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Why Link From The Matrix: Reloaded Looks So Familiar

When most people think of The Matrix franchise, a few things immediately come to mind. First and foremost are the groundbreaking special effects that set the standard for Hollywood (and will apparently continue to do so come The Matrix 4). Then come the inevitable questions about whether real life is a simulation, and whether to take the red pill or the blue pill. And of course, classic characters like Neo (Keanu Reeves), Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) have been established as nothing less than pop culture icons.

That's all well and good, but anyone who's seen the films knows there's more to the series than just the principals. The side characters help to round out the complex sci-fi world. Take Link, who appears in sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Stepping up as the newest Nebuchadnezzar operator gives him inherent value, but the relationships he has with other characters and his skepticism of Morpheus imbue him with a unique personality that grounds him among all the flying bullets and crazy kung fu.

If Link actor Harold Perrineau seems familiar, here are just a handful of the many places you've likely seen him before and since.

Perrineau performed Shakespeare like the playwright never would've imagined

Ask anyone to name a Shakespeare play, and one of the most common answers you'll get is Romeo and Juliet. The timeless tale of star-crossed lovers has been adapted more times than there are stars in the sky, but perhaps none stand out quite as much as Baz Luhrmann's 1996 hit Romeo + Juliet.

Featuring a young Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the titular teenage couple, the film is set in Verona Beach, an urban landscape where the gun-toting Capulets and Montagues feel more like mafia rivals than families at odds. Perrineau plays Mercutio, Romeo's best friend, with a flare for the dramatic. Case in point: At the fateful party where Romeo and Juliet meet, Mercutio dances the night away in drag, standing atop a grand stairwell while limelights accentuate his sequin-covered costume.

Though his cinematic fate is the same as it is in Shakespeare's original work ("A plague on both your houses!"), Perrineau's performance brings new life to an old character. The cityscape setting surely has something to do with it, but his Mercutio is certainly more accessible to modern audiences than traditional interpretations.

Perrineau braved a raging apocalypse in 28 Weeks Later

British director Danny Boyle's horror classic 28 Days Later introduces a virus that causes undue rage in all it infects, human or animal. This "Rage Virus" leads, of course, to the end of the world — and to a sequel expanding on the events depicted: 28 Weeks Later (which, despite the title, came out five years later).

The world isn't in a much better place by then, yet armed forces are attempting to slowly but surely regain control of the British Isles from the infected. Among these soldiers are sniper extraordinaire Sergeant Doyle (Jeremy Renner) and helicopter pilot Chief Flynn (Perrineau).

Flynn is a stickler for adherence to protocol, and — without spoiling anything too specific — that mindset comes into play when he has to make some tough choices later in the film, after things inevitably go awry. Perrineau portrays the character's internal struggle with aplomb, bringing a human element deep into the trenches of the post-apocalyptic mire. He also gets to do some pretty awesome stuff with his helicopter, because what would a zombie movie be without new and innovative ways to take out the undead?

Perrineau played a man finding his way on Claws

Crime takes many forms on television. Sometimes, criminals are just criminals, and are depicted as such: mobsters, robbers, serial murderers, what have you. Other times, there's a front of some sort to cover up any skulduggery. Claws falls under the latter category, with female lead Desna Simms (Niecy Nash) using her nail salon to launder money and make a better life for her and her autistic baby brother Dean (Perrineau). Dean's the kind of guy who tells it like it is, guided by an unwavering moral compass and an admirable drive to achieve his dreams.

Desna has spent most of her life taking care of Dean, but over the course of the first two seasons, viewers bear cathartic witness as he becomes his own man. Indeed, as Desna spirals into a life of crime, it's Dean who keeps her grounded more than anyone, and when Dean's impulsiveness comes to bear, it's Desna who usually checks him.

Perrineau brings his all to the performance, from his dancing skills to his life experiences. On the latter point, he talked to IndieWire about a similar sibling relationship to Desna and Dean in his own family: "I have a cousin who raised her brother from the time that they were kids until he passed in his 40s. I've just never seen that before on television; I've seen it in life." His portrayal of Dean earned him the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

Perrineau was a night shift detective on The Rookie

The Rookie is, perhaps unsurprisingly, about a rookie cop named John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) — only, there's a catch: At 45 years old, Nolan isn't the kind of young buck you'd normally associate with the word "rookie." Perhaps also unsurprisingly, he ends up working with a lot of people younger than him as a result, but he makes the best of it. Even so, it's refreshing when he gets to work with someone closer to his age like Nick Armstrong (Perrineau).

Nolan bonds with Armstrong on both personal and professional levels, learning a lot from the latter's years of experience as a detective. Indeed, Armstrong's time on the force has been largely successful, though it was marred by the untimely death of his wife from cancer. Beneath Armstrong's stoic front lies a broken man who lives by the mantra that desperate times call for desperate measures. Perrineau's multifaceted and believable performance enhances an already well written character.

As of January 2021, Perrineau has two projects lined up: sports film The Dancing Bull and ensemble flick When We Were Pirates. COVID-19 pending, we're sure to see more of the talented actor in the years to come.