As one of the original castaways on ABC's excellent Lost, Harold Perrineau had the unfortunate task of playing the show's most famous turncoat, Michael "Waaaaaaalt!" Dawson. But now he has a whole new persona in the new show The Unusuals--a cop so scared of dying he always wears a bullet-proof vest.
Perrineau talked to us about his new role as Detective Leo Banks, his chemistry with co-star Adam Goldberg, and his possible return to Lost.
TV.com: So, The Unusuals, it's a pretty apt name for the show.
Harold Perrineau: Yeah, I think it is a great name for the show. It is unusual. Hard to sort of pin down or describe, other than it's unusual.
TV.com: Cop shows are usually really focused on the cases, really hard on the facts. But this is the opposite, it's really about the characters.
Harold Perrineau: Yeah, it really is. It's something that we think is different from all the other cop shows where the cases are the dramatic movement is mostly about the case. Where in our show it's really about the characters and how they relate to each other. And so, it starts to change week by week, depending on how their relationships change. And often times, Noel Hawley who's our creator, likes to say that the cases actually solve the characters, which is a kind of fun way to look at it as well. But yeah, I think that makes us really, really different than all the other shows out there. Because you could put out another procedural, but you know, you've got a lot of great ones out there…why do another one?
TV.com: It's a little hard to pin down as a genre. How do you describe the show, because I'm having a hard time pinpointing it.
Harold Perrineau: So are we. We've done a lot of things during the press tours and stuff like that, comparing it to MASH or maybe Hill Street Blues. But it really is none of those things. It's its own thing. Not that we reinvented the wheel, but it really is its own series; it is a drama with really interesting, sometimes dark, strange comedy thrown in.
TV.com: Your character has a major fear of death. How is it—why don't you talk about your character and how he fits in with the rest of the squad.
Harold Perrineau: Well, Leo Banks is a guy who's just turned 42, and that's when the men in his family die, at the age of 42. And so he does have his vest on all the time, his clothes are flame retardant, he's always [washing his hands with] anti-bacterial soap. He's just having a hard time right now.
And unfortunately for Leo Banks, his neuroses are just going to get worse as the season goes on, which on the outset is really funny to look at, [but] it starts to take on a really dark [turn]. If you really are that afraid of your life, you start putting other people who you work with in really challenging situations. I think that's the thing our show does really, really, well, is these things that look funny at the outset sometimes turn out to be not to be as funny as you thought. Or, if you think they were funny at first, they turn out to be a little bit more serious.
TV.com: You work with Adam a lot in the show—
Harold Perrineau: I work with him almost exclusively! [laugh]
TV.com: You guys are quickly becoming fan favorites already. What's it like working with him? What's the dynamic going to be going forward between your two characters?
Harold Perrineau: You know, working with Adam is actually pretty fantastic because one, he's great with the comedy stuff, he's just so smart and really, really funny. But, the other thing that we find out working together is that we're actually playing each other. He has way more weird neuroses and crazy things and I'm a little bit more of a risk taker in terms of silly risks. So we actually found out that we're playing each other. Whenever I'm in real trouble, I can just look over at Adam and say, "What would you do if this was happening?" [laugh] He always has a great answer. Or he'll do stuff and he goes, "If it were me, this would tweak me out!" And then we'll do it. And it actually does tweak me out! [laugh]
TV.com: What's been the response from the NYPD?
Harold Perrineau: Well, during the pilot we had somebody that we went around to a couple of precincts with and the writers actually, throughout the first season, were working with someone. We found that they all think we're pretty true to life. Like anything and everything that we've done has happened in New York. Do you know what I mean? And the thing that I find is really, really great is when we visited the precincts, they actually feel more like our show. It's not as crazy and loud [as other shows depict it], and those guys are really, really funny. But they have that gallows humor. They're in the trenches. They're like, you know, "I walked into a room and she was stabbed seven times! I mean, somebody must have hated this bitch." You know what I mean? And it's really funny. It's not as serious as you see on some of the other shows. I think that they have liked it and thought that we're not far off, you know, from what goes on.
TV.com: Time for some Lost questions. Just to clarify, are you dead or un-dead? Are you done with the show?
Harold Perrineau: I get to clarify it? Is that what you're saying? I get to clarify something on Lost? I couldn't clarify anything on Lost. [laugh] As far as I know, Michael is blown up. But I know that the island is moving back and forth in time and they're doing flash forwards and flash backs. I still work for ABC, so I would wind up back on Lost for a minute or two. Or not. But I have no idea. I wish I could clarify it.
TV.com: Now that you've had a bit of time to think about it, and after the fourth season, do you feel Michael was redeemed? Because he was kind of hated there for a while.
Harold Perrineau: Personally, I don't see where he was redeemed. I get that he helped out and he got most of those people off, but I still don't know if Ben is a good guy or a bad guy. So I couldn't tell you if he's redeemed. I have no idea. If Ben turns out to be a bad guy, then you know, he was a jerk for being there spying for him. But if he turns out to be a good guy, well then he did a good thing by helping. So, I don't--see, this is what happens with Lost. What I wind up saying almost every time is, "I don't know". I sound like Scoobydoo, "Ardonno." [laugh]
TV.com: Thanks for talking to us.
Harold Perrineau: Thanks man.
The Unusuals airs Wednesday nights on ABC.