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Harold Perrineau: The TV Squad Interview

by Kona Gallagher, posted Apr 15th 2009 11:04AM
harold perrineau the unusuals
Harold Perrineau is worried. He's worried that viewers won't give his new show, The Unusuals, a chance. He has a valid concern: The Unusuals, which just premiered, is on Wednesday nights at 10, on ABC; otherwise known as the post-Lost timeslot (of doom).

ABC is showing faith in The Unusuals. After all, it's not stuck in the Friday night graveyard or anything. The post-Lost slot is tricky though; shows generally don't do well there. It could be that the minds of everybody who watches Lost are so blown, they can't even stick around for another hour of television. Whatever it is, the quirky cop show Life On Mars recently died a sad death there. Will this quirky cop show do better? Harold Perrineau certainly hopes so.

Warning: Spoilers ahead. We talk about plot points in the recently aired pilot, some spoilers for upcoming episodes, as well as the fate of Michael, Perrineau's character on Lost.

So I just finished watching the pilot; It seems like it's an interesting take on the typical New York Cop procedural.

The pilot is good, but I think as we get further into the series, I think it gets a lot better.

You play an interesting character: Detective Leo Banks, who just turned 42, which is the age that all of the men in his family seem to die. So he's ... concerned, and rightfully so. What drew you to that character?

Well, originally I just read it and thought it was funny. I talked to (creator) Noah Hawley a little bit before, and one of the things I was concerned with was, [Banks] is 42, but he's a cop, so he shouldn't be a coward, or anything like that. I was hoping that he wasn't the Cowardly Lion of The Unusuals, and Noah said, "no, no. Absolutely not." So what I thought was really interesting was the two opposing forces in his life. He's really afraid that he's going to die and yet he goes out and does this really hazardous job where people die every day, and he still chooses to do that job.

I thought it would be a really fun and interesting thing to play: what makes this guy get out of the house every day, to do this job where he has to catch the bad guy? When they told me also that they had hired Adam Goldberg, I thought that it would be crazy-fun. Those two characters and us two actors would make an interesting pairing.

It is an interesting pairing: You have your character, who's so afraid of dying that he sleeps in his bulletproof vest, and you have Goldberg's character who has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and seems to be trying to get himself killed in the line of duty.

(Laughing) Yeah, I just thought it was funny. I mean, the show's dark, but it's funny as well.

One of the main plot points in the pilot is Detective Kowalski's murder. There's this scene where we see his storage locker and he seems to have files on everyone in the 2nd precinct. Will these files come into play this season, and will they tie in with the corruption that seems to be an issue in the precinct?

I think the files will play a part later on in the season, but what plays more of a part is Kowalski's killer; it plays a part in the dynamics of the squad. The files come back, but the killer is a big deal.

The Unusuals are a squad, that for lack of a better word take the unusual cases that come up. In the pilot we have the cat murderer; what other kinds of cases can we expect?

Well we have so much coming up, but I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to tell or not tell. I just came off of a show where we weren't allowed to tell anything (laughs). We have big cases that we all work on together, and there's one where the number 42 keeps coming up, and that's Leo's bad number, and there's a psychic, but it's really more about a guy who's been robbing buses in New York. Also, Kowalski's killer is a big part of the rest of the season.

So the person who got shot at the end of the pilot may not be the actual person who killed Kowalski?

Suffice it to say, he's not the guy. (Laughs) It was a little easy.

Yeah, I don't know much about cop killing, but it just seems to me that hiding the badge and the gun in the wall may not be the brightest thing to do.

(Laughs) Yeah, you're absolutely right. So there might be just a little bit more to that story.

The Unusuals is in a familiar place for you: Wednesdays on ABC, after Lost. I don't want to turn this into an interview about Lost, but I have to ask: Michael died on the freighter. Is he dead dead? Or is he Lost dead?

As far as I know, he's dead dead. People have been asking me since then. They released me from my contract, which is how I find myself on The Unusuals. If Michael is just Lost dead and they needed me to come back, I would be more than willing to go back and do whatever they needed, but as far as I know, he is dead dead.

So there isn't going to be a Wednesday night on ABC just devoted to you anytime soon?

(Laughs) Not as far as I know. But there's one more season and they want to wrap it up, so you never know. Maybe they'll bring Michael back and we'll find out what all this was for, you know what I mean? I'm curious to find out myself.

See, if I were in your position, I would just be going around making stuff up. I'd be telling people that the whole show is a dream Hurley had, or that Ben is Jesus or something.

Is that what you'd do? (Laughs) I have a feeling that if I were making things up, that it just wouldn't come out anywhere near as good as what they'd come up with. [The writers are] very good at their jobs.

Okay, now that we've got all of that cleared up, is there anything else you want our readers to know about The Unusuals?

I just hope that the audience, and actually ABC just gives it a chance to be on a few times because I think that you'll really like hanging out with those folks. It's not your regular cop procedural; it really is character driven. It's more of a feeling thing. I think once you see it and feel those characters, you'll want to stick around. That's what I thought when I was shooting it. I just thought, "I like hanging out with those people." So I hope the audience hangs around a little bit and sees what I saw.

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Did you actually watch the show? How could you miss the fact that the wallet and badge were planted in the hole in the wall at the last second by that jerky cop and not by the guy who was shot??

I, too, am not dazzled by your interview skills but, really, to ask Mr. Perrineau what drew him to the character??? How about a contract for a series and a regular paycheck? That might be something you ask George Clooney or some other actor who has the luxury of picking and choosing projects based on their feeling for the character. Whatever Mr. Perrineau's talents, I don't think he's there yet.

April 15 2009 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to itsy's comment

I disagree - I think it was a perfectly valid question. Every actor has the "luxury" of picking and choosing based on how they feel about the character. Some actors would just be more negatively impacted financially than others if they decide against.

Would you have felt better if it were phrased along the lines of "What interested you in playing this character aside from a steady paycheck"?

April 15 2009 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

interview tips:

it's about him, not you. you talked as much, if not more than he did.

he's an actor, not a writer. ask him questions about his acting, not the plot.

you could also ask him -questions-. that usually helps to get people talking.

where do they find the writers on tvsquad!? community college?

April 15 2009 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joe's comment


Seriously, when I used to interview musicians I found that they preferred it when the conversation was a bit more about random stuff than the questions that they'd already answered a million times before that day.

April 15 2009 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really enjoyed the pilot and hope the show lasts. I think Perrineau did and excellent acting job and, actually, everyone did a good job. The characters are quirky and that is fun. I like Amber Tamblyn and that is why I watched to begin with. However, too many people have started watching shows that end up dropped before they get started. Good luck to the Unusuals.

April 15 2009 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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