Harold Perrineau is back on television in the new supernatural series Constantine (check your local listings.) The actor — best known for his roles on Sons of Anarchy, Oz and in the popular The Best Man franchise —portrays Manny, a mysterious angel who could be an agent for good or evil.
Here, Perrineau talked his new small screen role, the upcoming Best Man sequel and weighed in on the new TV boom for people of color.
On Constantine you portray an angel named Manny. This role is unlike anything you’ve ever played. Was that your attraction to it?
Manny is on the edge of doing something. He may be doing God’s work or he may not, and right now we don’t know what that is. Constantine is also based on a graphic novel, but this character Manny doesn’t exist in any of the comics. So I get a chance to build this character from the ground up with the creators of the show. I don’t have a template, I’m flying by the seat of my pants and that makes it exciting and edgy. It gives me a lot to work with and I’m having fun with that.
Constantine deals with angels and possible evil forces, and religious imagery on TV can incite backlash. Have you recieved any such feedback about your character?
So far I haven’t heard anything yet but I expect that I will. Angels are curious characters especially in religion. People have strong feelings about what angels are and I think that angels are in a very interesting gray area. They can deliver good news or burn your village down. [Laughs] They are interesting characters. So I imagine at some point people will ask, “What kind of angel are you?” or “Why are you representing angels?” And I think it will be interesting when it happens.
When we last spoke, you said you felt there could be another story in The Best Man franchise and it’s been confirmed that next year there will be. What are your feelings on the third The Best Man movie?
I love those characters. I thought The Best Man Holiday was even better than the first one. And The Best Man was great, so it makes total sense to me that there would be at least one more. I just really like those people and I’m really glad that it’s happening. I love hanging out with those folks. I love Morris [Chestnut], Taye [Diggs] and Terrence [Howard]. Merce is one of the most honest and most straightforward characters I’ve ever played. He’s such a nice guy. I love Merce’s honesty; his hopefulness and I love his work ethic. We haven’t read the script yet. [Director] Malcolm D. [Lee] has been hush about it, but I’m just really glad we’re doing it.
From an viewer's perspective there seems to be a boom for Black actors on television this season. As an actor on the other side of the screen, what’s your take on this movement?
Being on the other side as an actor there’s still quite a lot of work that needs to be done. You have the cast of black-ish, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington playing Olivia Pope out there, but those are very few cases where you have African-Americans driving the thrust of the show. Most often we’re cast in supporting roles, which is really awesome, because those are great characters you can dig into. But there’s still quite of bit work to be done for people of color on television. And not just with African-American actors but with actors of Korean, Japanese and Spanish decent. It’s really cool that there are so many more vehicles, studios and streaming services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon that are looking for content. I think it’s a real possibility for writers and directors to get their stuff out there. And I’m really fortunate to be working, but it doesn’t totally feel like a boom for me yet.
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(Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images)