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E-MAIL THE AUTHOR | ARCHIVES By Christopher Stipp

October 14, 2005

LOST

The name Harold Perrineau should look familiar.

The name may not sound familiar but you see his name every week as throngs of people study every scene from ABC’s Lost. Harold plays Michael Dawson, the man who seemingly has nothing going for him. His wife left him, gets himself into an accident, has his kid taken away, gets him back only to find out the kid doesn’t much care for him one way or the other, gets caught up in the middle of plane crash, survives only to have said kid still not want to have anything to do with him, builds a boat to get himself off the island he’s marooned on, watches it burn right in front of him, re-builds it only to have his kid snatched away by unshaven and unkempt salty dogs, watches his second boat get blown up real good, makes it back to the island by the grace of God and gets imprisoned into an earthen hole with little hope that his life is going to get any better.

Harold has contended with having a character that’s seemingly beset on both sides by bad luck and bad karma. Whether any of this is going to get better for the man Harold is simply happy developing a believable, emotionally strong man who knows that his life may not be easy but it’s worth fighting for every single day of his life.

Getting to talk to Harold about his involvement with Lost was just a small fraction about what I was really interested in. Here is a guy who played in one of the biggest franchise films to date, THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS and THE MATRIX RELOADED, one of the most galvanizing cable television shows on HBO, Oz, a full year before Sex and The City and a good two before The Soprano’s made their dent into the viewing habits of people turning their attention to network television. Talking with someone of his acting pedigree was, for lack of a better superlative, most interesting because he has been there, he has seen it all but there’s still that gnawing feeling, as you see, that he would like you to know him by his name and not just recognize the letters as they roll on and off the screen every Wednesday night.

We talk abut Lost, to be sure, but we also delve into issues of how he develops a character that is seemingly lost, himself, when it comes to connecting with his only son. What is it that drives a father who’s not quite of how to be a father and of an actor who wants to create a role that might be able to achieve some sense of quietude in a landscape that’s filled up with a host of obstacles that won’t relent? Harold was generous enough to field all these questions and gave me an idea of where he’d like to go from here.

You can now purchase Season 1 of Lost by going HERE and you can catch Harold on Lost every Wednesday night on your local ABC station.


One of the things that I saw that interested me when I was at the Comic-Con this year was the panel discussion with Josh Holloway, Maggie Grace and others from the show was how the producers simulated the plane crash in the airliner. It wasn’t on a lift but it was done real TWLIGHT ZONE style with everyone moving in tandem at the exact moment. Yeah, they do a lot of those homage kind of things which I think is pretty cool. So what else did they show? Was it the stuff that that was going to be on the DVD?Yeah, although I think you may have been saved because some of the questions asked to Josh and Maggie were a little…

Right, right.

Were you able to take the summer off?

Yeah, it was strange, and not strange in a bad way, but my wife is an actress as well and because she opted to come to Hawaii where there is no real work for her to get, like she got to do two episodes of Lost, that was it, we opted to go back to LA to give her time to go audition.

So, while she was here auditioning I started this whole new workout program, get in great shape, and by the time it was all done there were hardly any auditions and I was really tired.

(Laughs)

It wounded up not being really a vacation at all.

I know you’re the father of a 10 year-old girl…

Which means there is never any vacation time.

Have you been able to spend time together, as a family, through all of this?

Yeah, we got to do a few things, We’ve been to Disneyland, which is a good thing. Her best friend came in from New York and we all got to go Disneyland. And because Lost is a Disney show we got to get a guide who would take us on the Fastpass. She got to go on all the rides she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to go on which was really cool.

We just got to do a lot of things you just can’t do when you’re on the island. We got to jump in the car and go to San Francisco; you can’t do that when you’re on Ohau. Like, over there, you can jump in the car and go from one end to the island to the other end of the island and go back home so we got to do a few things like that. She got a lot of horseback riding in, some pottery, she had fun.

But now her summer really begins because she has a lot of friends in Hawaii from school and they’re all off for the summer so, when we go back next week, they’ll all be running around all summer. She’s got an extended summer which is really good for her.

I can relate only because when I’m not around my little girl I like to know that she’s occupied.

How old is she?

She just turned 2 on July 4th.

Wow…

I’m just learning this. I think I see that it’s all well and good to mentally prepare to be a parent but once you have one something changes inside of you..

You sound like my brother whose daughter is 1 now and he’s so like, everything, that’s all he can think about. It’s an amazing thing to be able and watch.

