The 5-Year Plan

Harold Perrineau Jr.

WHY HIM He wowed us as ''Oz'''s introspective inmate.

WHY NOW He's a vital Link in ''The Matrix Revolutions.''

From a cross-dressing Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann's ''Romeo + Juliet'' to the wheelchair-bound voice of HBO's ''Oz,'' Perrineau has never shied away from an oddball role. Considering how many hats he's donned during his 20-year climb into showbiz, it's easy to see why. ''I was a bartender, a busboy, a messenger,'' laughs the Brooklyn native. ''I even sold Time-Life Books for a day on the phone.'' He broke in with such films as the 1996 Jack Nicholson caper ''Blood & Wine'' and the 1997 Anthony Hopkins thriller ''The Edge'' before becoming a Zion zealot in the ''Matrix'' trilogy. Although Perrineau's immediate plans are to enjoy the holidays with his wife and young daughter before headlining Suzan Lori-Parks' play ''Topdog/Underdog'' in L.A., he has a lofty long-term goal. ''If I could be racing bikes in five years, that would be great,'' he says. ''I kinda wanna be the Jeff Gordon of motorcycle racing.'' Either way, Perrineau's already a pretty big wheel.

Originally posted Nov 14, 2003 Published in issue #737 Nov 14, 2003 Order article reprints