones on the Donaldson’s movie. He spoke by phone about his “Seeking Justice” experience and what’s ahead, career-wise.

Front Row Features: How did the project come to you?

Perrineau: I went in and auditioned for Roger Donaldson. I don’t know if he’s totally familiar with my work. He’s clearly a busy guy. I liked what I read from the beginning. I didn’t have the entire script, but it seemed like a lot of fun. Roger said “you probably could do whatever. You’re the character, Jimmy. Alright? Cool.” After reading the whole script, there were more twists and turns than I originally expected.

Front Row Features: Your character has an important place within the plot that cannot be revealed without spoiling the ending. Did you try to guess where the story was going while reading the script?

Perrineau: Yes. I kept asking myself, “Why’s he here and doing this?” I had fun reading the script. I thought Nic’s character had to make some serious choices. I tried to put myself in that position like, if something happened to someone I love, how many of these choices would I make? The consequences of his decision and how it plays out are fun to explore in a dark theater but they wouldn’t be in real life.

Front Row Features: You and Nic play friends and colleagues. Did you have an opportunity to get to know each other and hang out before filming?

Perrineau: We got to know each other on set. That’s where we formed our bond. Also, during that time, we were having personal issues in our lives. He had just lost his dad and was having money issues and ex-wife issues, and I lost my mom during the filming of it. Regular life was happening in a big way for the both of us at the time.

Front Row Features: How did you like working in New Orleans?

Perrineau: It was my first time working there. I’d been in and out of New Orleans before. Before Katrina, something about New Orleans just made me nervous, plain old scared, so I didn’t really spend a lot of time there. I went on a tour once and another time to visit someone, but I never stayed very long. In making this film, I actually fell in love with the city and wished I’d been there longer. It’s really quite an amazing place. It plays an important part in our film. I’ve been back a few times since.

Front Row Features: You’re also a musician, so did you get a chance to perform there?

Perrineau: I didn’t perform while I was down there because I was scared. There are some amazing performers down there. Music is just part of everyday life for some people. I didn’t want to be that cliché actor guy with a guitar. I was going to see shows as much as I could.

Front Row Features: You have a beautiful wife and two lovely daughters. Does your family accompany you when you’re on location?

Perrineau: Sometimes they do. On this one—we shot it about two years ago—I was in New Orleans, and then I was back (in L.A.) for Christmas, and then I was in Hawaii, because I had to finish some stuff on “Lost,” and then I came back to New Orleans. Then my mom was sick, so I had to go to New York, and I had a really young child at the time, I couldn’t have her travel that much. My other daughter was in high school so my family stayed in L.A. Someday, I’d love to have my kids go to New Orleans to experience the music heritage there.

Front Row Features: While you were filming this, you were still working on “Lost?”

Perrineau: Yeah. It was the last season of “Lost.”

Front Row Features: Was there a lot of interest in the show by your “Seeking Justice” cast and crew?

Perrineau: Sometimes. They’d say to me, “I know you’re working on this, but tell me something—about that polar bear…”

Front Row Features: There’s a pivotal scene at a shopping mall that’s next to the Superdome.  Was that a real location or shot on a set?

Perrineau: It was a real mall and it’s right next to the Superdome. It’s been abandoned since Katrina. It’s creepy. You can see that it was ransacked after the hurricane. The owners of the stores just walked away. It’s exactly as it was. We did were a few safety things there but there was no set dressing at all. That’s the way it looks.

Front Row Features: You have a fun action scene. Do you like doing that physical stuff?

Perrineau: I don’t always get a chance to do it but I do enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. If you’re going to shoot guns why not shoot them in movies? I don’t want to shoot anybody (in real life). Movies are the place to do it.

Front Row Features: You were working on some songs a couple of years ago. Are you putting together an album?

Perrineau: I never released an album, just a couple of singles. You can download them from HaroldPerrineau.com. We put up videos every now and then. I just don’t have the time to fully commit to being a musician.

Front Row Features: Do you still get a lot of  “Lost” questions from fans?

Perrineau: I get it all day every day. People loved that show.

Front Row Features: Have you worked with any of your “Lost” colleagues since the show ended?

Perrineau: Not so far. Most of them were still on the show when I left. I was on and off the show for quite a bit of time and a lot of them stayed (in Hawaii). Some of them I see sociably, though. I see Daniel Dae Kim sometimes. He’s still in Hawaii doing “Hawaii Five-O.” Josh Holloway lives not far from me here in L.A., so we see each other quite often. And Dominic Monaghan lives close by so we hang out whenever we have time. So I’ve seen people casually but not in a work environment. I’m sure our paths will cross; it was a big cast.

Front Row Features: What’s next for you?

Perrineau: There’s a movie with me, James Frain, and Jim Caviezel called “Transit,” that should be out soon. This summer, I’m really excited about a TV show I did called “The Wedding Band.” It’s me, Brian Austin Green, Peter Cambor, Derek Miller and Jenny Wade. It’s so much fun. We’ve shot 10 episodes. There’s some great music and some hysterical guest stars. In a couple of weeks, I go to film Kathryn Bigelow’s next project (an untitled international thriller). I have no idea what I’m doing in it because there’s no script to be seen by any of us, but we’re all going to get on a plane, land somewhere and start filming something.  (He laughs.)