It is and that’s one of the things I was thinking about when I was setting up this interview. Your character on the show has a troubled, real troubled, relationship with his son. How hard was it to get into that mindset? Obviously, a part is a part, an actor is an actor, but how did you get to the point of where you could play the part of someone who was a dad but not a father?

That really wasn’t so hard.

There is that one part of me, Harold Perrineau, that really enjoyed his bachelor life, you know what I mean? And once I tapped into that feeling of, “I’m a bachelor! I’m a bachelor! Aww…I’ve got this…”

It makes it really helpful for that process. Sometimes I was less of a method actor than I am as I think I give myself more trouble in my life than I need to but that’s the only way I can do it. Sometimes it can be a little painful walking around with it but because Malcom [his son in the series] is a really good and we’re in Hawaii it was worth it, It was good timing.

And this season I think, depending how it goes, I think it will be a little bit more, once he gets the kid back, after him being lost, who knows where it will go…

And that’s the kind of thing I was getting from Josh and Maggie was that every week you really don’t know what is going to happen. Are you really just flying by the seat of your pants with a few hours notice?

Well, we have more than a few hours, with the exception of the last episode. We literally got the lines for the scenes the night before we shot but normally we get about a week of preparation. And luckily for me, this year, there weren’t huge sweeping stories that I had to prepare for. So, luckily for me, when it did come you had to wrap your mind around a bunch of stuff really really quickly.

I’m not used to working that way, in that way that I like to try different things, but it was good for me. And it will be good for me this year to see how creative I can actually be.

I know you have no control over it but do you have aspirations of where your character should go? Like do you think, “You know, I hope this guy comes around…”

(Laughs)

I totally do. I have aspirations that not only does he come around but that he gets to be the hero and eventually gets to have some luck. A lot of what happens to Michael Dawson is that he’s had a lot of bad luck. Bad things keep happening over and over and over. So, there’s a part of me that hopes he has some good luck, that some good things happen to him. Then there’s that other part of me that wants to explore what happens to people who have bad luck like that all the time. Like, what kind of person does that make them and then, on the island, what kind of person does that make them on the island? Because none of the rules apply anymore.

The only rule that applies to Michael is that his bad luck will continue.

(Laughs)

He gets hit by a car, his girl leaves him, she takes his kid, he has a hard time working, gets into a plane crash…whatever.

Don’t forget about the boat…

Oh, and his boat gets burned down…What is good in this man’s life?

Have you got to the point where you look at the script and say, “Are you serious? You’re gonna have this thing happen to him this week?”

I did, I did say that when he first almost gets drowned but then when I started to read his backstory I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me…No one has luck that bad.”

And when I found out that they were kidnapping the kid I asked them if they were serious because what did he do in a past life to deserve this?

Yeah, they obviously kidnapped him at the end of the episode, and speaking of aspirations, are you concerned of where this might go?

Yeah, absolutely I’m concerned about what it’s going to be like. All I can think of is what would happen if for five minutes someone took my daughter.

God…

Exactly. Exactly. You’re exactly right. And so I’ve got to imagine this is going to be the first couple of episodes, however long it is, and I can only imagine this is going to be heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching kind of agony.

I can’t imagine…

Exactly. It’s almost unimaginable. So, I’ve been reading things lately about people who’ve had kids who were taken. What they did, how they responded, just to give me an idea of what to feel but I’ve never, thank God, been in that position.

Are the shooting days long? Are you ever shooting late and having to call home to say you’re not going to be there?

Well, it’s different, because she’s 10 and is becoming more of an individual so that’s pretty helpful. And since they’re there with me on the island, on days that it’s light they come to the set with me and they get to hang out and get to know the whole cast. Or, if I have a half day of shooting I’ll go and meet them somewhere or I’ll go pick her up from school.

The days that I don’t work I wake up early and go to school with them so I just, when we do have the time, to make the time to be there with them. And then there’s still, not just time for work and for the family, but for myself.

Exactly.

So there’s a bit of me trying to make it all work. That’s the part that I get the least amount of and I got to figure out a way to get a little bit more.

Oahu is certainly small so where does one go to get that kind of personal time? To get away from everyone else?

I usually just park my car.

We live on the east end of the island and sometimes I literally just park the car at a beach in-between. It’s like, “I can’t go home right now.”

Filmic aspirations. You’ve got this great thing happening on television and did great things in THE MATRIX films. Do you actively seek out projects you could do in your downtime?

Lost is a particular thing for me. I didn’t really pick it because I thought it was a good job. I took it because I felt I needed to make a change in the way my career was going and what I mean by that is that I’ve been doing pretty well in movies and TV stuff and everything I seem to do is fringe stuff.

