Harold Perrineau

Harold Perrineau

Active - 1988 - 2023  |   Born - Aug 7, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Action

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Biography by AllMovie

An accomplished young actor who has graced the stage, screen, and television, Harold Perrineau Jr. has earned a well-deserved reputation as a performer willing to take on just about anything, with roles ranging from drag queens to hardened criminals. A native of Brooklyn, Perrineau studied music and theatre at the Shenandoah Conservatory, but began his career as a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Company, performing with the troupe for a year and a half. A gradual shift to acting led Perrineau to the theatre, where he acted in a number of shows including Dreamgirls, the critically acclaimed Avenue X, and the off-Broadway revival of Godspell.

While he was working on the stage, Perrineau also began appearing on TV in such shows as The Cosby Show, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, I'll Fly Away, and Law & Order. He segued onto the big screen in the late '80s, but had his first memorable role as Rashid Cole, a young man searching for his long-absent father (Forest Whitaker) in Smoke, an acclaimed 1995 drama directed by Wayne Wang and based upon the writings of Paul Auster. The following year he gained further exposure for his flamboyant, explosive portrayal of Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. At one point outfitted in a glitter miniskirt and platform heels, Perrineau proved a worthy, if idiosyncratic, foil for Leonardo Di Caprio's Romeo and gave a performance that marked him as one of the more distinctive Mercutios in the play's history.

Perrineau subsequently appeared in a number of supporting roles in films ranging from Auster's Lulu on the Bridge (1998) to The Best Man (1999), a celebrated romantic comedy directed by Malcolm D. Lee (cousin of Spike Lee) that saw Perrineau share the screen with other members of a group widely billed as a new generation of African-American actors, including Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, and Nia Long. In addition to appearances in various independent films, Perrineau starred in Woman on Top (2000), a comedy that cast him as the drag queen best friend of a young woman (Penelope Cruz) experiencing romantic woes.

In 1997, Perrineau made the move to the small screen, assuming the role of paraplegic convict and narrator Augustus Hill on the acclaimed HBO series Oz. The brutally violent, hard-hitting series generated Perrineau thousands of fans, and he stayed with the show until 2003 - the same year he took up the role of Link in The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the explosive Matrix franchise. He would reprise the role the next year for the third and final installment in the series, The Matrix Revolutions, before returning to television just months later for the role of Michael on the cryptic ABC sci-fi/mystery/drama Lost. Playing a conflicted and sometimes morally ambiguous character, Perrineau soon proved to be a vital member of the cast, taking a hiatus from the series in 2007 only to return in 2008.

Despite becoming a pivotal component of primetime TV, the actor remained as active in movies as ever. He took on the role of Flynn in the 2007 horror sequel 28 Weeks Later, and starred alongside Michael Madsen in the 2008 thriller The Killing Jar. After Lost ended in 2010, Perrineau continued to alternate between TV and film, playing the villain in season 5 of Sons of Anarchy and a decidedly lighter role as the bass player in a wedding band in the short-lived TBS comedy Wedding Band. He also played a supporting role in the controversial Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

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  • Changed last name of Williams to mother's maiden name Perrineau after joining the Screen Actors Guild, which already had a member named Harold Williams.
  • Started his acting career in theater.
  • Landed first television role on the series I'll Fly Away in 1990.
  • Won an NAACP Image Award for his role in Topdog/Underdog in 2001.
  • Nominated for Best Supporting Male for the Independent Spirit Award for his part in Smoke (1995).
  • Skilled in martial arts.
  • Started taking swimming lessons on the location of Lost.