Harold Perrineau is ready to face zombies

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/ Source: msnbc.com contributor
By By Miki Turner

In his latest film, “28 Weeks Later,” Harold Perrineau plays an army pilot on a mission to restore order in London after the dreaded rage virus basically annihilates the entire population.  By the time the film comes out on Friday, however, Perrineau might find himself on another island with a different goal.

Perhaps best known for his role as Michael Dawson on ABC’s flat-lining drama, “Lost,” Perrineau was unsure at the time of this exclusive interview whether he or his son, Walt, would rejoin the castaways on the deserted island they’d called home for three years. If producers decide that Michael, Walt or both should suddenly reappear a year after they disappeared, Perrineau would be on the first plane back to Hawaii.

“Absolutely,” said Perrineau, whose brown eyes lit up when asked about the possibility. “I’ve been saying to people, what happened to Michael? What happed to Michael and Walt? I want to know! My man just turned on some people and friends, took his son and bounced! So, I want to know what happened to them. I’d be 100 percent willing to go back and answer that question!”

If he doesn’t get that opportunity, the Brooklyn-born thespian won’t get lost in the Hollywood shuffle. Prior to “Lost,” Perrineau, 43, had already accumulated an impressive filmography that included roles in “The Matrix” films and “The Best Man.” Additionally, he played a wheelchair-bound character on the critically acclaimed HBO series, “Oz” and on Broadway in Suzan Lori Parks’ 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning  play, “Topdog/Underdog.”

Yet, even though Perrineau has been working steadily for more than 20 years since breaking into the business as a dancer on the old “Fame” TV series, he’s probably not on every film producer’s short list of top African-American actors because most of them can’t see past Will, Denzel, Jamie, Terrence and now Forest.

So where does Perrineau fit in?

“They’re always saying the guy way after Don Cheadle!” Perrineau says with a hearty laugh. “It’s Don Cheadle, no? Jeffrey Wright, no? Mos Def, no? Is Harold Perrineau around? Let’s get him!”

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From Shakespeare to zombie films
Dressed in jeans, a cranberry and pea-green gauze shirt over a tank top, Perrineau is rather difficult to type. He’s a brilliant Shakespeare actor, adept at romantic comedy, can do the angry black man thing and now knows how to fly a helicopter and save the world from an infectious disease.

Well, almost.

“I had about a week of helicopter training right when I got to London,” Perrineau said. “It was really understanding how the helicopter worked — not  so much flying it. But I had a good time flying it. It was scary because you’re flying at those folks and then they hit the deck. Like we were close! I was glad I was in the helicopter and not underneath because that was scary!”

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Although Perrineau doesn’t have a huge part in this sequel to 2003’s “28 Days Later,” he wanted to be a part of it because he was such a fan of the original. And like Perrineau, “28 Weeks Later,” is also hard to type. It’s not really a conventional zombie film even though some of the characters look and act as if they’ve had some sort of supernatural encounter. Nor is it a typical blood and guts horror film.

This movie, directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, and starring Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Idris Elba and Jeremy Renner, has a sprinkling of the aforementioned elements along with a sizable dose of reality.

“That’s the brilliance about this whole thing,” he said. “We’re familiar with all of these different things. We’re familiar with viruses that happen really quickly. We’re familiar with war right now. We’re familiar with anger and hate and all of those things.”

‘I might be looking toward Canada’If a rage virus actually went down on his watch, Perrineau who is more ’60s beatnik than New Millennium warrior, joked that he might have to take the northern route to freedom if drafted for rage duty.

“I’ll take the rage! I don’t know,” he said laughing. “Me, myself, I actually might not. I might be looking toward Canada! But I do recognize that if there’s work that needs to be done, why not do the work. That’s what I feel like in this film. I can connect with that. There’s a virus and it’s got to be contained. They need protection.”

Perrineau hardly looks like a superhero — can you picture this dude in tights? But hey, somebody out there might want a “Harold Perrineau type.” Whatever that is.

“Hopefully that means that they’re looking for somebody who has a depth of feeling or responsibility to the characters and the work,” Perrineau said with a more serious tone. “Like sometimes when people don’t hire me I recognize I’m just not the type of person that they want to work with.

“There are a certain amount of questions that I need attended to when I’m going to work. Sometimes people just want two dimensions. They’re like ‘listen man, just say the words and you can walk over there.’ I’m not that guy. I’m not hard to work with, but I do need to know what’s going on.”

Hmm. Sounds like he’s tired of being lost.

Miki Turner is a freelance TV producer/writer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at .