How a Renzo Gracie Student Grew Up to Be the Newest Big Bad on Sons of Anarchy


Sons of Anarchy actor Harold Perrineau and the world of mixed martial arts go back a long, long way.

Years before Perrineau made it on hit TV shows like the FX outlaw biker drama, or his turn as Michael Dawson on the ABC series ‘Lost’, he was a dancer making his way through musicals after growing up in Brooklyn.

It was through that medium that he first discovered martial arts.

“Many, many years ago I studied Kung-Fu. I used to be a dancer and then an easy transition for me was studying martial arts, and I studied Kung-Fu. I kind of liked the fluidity of it. Then back in the day I started reading magazines about this MMA thing and I was like what’s that?” Perrineau told MMAWeekly Radio in a recent interview.

“I would read like Inside Kung-Fu and all these other things and it just started growing and growing and growing. Then the first UFC came on with Royce Gracie, and I was like ‘oh snap what’s that?’ so while I didn’t follow all the UFC’s, I certainly did watch the first couple of years.”

From the dance world, Perrineau then transitioned into acting where he scored roles in the The Matrix sequels as well as a turn on the popular HBO prison drama ‘Oz’.

While he wasn’t following along with every UFC event that happened, he did manage to mix in some training along the way that included a stop at Renzo Gracie‘s academy in New York City. Once Perrineau moved to Los Angeles to further pursue his acting career, his ties to the Gracie family didn’t stop however.

Perrineau began working with Renzo Gracie black belt Shawn Williams, who was at the time only the fifth American to receive a black belt from the famous trainer and instructor.

“I trained over at Renzo Gracie’s school for a little while in New York City doing jiu-jitsu. He is great and I started training with one of his first black belts, Shawn Williams, here in Los Angeles until I messed up my knee and I couldn’t keep doing it,” Perrineau stated.

The injury prevented him from going back to grappling full-time, but despite his busy work schedule which now includes a turn as the new villain on the popular FX show ‘Sons of Anarchy’, he still finds time to go back to his martial arts roots.

“I bought myself a grappling dummy, a submission dummy, so I have it in my back house and I go out there and I work with it all the time,” said Perrineau.

The long time grappling and MMA fan got an even bigger surprise a few weeks ago at the Sons of Anarchy premiere. Without even realizing it, Perrineau discovered that he was now part of the FX family, which also hosts the UFC for shows like the Ultimate Fighter.

His fanhood has now been reignited after rubbing elbows with some of the UFC’s best and brightest.

“At the opening of Sons of Anarchy, Dana White was there with a bunch of people, Big Country Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub, Shane Carwin was there, Ronda Rousey was there, I was having a great time. I forgot I was on an FX show so I could probably have access some of those fights. I forgot about it until that night and then I was like I’m going to a fight!” said Perrineau.

Beyond his own love of MMA, Perrineau joins a cast of actors who are already becoming mainstays at UFC events. Fellow co-star Theo Rossi has become one of the biggest UFC supporters of the last year, as well as ‘Sons of Anarchy’ bad boy Kim Coates.

“It’s turned out to be a great role for me and they’re really accepting there at Sons of Anarchy about me stepping in and being new to the cast. They’ve been really, really great,” said Perrineau.

His role on Sons of Anarchy has already gotten critical acclaim with Perrineau being the main antagonist for the rebel motorcycle club in season five of the show. In his debut performance, Perrineau’s character Damon Pope set fire to someone, and by the third episode he was the cause of the death of one of the major characters on the show.

Perrineau promises that his chilling role will continue as season 5 rolls on, and it’s only going to worse from here.

“Without giving away anything, he’s definitely a different character. It was really interesting when I got the gig, and people asked me if I knew how to ride bikes, and if I looked really cool on a bike, and I said ‘you won’t see Damon Pope on a bike’. When you do see Damon Pope you’ll know why,” said Perrineau.

“So this is a different kind of monster for SAMCRO and it’s going to be tough for them to deal with him. All I can say after the first episode is it just gets worse.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview with Sons of Anarchy star Harold Perrineau from MMAWeekly Radio

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