Harold Perrineau has starred in some amazing films, such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” and “28 Weeks Later.” Yet he is best known for is work on “Oz” and “Lost.” Born in Brooklyn, NY, the actor has brought a combination of raw talent and edginess to his work. “Seeking Justice,” opening March 16th is no exception. Perrineau stars alongside Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, and Jennifer Carpenter in a unique story of vengeance and deception. Cage plays a man whose wife is brutally attacked. He is approached by the head of a vigilante group who offers to settle the score. Yet after he accepts, he finds himself dangerously indebted to them. Perrineau brilliantly portrays his concerned friend and colleague.
Starpulse had the chance to ask the remarkably accomplished actor about working in New Orleans, the effects of Hurricane Katrina on film, and why it’s hard being an action star.
“Seeking Justice” is such an interesting film and you're quite the scene stealer in it.
I don’t know about that but thank you.
What attracted you to this particular project?
One it was to get to work with Nic Cage. I was looking forward to that and when I got there I was reminded that he’s done some amazing work throughout his career. Not only, “Leaving Las Vegas” that he won the Oscar for but all his stuff before, like “Raising Arizona.” So it was really cool to get there an work with him. I forgot what an amazing professional and great actor Nicolas Cage is. Despite anything that goes on, he’s really a great committed actor. So that was a lot of fun. That was one thing that appealed to me. The other thing was, I was really intrigued by that question of, if you’re a victim of a crime or someone you love is a victim of a crime…how far do you go to get justice or revenge and which one is it, justice or revenge? That question for me is a big thing. It’s something I think about often in my life. I’ve done a couple of projects, like “Oz” and prison makes you think: is prison about justice or is it about revenge. Is there retribution? Is there rehabilitation? Those questions come up for me a lot. That’s one of the things that’s really interesting about this film. Asking, which way is the best way to go? Which way would I go? As a moviegoer, would I sit in the movie and watch that? I would. I’d sit there and put myself in his the character’s shoes.
One of the most striking things about “Seeking Justice,” is that it’s an action/revenge film in which the hero and your character work in the New Orleans public school system. Did you any research on that aspect of the city?
When you get to New Orleans, one of the things you realize is that people speak in terms of pre or post Katrina. So because we were going to work in the schools, we found out very quickly how desperate it is there and how much people are rallying to make it better across the board. Public school systems are in trouble across the country but in New Orleans they have something very particular going on. They have schools that they’ve lost and teachers and people who have left the city because of the storm. So you wonder: “is this going to be a generation lost?” There are so many big questions, right away. So when you say “research,” it’s so right there that it doesn’t even feel like research. It’s just the topic of conversation. You’re talking about it all the time an watching it play out as you see kids in the street who are playing music. You don’t want that to go away but you’re asking “Is this cool? In a really good way it’s carrying on the tradition but it’s still a bunch of poor kids. There’s just so many questions so, yes I did research (laughs).
After 9/11, film professionals made a considerable effort to facilitate economic growth in NYC through film production. Do you feel a responsibility, as a member of the film community, to do more work in New Orleans, which experienced its own tragedy? I don’t think there’s necessarily a responsibility in the film community as much as a think there’s a responsibility as an American community. I really do feel that we all thrive together if we work together but we will all perish if we don’t. If we just rush out and leave different parts of our nation to just fall off then yeah we will, like every great Empire, for lack of a better word, just perish.
Do you think ‘Seeking Justice’ will start a trend of films being shot in New Orleans?
I don’t think our film is going to start it off. There’s more film production going on in New Louisiana than anyplace else in the country right now. I think it’s a great thing. In Louisiana there’s just tons and tons of film work and that’s partly trying to get the economy back there. It’s also cheaper for production to go there as well. So, I think it’s a trend that started before our film and will continue on after our film. There are a lot of really rich great things that you can capture there that are really helpful to films. It’s a really great thing that that kind of work is showing up there and all of those other influences are coming in to help re-build that city. I really feel lucky to have been able to do anything there. It’s been really cool and educational, and fun for me.
You’ve talked about working with Nicolas Cage and you starred in the “Matrix” sequels with Keanu Reeves. What did you learn from these action film icons that has stayed with you?
When I hadn’t worked with them, I didn’t think their job was so hard but now that I’ve worked with them… man, it’s a hard job. Keanu Reeves in the “Matrix” movies, the guy never stopped moving. He went from shooting something to rehearsing something, to working out, to learning lines. He’d go to sleep, then come back and do the whole thing all over again. It was a 24-hour a day job for 2 ½ years. There was hardly a day off. I can’t do those kinds of things. I just did something really recently with Dwayne Johnson, it was really brief but the guy gets up and works out two hours a day before he comes to the set. It’s a hard gig. You can hardly get me to go to a yoga class once a week (laughs). There’s a lot that really goes into it an I respect what they do. It’s not easy to be an action hero.
I understand that you’re playing Sammy Davis JR in the upcoming Linda Lovelace film.
I don’t know if that film’s actually going to happen. It was one we were supposed to do with Lindsay Lohan a couple of years ago and then that all exploded. I think they got another actress but still, everything is a little up in the air, so that’s not going to go down but I’m getting ready to go away to do something with Kathryn Bigelow. I don’t know what I’m doing, I know it’s called “Killing Bin Laden.” I just know I’m supposed to leave the country and do something.
Yeah it’s really kind of cool.