The MATRIX films are like the biggest things I’ve done and it did well but they didn’t do as well as the first one. And so what I felt like was that what I needed…I didn’t realize it before but part of being a part of acting is how many people know your name and how much audience you can bring in and that’s how you get a chance to work. And before it was like I didn’t care, I was just like “whatever, I just want to do the work.” Now I want to do more work and so I feel like my contemporaries, the Don Cheadles and Jeffrey Wrights, those guys, those guys whose names are out there a little more and get the films, I figured I needed to have my name out there a little more. That was part of the reason I decided to take Lost.

So, that’s a long way of saying that between seasons I do actively look for work but this year there was nothing that came up and I didn’t want to do stuff just to do stuff but I do want to continue to move forward. I really want to have a long career as far as films go because I really love making films. And even as far as going back to New York and doing Broadway, doing things like that, I am just trying to put myself in the position where my name will ring just like when you hear Don Cheadle’s name.

Yeah, even when I was telling people that I was going to have the chance to interview Harold from Lost everyone pretty much needed me to explain who you were on the show before they understood it was you, the actor, I was talking about.

And that’s why I thought this was a really great project to do.

You bring up theater and one of the first things that came to my mind was that you are classically trained, as I know you’ve done Shakespeare, Baz Lurhman’s ROMEO AND JULIET and guys like Hugh Jackman are up there winning awards for the work they’re doing OFF the screen. Is that an avenue you’d like to go down?

Oh yeah, it’s totally an aspiration of mine to create, or recreate, a great role on Broadway. I love being in New York and that’s the community I grew up in, of doing theater and things like that. I’d love to, and not that I haven’t already got to work with some fantastic pieces of theater throughout my life, and I’d like to continue that.

I like the venue. I like the live-ness of the theater. I like the unpredictability. That moment, that night, with these people. I love that.

I love that I’m in a mass medium where if you ask me to put up a picture a billion people all across the world…but I like the special-ness of theater. I really really do.

And that’s the other thing: you can have a career in theater but until you make a NAME in theater you can’t really make a living.

I know everyone else on the show has their own animal, their own beast, their own past but since you’re really the only one on the island with a kid how you create a dynamic between yourself and Malcom where there seems to be constant friction? Did the two of you talk and say to each other, “Well, this is where I’m coming from…”

Well, with Malcom I felt it was my job to analyze where he was coming from and I assessed that pretty quickly that he’s really an innate actor. His stuff just comes. He just learns his lines, he comes and he does it. And that’s how it works for him. So, we didn’t have to talk about it. You can give him a direction and he can just figure it out and go that way.

In the first couple of weeks I explained, to his mom at least, not that I wouldn’t be friendly but we wouldn’t be hanging out so much because he’s really charismatic and a lot of fun and kids, you begin to almost immediately, unless they’re a pain in the ass, most kids you almost immediately find a fondness for. I just let him know in the beginning that I’d stay away more than I would be around. I wouldn’t be so talkative and we would just go and do our work.

And as that plan began to fall apart…(Laughs)…Like a kid, he just keeps coming…I realized I had to just be really specific when I did do things. Like when I would touch his hand or touch his hair or he would stand there with his hand on my shoulder and I would say, “Hey, Malcom, in this scene we can’t…” and he would be all, “Right, right, right….”

And then when there were moments of fondness or tenderness, because we already had that with each other those moments were bigger, they were greater because we already had an affection for one another. So, that we didn’t have to talk about. We just had to be there and do it.

I just had to watch it when I could. The difficult thing is that he’s such a great kid, and he likes me, that whenever I had to yell at him he would just start laughing. (Laughs) I would say, “C’mon, Malcom, come on, man, cut it out.” In those first five months if I had to say anything negative he would just start laughing. Especially on my close-ups. Not his. That? No laughter. Mine? Cracking up.

I know that when my editor, last summer, said that if there was one show I should be watching in the fall it should be Lost. And I know that as the weeks grew on there was an aggravation level built into each week. You’d know more about X but you would just be introduced to Y. When you watch the show is there a frustration level on your part as well as you see how these puzzle pieces all seem to be random? Or do you start thinking, “Oh, they should’ve tied this story up in this place.”

I can’t speak for everyone but I know, for me, I am pretty satisfied. There is one thing that does frustrate me endlessly, and I don’t know if it is you I should be saying this to, or to the writers, is that the script we do get when we finally do get it, you make choices on your character based on the scenes and the lines that are in the script. But then, inevitably, whenever they go back and edit the show or do those things, like “This doesn’t work, that doesn’t work…” or they run out of time or, “This is too long,” and they start editing it. And then, what inevitably happens, is that every time you see something, you realize you made all these choices, the choices don’t necessarily make sense anymore. Because they’ve cut them in a really funny way. They’ve cut out a line or they’ve cut out a word.

