Family & Companions
The intense and brooding Luke Perry was living proof that there existed a substantial, more rewarding second act for an actor supposedly pigeon-holed as a teen heartthrob in the public's often unforgiving mind. The former "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000) bad boy who, along with co-star Jason Priestley, single-handedly re-introduced the 1950s James Dean sideburns/slicked pompadour to the fashion-challenged 1990s, managed to successfully segue from dreamy troubled teen to dependable leading man and character actor by successfully taking on a variety of roles since his "90210" heyday.
Born Coy Luther Perry III on Oct. 11, 1965 to blue-collar parents Coy Sr., a steelworker, and Ann, a homemaker, in Fredericktown, OH, Perry was inspired to become an actor after seeing the movie "Cool Hand Luke"(1967), marveling at the fact that someone (albeit, a character) with his name could be on the big screen and that the flick's leading man, Paul Newman, was from Ohio. Hardly the usual signposts one would use to pursue one's dreams, but Perry felt acting was his true calling. In the meantime, he was dealt some unpleasant cards during his childhood. With his parents splitting up when he was six years old and his estranged father passing away from a heart attack in 1980, the youngster found a surrogate father in Steven Bennett, a construction worker who wed his mother when Perry was 12 years old. A self-admitted poor student, Perry instead focused on sports, playing baseball in high school and portraying "Freddie Bird," the school mascot.
After graduating from Fredericktown High School - during which he was voted "biggest flirt" by his classmates - Perry tried his luck at acting in Los Angeles, holding down a variety of odd jobs that included laying asphalt and working in a doorknob factory. Not long after, Perry moved to the Big Apple after being cast as Ned Bates on the soap "Loving" (1983-1995) in 1987. In between his soap opera gigs - the other being the role of Kenny from 1988-89 on "Another World" (NBC, 1964-1999) - the actor appeared in commercials for Levi's 501 jeans. The days of "starving actor trying to land national ad to pay bills" was about to come to an abrupt end, with the new decade bringing him a level of hysterical fame rarely experienced by television actors.
In 1990, Perry returned to Hollywood, landing the coveted role of Dylan McKay on Fox's appealing paean to teen angst, "Beverly Hills 90210." Ironically, he had auditioned for the role of Steve Sanders - a role that went to actor Ian Ziering - before being cast as McKay, the often troubled and just as often misunderstood bad boy with "daddy" issues. A hit from the start, Perry received tons of fan mail each week as he romanced first, the resident West Beverly High virgin, Brenda Walsh (Shannon Doherty), followed scandalously by her best friend, the school hussy, Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) - to say nothing of a handful of other lucky young ladies along the way. Despite the fact that the character of Dylan McKay was only supposed to be on for one or two episodes, Perry's dark, alcoholic take on his on screen alter-ego so entranced viewers, it provided a perfect counter-balance to the goody-goody cuteness of McKay's main heartthrob competition, Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley). The show was such a hit that during the early '90s, the cast was mobbed wherever they went, with some of them subjects of endless tabloid gossip, particularly the wild child of the group, Doherty.
Following his character's marriage to mob daughter Toni Marchette (Rebecca Gayheart) and her subsequent death via mob hit, Perry left the series that made him a TV institution. During his time on the show, the actor had attempted to leave the sideburns behind with various roles in films such as the teen drama "Terminal Bliss" and the horror/comedy "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (both 1992). Neither did much for his career, though his work in the biopic "8 Seconds" (1994) as rodeo rider Lane Frost, who died in 1989 after being gored by a bull, did bring respectable notices. However, like many TV stars, Perry wanted to be a movie star, and so decided to leave the still ratings-strong show that put his name on the map.
Once off the show, the actor sought out roles which were the antithesis of Dylan McKay, finding work (if not box office success) in the feature films American Strays" (1996), "The Fifth Element" (1998) and as the male lead opposite Ashley Judd in the graphic HBO film, "Normal Life" (1996), in which he played a cop driven to crime in order to satisfy his wife's lifestyle. Despite his best intentions to break free from his iconic TV role, when "90210" offered Perry a deal to reprise McKay - with the caveat that the actor be allowed to direct some episodes -he accepted, returning to the show in 1998 and riding it out till its cancellation two years later.
Finally free of the famous zip code, Perry turned serious, landing character parts fans could not have anticipated - most especially that of Reverend Jeremiah Cloutier on the edgy, graphic HBO prison drama "Oz" (1997-2003). It was a long way from Rodeo Drive to the experimental cell block in the Oswald Maximum Security Correctional Facility, but Perry prevailed, receiving some of the best reviews of his career for this perception-shifting role. After serving his sentence in "Oz," Perry landed the title role in yet another TV series (as yet another Jeremiah) - the Showtime offering, "Jeremiah" (2002-04). A sci-fi series set in a future post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus had wiped out the world's adult population, sparing only those who hadn't reached puberty, Perry's Jeremiah goes on a personal quest to orchestrate peace among the warring factions and to prevent the killer virus from returning. Despite the wealth of material to draw upon, Perry's first foray as lead actor in a series ended with the cancellation of the series in 2004.
Before landing yet another show, Perry made a few TV guest appearances including his portrayal of an eccentric bird watcher on a 2005 episode of "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006). That same year, he reunited with former "90210" castmate/sweetheart Jennie Garth on her WB sitcom "What I Like about You" (2002-06), playing Todd for three episodes. Ironically, a decade after the often frightening hysteria that followed he and his "90210" co-stars, it was in April of 2006 that Perry was forced to file a restraining order in Los Angeles Superior Court requesting that a woman keep at least 100 yards away from he and his family at all times. This bit of unpleasantness unfolded as he starred in yet another series, the highly touted but short-lived "Windfall" (2006) - a drama that examined the effects a $386 million lottery jackpot would have on the lives of its 20 winners.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Portrayed country boy Ned Bates on the ABC daytime serial, "Loving"; relocated to NYC
Moved back to Los Angeles
Played bad boy Dylan McKay on Fox TV's popular "Beverly Hills, 90210"
Mobbed by fans (5000 in Seattle, Washington, 10,000 in Plantation, Florida) during personal appearances at shopping malls
Feature film debut in "Terminal Bliss"
First screen lead in "8 Seconds"
Starred in the NBC miniseries "Robin Cook's 'Invasion'"
Signed exclusive TV series deal with ABC
Rejoined the cast of "90210" reprising his role as Dylan McKay
Joined cast of HBO's "Oz", portraying televangelist Jeremiah Cloutier for seven episodes
Had leading role in "The Enemy"; aired on HBO in lieu of a theatrical release
Played the straight-laced Brad Majors in the Broadway revival of "The Rocky Horror Show" (replacing Jarod Emick)
Co-starred with Malcolm-Jamal Warner in the Showtime sci-fi series "Jeremiah"
Portrayed Billy Crystal's character, New York neurotic Harry in London's west end theater production of "When Harry Met Sally"
Reunites with former 90210 sweetie Jennie Garth on the WB comedy "What I Like About You"; will guest star in the final two episodes of the season
Cast in the HBO series, "John from Cincinnati"