Harold Perrineau Recalls Being Fired From ‘Lost’ After Requesting ‘Equal Depth’ For His Character

Actor Harold Perrineau is finally shedding light on his removal from ABC’s Lost in the early 2000s after asking for “equal depth” for his character.

Perrineau was one of the better known actors when Lost premiered in 2004. He was fresh off breakout roles in Oz and Romeo + Juliet when he was cast to play construction worker and artist Michael, a lost survivor of Oceanic Flight 815 along with his son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley).

But what started as a “really equitable” role for Perrineau at the time soon turned into a recurring guest spot after The Best Man star talked to Lost showrunners about the treatment he was receiving compared to his white counterparts.

An excerpt from author and television critic Maureen Ryan’s new book, Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood, was published in Vanity Fair and reveals Perrineau’s recollection of being written off the series after expressing his concerns to showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

“It became pretty clear that I was the Black guy. Daniel (Dae Kim) was the Asian guy. And then you had Jack and Kate and Sawyer,” Perrineau said.

Actors Matthew Fox, Josh Holloway, and Evangeline Lilly played the roles of the white characters that took center stage on the six-season show, People reports. Perrineau also remembered the cast photo shoots, where the three white characters were seated in front of the people of color.

“‘I don’t have to be the first, I don’t have to have the most episodes — but I’d like to be in the mix,” he said at the time. “But it seems like this is now a story about Jack and Kate and Sawyer.” According to Perrineau, the Lost producer claimed that the show’s fans found Jack, Kate, and Sawyer to be “relatable.”

Yet when Michael’s son, Walt, was kidnapped, it was only briefly mentioned in one scene. Perrineau says he explained to showrunners why the script was problematic to the Black community.

“‘I don’t think I can do that,’” he thought at the time.

“I can’t be another person who doesn’t care about missing Black boys, even in the context of fiction, right? This is just furthering the narrative that nobody cares about Black boys, even Black fathers.”

That’s when he noticed his character getting less and less screen time as the season went on. Perrineau, who was lauded in the show’s early days, told producers how ready he was to “work” and didn’t want to just be “‘the Black guy’ on your show.”

But just ahead of the Season 2 finale, Perrineau was informed that he would not be returning for Season 3.

“I was f—ed up about it,” Perrineau shared. “I was like, ‘Oh, I just got fired, I think.’”

Perrienau claims that when he confronted showrunner Cuse about his removal from the show, Cuse was offended.

“I was just asking for equal depth,” Perrineau told Cuse. “It was all very much, ‘How dare you?’”

Lost writer and producer Monica Owusu-Breen, who joined the show in Season 3, alleges to have once heard showrunner Lindelof say that Perrineau “called me racist, so I fired his ass.”

Lindelof claimed to have never made the comment but did express his “regret” for slowly erasing Perrineau from the show.

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