There was a scene with a hatchet that I had with Daniel. And there’s a huge part of it that they completely took out which justifies most of what I did. But with that being cut out it looked really different to me. If I knew those were the words I would’ve played it different.

So, that winds up being a little frustrating. Or you see something you go, “Oh! They ended it this way now? If I knew they were going to end it like this I would’ve…” Know what I mean? And that’s the biggest frustration but I understand it’s part of the process of them making the best show they can make. That’s the part that’s difficult.

We’re pretty satisfied but in every show, every actor, every time goes, “Why’d they cut that out?”

I know talking with Josh and Maggie they both mentioned how close all of you are. How important is that to you, that closeness? With this being a seemingly large, ensemble cast, does your relationship with your other actors impact your performance?

I think so. I think it makes it easy to do the hard stuff. The best way I can describe it is when I did the show “Oz.” And it’s a show about prison and everyone is doing horrible things to each other. The only way you can really go far, and be really awful, is if the other actor trusts you so that it never feels like, “Oh, you just did that because you feel that way personally.” So, if the other actor trusts you and the both of you are really secure that you’re both acting then you can let it all fly and be really crazy, weird and nasty. And because you’re on this island where things go bad and go wrong and sometimes you do this heinous stuff and sometimes you do great stuff but what we need is to be able and trust each other.

And we don’t know where anything is going. So, not only do we need to trust each other for the bad stuff but we need to trust each other for the stuff that is seemingly good if my character and Yoon-jin Kim’s character actually do get together we need to trust each other enough to know that this doesn’t cross, like, into my personal life. And if we lose that trust, I don’t think it will help the show out if that ever goes away, it will only make it worse. From the acting point of view it will only seem forced and weird and you’ll always look at it and go, “Why is that…that’s just awful…”

I believe that if the people are off then the scene never hits you. I just hope we always stay close and that it never gets weird. Hopefully we can always be close and tight.


THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005) Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer
Release: October 5, 2005
Synopsis: The patriarch (Jeff Daniels) of an eccentric Brooklyn family claims to once have been a great novelist, but he has settled into a teaching job. When his wife (Laura Linney) discovers a writing talent of her own, jealousy divides the family, leaving two teenage sons to forge new relationships with their parents. Linney’s character begins dating her younger son’s tennis coach. Meanwhile, Daniels’ character has an affair with the student his older son is pursuing.
View Trailer:
* Medium (QuickTime)
Prognosis: Next… I’m not quite sure if this intro does anything for me.

It doesn’t convey anything about the narrative, it’s a little odd and the static way it’s presented, no voiceover or provided context, just leaves me feeling distant from the whole thing.

When we open, we get a lonely looking boy, strumming his guitar all alone in his bedroom. He’s not the greatest player since Hendrix but he’s practicing off of some sheet music. The camera feels a need to get real close and tight on the title although I haven’t a clue why. It doesn’t really inform anything nor does the subsequent scene of said boy, strumming his guitar, except this time he has his brother, wearing those 80’s style short shorts. I’m convinced that due to the size of those Daisy Dukes For Men that the reason they went the way of the dinosaur for one reason: accidental sac slips. They were obnoxious and I am glad to have them shoved right in front of my face in this trailer. His brother’s pair aren’t as bad but they are just prelude to the next scene.

Tennis, anyone? So yeah, the Sac Slippers are in full display here as Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels play a round with their young boys. Daniels gets off a sweet shot into Laura’s chest, hilarity ensuing, but I get the vibe of the trailer. There is something not quite right about this household and there’s some very bad electricity making its way between the four of them.

Daniels and Linney tell the boys they’re breaking up. What gets me is that this movie “feels” like a serious ORDINARY PEOPLE kind of film, and there’s everything present to substantiate that but when one of the boys makes a crack, after being told how visitation will work between the father and the mother, about what kind of visitation the cat will get I’m yanked back. Further, when Daniels takes over the voiceover to tell how he’s found a wonderful space for the three of them to share, that it’s one of the best on the block, we eventually see that it’s a crummy crap hole. Again, one of the boys, after being told that the house comes with a writing desk, those single wooden plates attached to a rickety metal chair, cracks wise that the chair’s for a lefty. Oh, the comedy.

