Brooklyn-born actor Harold Perrineau has a knack for picking memorable roles. He's played Augustus Hill, the wheelchair-using inmate/narrator on HBO's Oz, spaceship pilot Link in the Matrix films and now Michael, the troubled single dad stranded on ABC's Lost (Wednesdays, 8 pm/ET). A 36-year-old married father in real life, Perrineau's been living it up on location in Hawaii while attempting to unlock the secrets of Lost's mysterious island.
TVGuide.com: Are you surprised Lost became such a hit?
Harold Perrineau: After we read the pilot [script], we all kept saying, "This is really good, right? Am I crazy? This is good." When it took off, we were all really excited about it and sort of surprised, I guess.
TVG: Did J.J. Abrams include a wheelchair in your backstory because you'd used one on Oz?
Perrineau: [Laughs] We don't know what goes on in the heads of our writers. But I certainly doubt that they worked the wheelchair thing in for me. I thought it was funny, though.
TVG: At least you knew what you were doing.
Perrineau: Yeah. Exactly. I remember being on the set that day going, "This is really weird. I'm in a wheelchair, but none of you people are usually here."
TVG: This could spawn one of those conspiracy theories.
Perrineau: It could, like [the castaways] really landed in prison.
TVG: What's your favorite out-there theory about Lost? Got one of your own?
Perrineau: I actually love the purgatory one because that leaves a lot of room for crazy stuff to happen. That is an odd and interesting idea. Mine is more general — I think it's some sort of government conspiracy. Like [it's] a hidden island; they know we are there, but they won't come and get us.
TVG: Interesting. What have they told you that we don't know?
Perrineau: They don't tell us anything. [Not] a thing! That makes it sometimes really difficult. Sometimes you get the scripts and you are like, "What? Oh, OK."
TVG: Have you bonded with Malcolm David Kelley, who plays your on-screen son Walt?
Perrineau: No, I hate him. He's terrible. He's the worst. [Laughs] No, I love Malcolm. He's my buddy. He's really charismatic, smart and funny and open. If you don't bond with Malcolm, it would be really weird, because he's such a great kid.
TVG: Is it strange that at 12, he's the only kid on your set?
Perrineau: It's a little weird because sometimes adult conversation gets a little carried away and we turn around and its like, "Oh, god, sorry." But he also loves it. He's a special one. If he is there, all the attention turns to him.
TVG: There is that old cautionary saying about working with kids and animals.
Perrineau: I've got them both [on the show]. It is not about me ever. [Laughs]
TVG: Will there be another Michaelcentric episode this season?
Perrineau: I don't think so. Not so far. Maybe next season we'll start more Michaelcentric stuff. That's a really cool [word]. "Michaelcentric."
TVG: Thanks, but we want to know more about him!
Perrineau: Me, too! It would be really helpful. But what we have now is pretty cool. It almost doesn't matter who he was before. What I'm doing right now is getting off this island.
TVG: The show is so multicultural without ever being stereotypical. Did that attract you to the part?
Perrineau: That is absolutely appealing. When I first got the job, I was fascinated by it. When I started talking to the writers, I didn't even have to say to them, "Can we not do the black-guy story?" Because every time there is a story about a black guy, it is about him being black, and there are issues because he's a black guy. They were talking to me before I even opened my mouth. It has really been spectacular. When the issue does come up, and sometimes it does, it's addressed and handled really well. I really love that. I loved being on Oz and that was pretty multicultural, but at the end of the day, a lot of people were like, "Yeah, but it is a bunch of black dudes in jail." So that felt like defeating the purpose.
TVG: Would you like to see Michael have a romance?
Perrineau: That'd be nice. Everyone else is getting some kissing and stuff like that. I thought there was going to be something with Sun, but I don't know if they are going to keep developing it or not — I certainly hope so. It would be interesting to see how [they'd] handle that with a kid who just lost his mother. There is no sneaking around on an island. So what do you do when you start to feel something for someone? That would be something interesting to explore.