Harold Perrineau has had a long, varied career, from his film roles in Romeo + Juliet and The Matrix: Reloaded to his TV work on Oz and Lost. But now he's tackling a new kind of role, as a partially unhinged police detective on the cop dramedy The Unusuals. As Det. Leo Banks, Perrineau lives in fear of following in his family footsteps and dying at the age of 42, which he just turned. But while a bulletproof vest is now a permanent part of his uniform, his partner just found out he has a brain tumor and isn't as... cautious as Banks is. It's both as funny and not as funny as it sounds, and they're not even the weirdest cops in the precinct. We talked one-on-one with Perrineau about his new show, why he misses Lost and why he's glad his last series didn't get past the pilot stage.
You grew up in Brooklyn; were you happy to be filming The Unusuals in New York City?
Harold Perrineau: I was happy to be filming in New York. I have a lot of family and stuff there, so it was a good chance to hang out with people I haven't seen in a really, really long time, because I've been traveling around. It was good, it was a good thing.
But it was a rough winter; did you miss filming in Hawaii every day?
Perrineau: Oh, yes I did, my friend, oh, yes I did! [Laughs.] It was a really cold winter. We were out there... we had to put on long johns, and layers and layers of clothes and try to look like you're not freezing in zero degree weather. It was crazy. And everybody, of course, kept saying, "I bet you miss Hawaii now!" "Yes I do! Don't keep reminding me!"
The show has drama, but it's also got a lot of comedy. Did it feel good to be playing a comedic role? You don't have a lot of it on your resume.
Perrineau: [Laughs.] I actually don't have a lot of comedy on my resume. It's actually, one, challenging to do the comedy stuff, and, two, refreshing. The last couple of jobs I've had have all been people in tight, confined spaces who are desperate, you know what I mean? On Oz we were in prison, on Lost we were on an island, in Matrix we're stuck in Zion, for God's sake, you know? [Laughs.] The center of the Earth! So it was a good chance to be on a set where you were looking for things that were funny, and that was actually what was gonna make it better. So I really enjoyed being able to do that stuff, and my partner [Adam Goldberg] is so great at his job, he's so funny and so smart that it's a real challenge for me to catch up to him.