As the trailer progresses the older brother has a stand-off with his mother as he confronts her about her infidelity, driving the family to the situation it’s in right now. After this trailer tries hard to be glib, the boy calling their once happy home a brothel, men coming in and out, Laura doesn’t deny anything but comments that he sounds just like his father. Is it witty, is this some kind of black comedy that isn’t hitting me right? I’m not sure but when the younger brother wants to take up tennis and gets into it with the dad the two of them have a giggly back and forth about the nature of a philistine.

I do give it up for throwing Anna Paquin into the mix, there obviously being some sort of thing going on between her and Daniels. Disregarding that the two of them share a nice moment as they kiss I hope you can put it out of your head that he played her father in FLY AWAY HOME. The eww factor is only counter-balanced by the older boy’s run at trying to find a girl of his own.

I’m not sure the world needs another movie that is fixated on the lives of college professors who have this uncontrollable urge to bed their students. It’s almost like the profession is beset on both sides by nubile, hot looking chicks who want to give it up to a wrinkly old prune of a professor. From WONDERBOYS to ANIMAL HOUSE the life of an English teacher must be a hot one. Who knew? Oh yeah, and before I forget, as the trailer comes to a close I must add this: if you do plan on getting wild with college chicks and you’re thinking of being an English teacher you have to, absolutely have to, get a brown, rumpled, corduroy jacket.


THE PRODUCERS (2005) Director: Susan Stroman
Cast: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Will Ferrell, Roger Bart, Gary Beach
Release: December 21, 2005
Synopsis: Two-time Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick return to their celebrated roles as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, a scheming theatrical producer and his mousy CPA who hit upon the perfect plan to embezzle a fortune: raise far more money than you need to produce a sure-fire Broadway flop and then (since no one will expect anything back), Max and Leo can pocket the difference. To do this, they need the ultimate bad play, which they find in the musical Springtime for Hitler. Their plans come to naught and the duo are taken completely by surprise when their new production is hailed as a toast-of-the-town hit. Will Ferrell also brings his spot-on comic talents to the role of Franz Liebkind, the neo-Nazi playwright (and pigeon fancier) responsible for penning the “worst play ever written.”.
View Trailer:
* Medium (Flash)
Prognosis: Positive. I’ve never been one to catch a lot of company theater.

There is something to be said about the safety of multiple BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, LION KING, MISS SAIGON, JOSEPH AND THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT productions which hit sinkholes like Phoenix, Arizona. It is indeed rare to get anything of any great substantive thematic weight around these parts. You may get an occasional Eric Bogosian production but these are usually limited to a one-night stand, one-time only kind of deal. That’s why I wasn’t so sure about the filmic potential of yet another play turned into film. Sure, CHICAGO did wonderfully, critically speaking, but can this kind of production translate well into a format which lends itself to subtlety? With Mel Brooks behind the project you have a better chance than anyone else in the business to make something that’s funny yet has that certain deadpan style which this production lends itself to.

Everyone pretty much knows what this is all about and I am glad that we launch into this trailer at the beginning without a lot of exposition. The first words out of Matthew Broderick’s mouth quickly explain that a producer could make more money with a flop than with a hit. The jaunty music in the background is just right as Nathan Lane takes the reigns from here in stating, dramatically and obnoxiously, that they need to find the worst play ever written. This much we already know but Brooks takes the chance here to add in really zany moments. The framing and the way we’re looking at our players all point to his work but it’s somehow transcendent. The minutiae, little scenes, which rapid fire in front of us isn’t at all distracting as it is genuinely funny. The kick I get out seeing Will Ferrell in a Kaiser helmet outweighs any negativity that I might feel for this being a shameless, cash-in rehash of a remake.

It isn’t a shameless anything as I think this movie is coming from a place that is at once a project of love for a few involved and the fact that Nathan here has one of the best moments of the trailer, a really old woman wants him to fulfill her every need and the two of them have a “moment” at a hot dog cart where a long, dripping wiener stands-in for an amusing double-entendre, just shows that this isn’t a phone-in, either.

Matthew Broderick and Uma Thurman, who, I have to admit, didn’t really click with me as I pondered what in hell she could bring to something like this, really pair up well together as Matthew has some impressive pipes with Uma providing the kind of sex appeal that’s really needed to bring in the younger sect. Nathan, as well, plays his straight magic a second time in this trailer as he comments on Uma’s dancing inside their office.

Ferrell’s impromptu singing is also a thing of beauty. Who would’ve thunk that Gene, the cowbell behind Blue Oyster Cult, would be such an amazing presence on the stage? What I also think is important to point out that because now that there is some Hollywood dollars behind this production you can expect the dance numbers to be more robust, more exaggerated. This can only mean good things when you see a line-up of dazzling dancers using walkers as props.

Let the comedy begin.

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