Actor Harold Perrineau reveals why his character slowly disappeared from «Lost.»

On the ABC series, Perrineau, known for his roles in «Oz» and «Romeo + Juliet,» played construction worker and artist Michael, who is stranded on the beach with his son, Walt (Malcolm David Kelley). . Although Perrineau was one of the biggest names on «Lost,» his character appeared less frequently over time. Recently, he revealed that he was fired after requesting that Michael have «the same depth» compared to the other survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.

In an excerpt from author and television critic Maureen Ryan’s new book, «Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood,» published on vanity fair, Perrineau opened up about being cast from the hit drama and his experience working with showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Perrineau, as well as multiple “Lost” actors and writers, are quoted in the book(on sale June 6) detailing a toxic environment behind the scenes.

Harold Perrineau at the 5th Annual American Black Film Festival on March 5, 2023 in West Hollywood, CA.
Harold Perrineau at the 5th Annual American Black Film Festival on March 5, 2023 in West Hollywood, CA.Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

Lindelof, Cuse and ABC did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.

The 59-year-old actor told Ryan that he joined the cast because the creative team crafted a story that «was really even» and highlighted all the characters. He recalled that he was initially «so believer» until he noticed in the first season that Michael was missing.

“It became pretty clear that I was the black guy. Daniel (Dae Kim) was the Asian guy. And then there was Jack and Kate and Sawyer,” he said. Jack, Kate, and Sawyer were played by Matthew Fox, Josh Holloway, and Evangeline Lilly, all white actors.

Perrineau said actors of color also stood in the back row or on the ends during cast photo shoots.

He recalled sharing his concerns with a producer. “’I don’t have to be first, I don’t have to have the most episodes, but I would like to be in the mix. But it seems like now it’s a story about Jack, Kate and Sawyer,’” he said at the time.

In response, Perrineau said the producer responded that «Lost» fans found Jack, Kate and Sawyer «relatable.»

Then came one story in particular in the second season that Perrineau said «was too much.»

He said he read a draft of a script that centered on Walt’s kidnapping. Although Michael was separated from Walt, Perrineau said the father only inquired about his son’s whereabouts once.

“Michael asks Sawyer questions about his past, about how he feels, but he never brings up Walt again,” he shared.

The actor explained why the writing was problematic. “’I don’t think he can do that,’” he thought at the time. “I can’t be another person who doesn’t mind missing black kids, even in the context of fiction, right? This just furthers the narrative that nobody cares about black children, not even black parents.»

He said he broached the story with Lindelof and Cuse in a phone call. Perrineau pointed to differences in screen time and the change in creatives who were initially eager to cast him as well.

«If they’re going to use me, let’s work,» he recalled telling the two showrunners. “I am here to work. I’m good at my job and I’ll do what you want. Except being ‘the black guy’ on your show.”

He stressed the importance of showing Michael that he cares about his son. In a rewritten script, Michael’s scenes focused on his life before he landed on the island, but Perrineau said he sensed a change in his relationship with the showrunners.

Harold Perrineau as Michael Dawson in "Lost."
Harold Perrineau as Michael Dawson in «Lost.»Mario Perez / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Before the season two finale was filmed, Cuse approached Perrineau and told him that his character would not be returning for the third season, the actor revealed.

“I was screwed about it,” Perrineau shared. «I was like, ‘Oh, I just got fired, I think.'»

Asked for an explanation, Perrineau said Cuse responded, «‘Well, you know, you told us, if we don’t have anything good for you, you want to go.'»

“I was just asking for the same depth,” Perrineau told Ryan. «It was all a lot of, ‘How dare you?'»

At the time, Perrineau did not know if Michael would appear in future seasons. However, Michael later had a guest role in several episodes of the fourth season and appeared in one episode of the final season.

Perrineau wasn’t the only one who shared on «Burn It Down» that they were abruptly let go. Writer-producer Monica Owusu-Breen, who joined the writers’ room for season three, likened the working conditions to a «hazing» situation as she spoke with Ryan.

“All I wanted to do was write some great episodes of a great show. That was impossible in that staff,” she said.

Owusu-Breen continued: “There was no way to navigate that situation. Part of it was that they didn’t really like their characters of color. When you have to go home and cry for an hour before you can see your kids because you have to get rid of all the stress you’ve been holding onto, you’re not going to write anything good after that.»

She said that working on the set was akin to navigating «high school», adding that it was «relentlessly cruel» and «blatantly hostile».

“I have never heard so many racist comments in one room in my career,” he said.

Ryan provided examples of some of the comments Owusu-Breen said she heard while working on the show, including «no grandparent wants a slant-eyed grandchild» when a staff member adopted an Asian child and Lindelof allegedly claimed that Perrineau «me He called him a racist, so I fired his ass.

Owusu-Breen and her writing partner at the time, Alison Schapker, were later fired. “I was so happy to get fired,” Owusu-Breen shared.

The writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach did not have too many positive memories of his time on the set of «Lost». He left the show after the second season.

“Let me say it loud and clear: it is was so bad, and no one did anything because retribution was a constant and looming presence,» he said in Ryan’s book.

Ryan spoke with Lindelof multiple times about the allegations by Perrineau, Owusu-Breen and others.

“My fundamental level of inexperience as a manager and boss, my role as someone who was supposed to model a creative climate of danger and risk-taking, but provide safety and comfort within the creative process — I failed in that effort,” Lindelof. said in 2021.

Speaking specifically of Perrineau, he said he could not recall «ever» commenting «so I fired him.»

«What can I say? Other than that it breaks my heart that this was Harold’s experience,» Ms. Davis said, the co-creator said. «And I’ll just concede that the events you’re describing happened 17 years ago. , and I don’t know why someone would make that up about me.»

Lindelof acknowledged the discrepancy in screen time given to some of the white actors.

He said: «All the actors expressed some degree of disappointment that they weren’t being used enough… That was integral to an ensemble show, but obviously there was a disproportionate amount of focus on Jack and Kate and Locke and Sawyer – the white characters. Harold was absolutely right to point that out. It’s one of the things I’ve deeply regretted in the two decades since.»

Cuse addressed the allegations in a written statement through a public relations representative.

Although he wrote that he was not present and did not hear the comments Ryan mentioned to him, he said: “I am deeply sorry that someone on ‘Lost’ has to listen to them. They are very insensitive, inappropriate and offensive.”

His statement read: “It breaks my heart to hear it. It is deeply upsetting to know that there were people who had such bad experiences. I didn’t know people felt that way. No one has ever complained to me, nor have I been aware of anyone complaining to ABC Studios. I wish I had known. I would have done what I could to make changes.»

Both Cuse and Lindelof told Ryan that Kelley’s growth spurt while filming the show limited Michael and Walt’s storylines. «We didn’t know how to solve this problem other than to solve Michael’s story at the end of season two,» Cuse wrote.

Cuse also denied that Perrineau was fired, saying the actor went from a main cast member to a recurring role.