Actor Harold Perrineau, 50, gained international fame in films including The Matrix, Zero Dark Thirty, 28 Weeks Later – and as Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
As well known for appearing on the small screen, he has played major characters in Lost and Oz. The Best Man Holiday, in which he stars, is out now on DVD.
When it comes to style, Baz Luhrmann is arguably one of the most influential living directors. Does he have a unique approach to his work?
“Absolutely. The way Baz Luhrmann’s mind works is very particular. I’m happy I was much younger at the time because I needed that energy to keep up with him. But it was definitely one of the more interesting experiences I had with a director.
From taking that Shakespearian world, he had really created such a specific world – this Verona that we were living in - that there was a certain freedom in it to be whatever you want within the confines of the world. It made it a really creative atmosphere where you were always on your toes.
Moreover, shooting that in Mexico, where life is very full and electric made it even more exciting. You can feel that life in Mexico City was exactly what Verona was supposed to be like – it’s really visceral. Baz put all these elements together to make it the most creative space that we could have. He is very idiosyncratic: completely different than any director I have ever worked with.
Did you ever have conversations with Baz Luhrmann after R+J about working with him on other projects?
No, we have come in contact again: we’ve seen each other in passing. He’s been doing great things with Gatsby and Australia. Hopefully, one day we’ll get the opportunity to work together again.
With The Best Man Holiday, you’ve revisited a character after 15 years. How did you work out how the character would have changed over that time?
“It was fairly simple. For both films, the director wrote a great script with really defined characters. When we got to revisit it again, I needed to make sure some of the original truths about Julian were still there - and they were all still there. And the rest of it you could just figure out or make up. But it was easy because Regina Hall, who plays Candice, is such a great actress.
We had the chance to just sit around and talk about where they may have gone for their first date, when they had their first child, all these things we could sit down and fill out and go and play while we were on set. It was fairly easy because we had sort of the bare bones and structure there together with a good script.
Your previous projects have been much heavier. How did you enjoy doing a comedy?
“I totally appreciated that I got the chance to do comedy. Although the movie was relatively light, the issues were very real for each of the characters. Nobody was chased by a black smoke monster or was in a prison. It is great to go to work and laugh every day. After 15 years, we were all very confident and comfortable, which made every day a lot of fun. It was the reason I wanted to be an actor in the first place. You get to explore all this fun stuff with like-minded individuals, which makes the experience so great and something to treasure.”
Oz was the first HBO drama. Now people say TV series are replacing novels. Do you prefer to read a chapter in a book or watch an episode on Netflix?
“I am more likely to read a chapter in a book. What I love about reading a book is having my own interpretation of whatever the writer has written and to have the script played out in my head. I love watching television and the way stories are told over time, but for me nothing is ever going to replace sitting down and reading a great story. Even if I have to read it four times to understand what the writer is actually talking about, I prefer being an interactive part in my entertainment.
Lastly, do you sympathise with fans of Lost who are frustrated by the unresolved storylines?
I can completely sympathise with the fans. I totally know it was this very long journey for many people - but I also understand the writer.