‘From’ Star Harold Perrineau Reflects on Society as ‘Oz’ Hits 25th Anniversary

Harold Perrineau in OZ
HBO/courtesy Everett Collection

Harold Perrineau has been a part of two iconic works of television, each showcasing opposite sides of the same spectrum.

One is the side of America that fears getting stranded on an island and surviving off merit alone instead of status, the other is the side that fears incarceration due to the system they’ve seen fail and loved ones who they’ve witnessed fall to that fate.

Lost and Oz each examined the world in a microcosm and how its inhabitants respond to their respective settings and Perrineu’s From looks to study those same aspects. Created by John Griffin, the series revolves around a nightmarish town in middle America that traps everyone who enters. The unwilling residents of this creepy town strive to stay alive and search for a way out but are tormented by the terrifying nocturnal creatures from the surrounding forest.

Harold Perrineau in From


In addition to Perrineau, the ensemble cast includes Catalina Sandino Moreno, Eion Bailey, David Alpay, Shaun Majumder, Ricky He, Hannah Cheramy, and Avery Konrad, among others.

“I think it makes people consider what you would do in the worst-case scenarios,” Perrineu told TV Insider. “And we all want to feel like; in the worst-case scenarios, our best person will show up. We kind of feel like, ‘yes, you know, if it got really bad, this is what I would do.’ And I think that never really is the truth,” he said, chuckling.

Perrineau teases what’s to come ahead of From Season 2, his feelings about Oz 25 years after its series finale, and the themes surrounding his most famous projects, including ABC’s Lost.

After From Season 1, fans had a lot of questions. Will Season 2 deliver some answers or just leave us with more questions?

Well, I gotta be honest, I think for however long the show goes on, there’s probably going to be questions. I don’t think anybody would feel good if, like, we gave you all the answers and expected anybody to come back.

Some of the questions from Season 1 definitely we’ll get them answered. But we still are in a pretty obscure world, and they’re all still trying to figure out what’s happening. It’s just that–with whatever’s happening in Season 2–it ramps up super fast, at least from how I read it. I haven’t seen any of it yet. But […] all of a sudden, it’s just turned up just a notch. And it all seems to be happening fast. So we get some answers about a few things, but definitely more questions.

Is there anything different about filming Season 2 of From compared to Season 1?

What’s interesting is that in Season 1, I didn’t know a lot of the things. Me Harold, the actor, I didn’t know a lot of what was going on, but I knew some things. And so I had some grounding. And the grounding was in some stuff about our family, my wife, and all these other things. And then the rest of the stuff we built. In Season 2, I actually never had any idea what was coming next.

Is there a specific mystery you’re looking forward to being solved?

More than anything, I just want to know where we are, [and] when we are. any one of those would be really, really helpful. [Laughs] I think it’d be cool, and then maybe you can expect something, but this idea of not knowing where or when we are is really tricky. So that’s one of the answers on From without spoiling anything you’re just not going to get the answer to.

There’s so much about Oz reflected in our society, whether as the pioneer of golden age television or as a critique of America and the prison system. What stands out to you about those aspects of the show?

All the things that you just mentioned, like being the first dramatic series that pushed boundaries, that was exciting and interesting and scary, and nobody knew where it was gonna go. I feel really lucky to have been able to be part a part of that, we had many, many times where executives from HBO would walk in, and they’d look at whatever we were doing, just kind of shake their head. ‘They’re on a leash? Whatever it is, just let them do it.”

That was a really interesting thing to watch, but they were letting us experiment. I’m really glad that we would get to experiment with an actual topic that makes sense in this country that we live in. You know, prison reform, what prison is about, what it does versus what we might want it to be, and how it affects us.

[…] We certainly had to be entertaining, but we could also point the finger at or point an eye toward some of these things. Especially for me, for the community I grew up in, it felt really good to be able to say something about it. Not just sitting around and talking about it, but actually having a real look at this. Let’s see how that happens. Let’s see what violence really looks like. For all those people who think violence is cool, or whatever, like, we got to show you ‘yeah, no, no, this isn’t cool. This is scary shit here.’ So we should remember that. It’s really good to be part of something that says something.

Do you think a fresh reboot of Oz could work today?

I think we still have tons of questions about what we’re doing with the prison system here in this country. I think we still have questions about how it affects the African American community, we have questions about how it affects the American community as a whole. So I think there could always be a fresh reboot of Oz. I mean, until we figure out what we’re doing [and] when we need it. Look, it’s still a question for me. There are times I’m really like, ‘prisons work.’ And there were times where I’m like, ‘yeah, lock them up,’ because I’m personally affected by it. I recognize that the questions live in me as much as they live in our country.

Would you return to narrate as a spirit?

I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis, but I would certainly be honored if anybody found a way to rewrite Augustus Hill back into it just a little bit. But, you know, since then, I’ve done a couple of a number of different things in prisons. And I’ve said to myself, I don’t need to be in a real or fake prison, I don’t think, anymore my whole life.

LOST, Harold Perrineau, Malcolm David Kelley, (Season 1), 2004-2010. photo: Mario Perez / © ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Mario Perez / © ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

You’ve starred in many stories with settings that serve as a microcosm of the country, the world, and society at large: what do you think Lost is saying about these characters and their stories?

The answer is probably the same for all of them, from From to Lost to Oz. First of all, the reason we watch any entertainment is we’re looking for conflict and conflict resolution and [to watch] people. I don’t think anybody watches a show where people are just sitting around having just the nicest day ever, there’s always some sort of conflict somewhere. And I just did the show The Best Man: The Final Chapters, and even though those are great friends throughout their whole lives, there’s conflict. But the other shows that I’ve been in that put people in a pressure cooker of conflict, I always like exploring those things.

[…] I think it’s kind of cool to be able to sit back and look at it and then just ask the question and l be entertained by it without actually being in it. One of the things that I thought about Lost was kind of interesting, and to this day, I still find it interesting. A lot of those characters weren’t great people, the characters that we were following. They weren’t great people. And I thought Michael was maybe the nicest person there. He didn’t try to leave his wife; his wife left him. He didn’t want to abandon his son, but he took him, and then, you know, his stepfather was like, ‘I can’t take the kid; you have to take him.’

Michael was just a dude trying to work and do his job, and then they got stuck on the island. He had to make some compromises. And everybody hated that dude. [Laughs] I don’t exactly understand what’s going on. I mean, he really fought for his son. So for me, it’s always kind of interesting [to] watch how audiences respond to things. It lets me know that I don’t know everything with all the different characters that I’ve done [and] all the lives that I’ve explored. You just never know. You know, human beings are really, really, really curious beings. They’re curious creatures.

There’s always so much to glean and to learn from either side of it, either me doing the work or watching people respond to the work. And so, for me, Lost said a lot about, like, how much people love those characters who were really, really flawed. And when you’re not as flawed, now, they kind of hate you a little more. So I’m still curious about that.

FROM, Season 2 Premiere, Sunday, April 23, MGM+