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Feature: Lost

Harold Perrineau

Star Harold Perrineau tells us how his character Michael Dawson is finding his stay in “paradise” to be a nightmare…

Being a single parent is tough enough nowadays without having to care for your child in a place that’s also home to everything from mad scientists to a malevolent black mist-like entity. On Lost, Michael Dawson is forced to do just that after a plane crash maroons him, his son Walt and four dozen or so other people on a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean. Having only recently taken custody of Walt following the death of his ex-lover and his son’s mother, it’s no surprise that Michael needs a little time to readjust to parenthood. Meanwhile, Walt can’t help but see his dad as anything but a stranger having been separated from him for so long. Ironically, actor Harold Perrineau had similar feelings about his character of Michael early on in the show’s first season.

“I was somewhat confused about him at first,” admits Perrineau. “Because the show’s writers and producers don’t give us much information ahead of time, I had no idea where the character was headed. I mean, I didn’t know, for example, how Michael spoke, the sort of attention span he had, or even how passionate as well as compassionate he was. Also, being an actor who likes to work a lot I was a bit concerned at the very beginning of last year that I wasn’t working enough. I just felt that Michael wasn’t all that important to the overall story.

“Little by little, though, the writers began taking what I was bringing to the screen in my performance along with their own ideas about Michael and started building upon all that. That’s when he really began to come together as a fully-realized individual, and as the season went on I became more and more excited about the direction they were taking with my character and the fact that we were leaning more about him.”

After a few weeks on the island, Michael becomes fed up with waiting to be rescued and starts constructing a raft that he hopes will get him back to civilization. After a series of mishaps, Michael’s raft finally sets sail in Lost’s first season finale, with Walt, Jin and Sawyer along for the ride. Their journey is cut short, however, after a surprise encounter with some of the island’s more enigmatic and unsavoury residents.

“I don’t swim, or at least I didn’t swim when we shot last year’s finale,” says Perrineau. “So just being out on that raft was a little scary for me. Also, at the time we hadn’t received the final pages of the script, so we didn’t know how the second half of the episode ended. When I found out the night before that the raft was going to be destroyed and our characters would wind up floating in the water, I also got a call from the show’s production office asking, ‘Harold, is it true you can’t swim?’ I was like, ‘Yes, it is’. Of course, we were going to be shooting in the ocean as opposed to a water tank in some nice safe soundstage. On the day we filmed the scene with the raft going up in flames I told myself, ‘OK, be brave now, and just jump into the water.’ Happily, everything turned out fine and I didn’t drown,” jokes the actor.

by Steven Eramo

Read the full interview in
TV Zone #201

Lost © ABC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

Taken from
TV Zone #201, see below for ordering options
TV Zone #201
May 2006
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