Harold Perrineau is getting in touch with his meaner side this season on Sons of Anarchy. The season opener (Tuesday, Sept. 11, 10/9c, FX) will find the former Oz and Lost actor playing Damon Pope, a dangerous adversary for the club — understandable, given that SAMCRO was responsible for the death of his daughter last season. Perrineau spoke with TV Guide Magazine about the perils of crossing his SOA character and still being "That Guy From Lost."
TV Guide Magazine: So, Damon Pope. Is it fair to say he's looking for vengeance, after SAMCRO was responsible for his daughter's death?
Perrineau: That's a fair assessment. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: But now, in the process of laying the smackdown on the club, does he realize, "Maybe there's an opportunity here"?
Perrineau: Well, Jax [Charlie Hunnam] is now in the power seat at the end of the table, and there are going to be two unlikely guys that are in his ear. One of those guys is Damon Pope. The other one of those guys is the character Jimmy Smits is playing, Nero. Nero definitely has an idea about how to make your money; get it, get out. Pope has a way of, like, how to make your money, how to keep making your money, you know what I mean? The way to stay in business and on top of business. So there are going to be two guys with very interesting points of view, and all that stuff is going to play into how Jax starts to lead the MC.
TV Guide Magazine: So it sounds like you guys are...
Perrineau: You know how you have those relationships in your life? Boyfriend, guy, whatever, you have this relationship: "Well, it's complicated." [Laughs] I would say Damon Pope and Jax's relationship is "complicated."
TV Guide Magazine: Someone's going to make a fake Facebook page for you guys now and make that happen.
Perrineau: [Laughs] Maybe!
TV Guide Magazine: There are all kinds of antagonists, or even weird allies. There's big and broad; affably evil; people like Breaking Bad's Gus Fring who are quiet but mean mothers when they need to be. What is Damon Pope?
Perrineau: Aaah right. Well here's another one: Damon Pope is a man who has lost his daughter really violently. Damon Pope is a smart guy as well. And you don't want him on your bad side. He is definitely not someone you want to cross. And when you do, it really just is a problem. [Laughs] At the end of the day, it's just a problem. There's no way around it. He is very calculating. What he needs to be, he is. And when he doesn't, he isn't. Every move you see Damon Pope make, you'll know it's thought out. That it wasn't just, "Oh, he got angry." I don't think you're ever going to see that from him. At least, that's how it's feeling so far. Everything you see, you'll go, like, "Aw Jesus, where's that going?" [Laughs] That's how he stays on top of the world where he sits.
TV Guide Magazine: Do people on the street tend to recognize you as Michael from Lost? Do they yell "Waaaaalt!" at you?
Perrineau: It doesn't happen on the street as much, but I'm surprised, honestly; every day there's at least five people who only say "Waaaaalt!" That's all they say. It's always surprising, like, again, today?
TV Guide Magazine: Will they be yelling something else at you after this role?
Perrineau: You know, I really don't know. The thing I find really interesting about this is that people say, "Wow, Damon Pope is gonna be a really bad guy," and I keep going, "These guys are all bad guys! I dunno if y'all noticed, but... They're a bike gang." [Laughs] None of these guys are the guys that you're going to be like "Mom! Look who I'm dating!" But it'll be really interesting to see how people receive it, because Damon Pope's a guy whose daughter got killed. She didn't have anything to do with it. He's justifiably angry. And if you are angry and you have the resources, would you use them? People probably will be mad, because we all love SAMCRO.
TV Guide Magazine: It's always funny to me when people are like, "Yeah, SAMCRO is the best!" It goes back to what you were saying before: These are not nice people.
Perrineau: [Laughs] They kill people on a whim!
TV Guide Magazine: Were you a fan before?
Perrineau: I had seen it a few times before. This is really interesting: I'd seen it a few times the first year, but I didn't watch it much because there was a whole lawsuit with Chuck Zito, and Chuck Zito's my buddy from Oz, so I just watched sparingly. [Zito pitched a show about a motorcycle club to FX, which passed on Zito's show but went on to develop Sons with Kurt Sutter. Zito sued, but the case was dismissed.] And then this year I was doing this movie Zero Dark Thirty in India, and what was playing [there] was Sons of Anarchy, so I started watching. I was like, "Ohhh yeah this is great." Then when I got home [series creator] Kurt [Sutter] and I hooked up and now I'm on the show. It was just some wild coincidence. But I'm a big ole fan. What a great cast they have. Jimmy Smits and I haven't had any scenes together yet, but we got to hang out at the TCA [press tour], and I'm just having a... Like, holy smokes. I get to hang out with people I think are awesome, and do work I think is awesome. It's really cool.
TV Guide Magazine: What's been the most fun scene to film, or the most challenging?
Perrineau: Ooh. I would say my very first episode has been the most fun and challenging. And this is the conversation I had with Kurt before we started [the season]: He said, "Listen, there are going to be some things that you're going to read, it's just me expressing my... You might be surprised by it, but just stay the course with me and it'll be okay." And I was like, "Kurt, I've been trapped on an island, I've been in jail with guys who give b------s to get smack, I'm sure you're going to write some cool stuff, but nothing's going to surprise me." The first episode, I was in my bedroom going, "Aw, man, ugh. Yeouch. All right, that stings." So that's been my favorite so far. Now, don't judge me after you see it.
TV Guide Magazine: Oh, well now I'm definitely going to.
Perrineau: [Laughs] It's not real, it's just acting! Everybody's okay!