An accomplished young actor who has graced the stage, screen, and television, Harold Perrineau Jr. has earned a well-deserved reputation as a performer willing to take on just about anything, with roles ranging from drag queens to hardened criminals. A native of Brooklyn, Perrineau studied music and theatre at the Shenandoah Conservatory, but began his career as a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Company, performing with the troupe for a year and a half. A gradual shift to acting led Perrineau to the theatre, where he acted in a number of shows including Dreamgirls, the critically acclaimed Avenue X, and the off-Broadway revival of Godspell.
While he was working on the stage, Perrineau also began appearing on TV in such shows as The Cosby Show, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, I'll Fly Away, and Law & Order. He segued onto the big screen in the late '80s, but had his memorable role as Rashid Cole, a young man searching for his long-absent father (Forest Whitaker) in Smoke, an acclaimed 1995 drama directed by Wayne Wang and based upon the writings of Paul Auster. The following year he gained further exposure for his flamboyant, explosive portrayal of Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. At one point outfitted in a glitter miniskirt and platform heels, Perrineau proved a worthy, if idiosyncratic, foil for Leonardo DiCaprio's Romeo and gave a performance that marked him as one of the more distinctive Mercutios in the play's history.
Perrineau subsequently appeared in a number of supporting roles in films ranging from Auster's Lulu on the Bridge (1998) to The Best Man (1999), a celebrated romantic comedy directed by Malcolm D. Lee (cousin of Spike Lee) that saw Perrineau share the screen with other members of a group widely billed as a new generation of African-American actors, including Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, and Nia Long. In addition to appearances in various independent films, Perrineau starred in Women on Top (2000), a comedy that cast him as a drag queen best friend of a young woman (Penelope Cruz) experiencing romantic woes.
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