Harold Perrineau Talks Playing Autistic Black Man On ‘Claws’: ‘Representation Is Important’

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Harold Perrineau has been a working actor since the 1980s, and on the silver screen he’s played in films like “The Best Man,” and “The Matrix Reloaded.” He’s also made a big name for himself by playing in popular TV shows like “Living Single,” “Oz” and “Lost.”

Now Perrineau is taking on the role of Dean Simms on the TNT drama “Claws,” starring Niecy Nash, and he said his character, who has autism, is based on a real person.

Harold Perrineau talked about playing the character Dean Simms on the TNT drama “Claws.”

“A lot of what Dean is based on for me is based on the relationship between my cousin and his sister,” he told BET. “Back then when we were younger, they called it mental retardation, and it turns out years later that it’s just a severe case of autism.”

“They’re really not helpless,” he said about those living with autism. “It really is a matter of getting the right help and focusing your attention and whatever you focus your attention on, you can usually get those tasks done.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Perrineau said he often plays roles of people who are marginalized, like when he played a gay man in the now canceled series “Star.” Or when he took the role of someone who was bound to a wheelchair on “Oz.” And he said playing Dean Simms lines up with those kinds of characters.

And later, Perrineau talked about having proper representation in entertainment, which is another reason he’s thinks playing an autistic Black man is huge.

“That’s why I think representation is important, because we do get misdiagnosed,” he explained. “As a Black man, it really is important for me to put it out there. There are times when something happens and you’re overloaded, and that can be completely misconstrued out in the world.”

“As a Black person, anything that you do might look violent, and if you’re having a hard time you could be shot dead,” Perrineau added.

“So, for me, the more people that see, this is a possibility, … If you’re like, ‘You know what, I remember that kind of behavior from that character Dean, so before I start to pull out or start to shoot or beat up, maybe I’ll investigate a little more.'”

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