Luke Perry was an American actor, primarily remembered as a teen idol throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s. Perry was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1966. Mansfield was known at the time as a center for the home appliances and stove manufacturing industries. The city’s largest employer used to be the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.
Perry’s parents were the steelworker Coy Luther Perry Jr. (1944-1980) and his wife Ann. Perry’s parents divorced in 1972, when he was 6-years-old. Ann gained custody over her children, and later married construction worker Steve Bennett. Luke was mostly raised by his mother and stepfather, and did not have a close relationship with his biological father. Coy Perry suffered a heart attack in 1980 and died, when Luke was 14-years-old. Luke attended his funeral.
Perry was mostly raised in the village of Fredericktown, Ohio, and attended the Fredericktown High School. In his high school years, Perry served in the role of the school mascot, the “Freddie Bird”.
In 1984, the 18-year-old Perry moved to Los Angeles, with the intention of becoming a professional actor. For several years, Perry kept auditioning for various roles without ever being hired. He supported himself financially by working at odd jobs, and serving as an extra for music videos. His most notable role in this period was in the 1986 music video for the song “Be Chrool to Your Scuel” (1985) by the heavy metal band “Twisted Sister”.
Perry’s first successful audition landed him the role of a recurring character in the soap opera Loving (1983) (1983-1995). From 1987 to 1988, he played the character of Ned Bates. In Perry’s own words: “Ned was a dirt-poor mechanic from Tennessee who always got taken advantage of”.
Perry next received a recurring role in another soap opera, Another World (1964) (1964-1999). From 1988 to 1989, he played the character of Kenny, the manager of aspiring model and actress Josie Watt (played by Alexandra Wilson).
In 1990, Perry landed the most significant role of his career, depicting the character of Dylan McKay in the teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990) (1990-2000). He played the character for a total of 199 episodes. Dylan was the teenage rebel son of business tycoon Jack McKay and hippie ex-wife Iris McKay. He started the series as a loner, but he offered help to nerdy schoolmate Scott Scanlon (played by Douglas Emerson) against the local bullies. This act of bravery gained him new friends and the romantic attention of Brenda Walsh (played by Shannen Doherty).
Perry’s success in his new role gained him a huge following among teenage girls, and guaranteed that he would receive more job offers. His first starring role in a film was the drama Terminal Bliss (1990) (1992), where he played the self-destructive rich kid John Hunter. The film was a box-office flop.
Perry had a more memorable role in the horror comedy film Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), as the character Oliver Pike. Pike was a hard-drinking slacker youth in Los Angeles, and had a hostile relationship with high school girl Buffy Summers (played by Kristy Swanson). After Pike’s best friend gets turned into a vampire, Pike assists Buffy in her battles with the vampire lord Lothos (played by Rutger Hauer) and his subordinate vampires. Pike is Buffy’s sidekick and main love interest in the film, and has appeared in various adaptations, though not in the spin-off television series.
Perry had his first voice acting role in the episode, The Simpsons: Krusty Gets Kancelled (1993) of the animated sitcom The Simpsons (1989). He played a parody version of himself as a sidekick of the character Krusty the Clown in a show-within-the-show. Perry had more voice acting roles in other animated television series of this era. He played the Detroit-based crime lord Napoleon Brie in Biker Mice from Mars (1993) (1993-1996), the master ninja Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (1995) (1996), Bruce Banner’s best friend and sidekick Rick Jones in The Incredible Hulk (1996) (1996-1997), and Nicky Little’s boyfriend Stewart Waldinger in Pepper Ann (1997) (1997-2000).
In live-action films, Perry played the starring role of professional bull-rider Lane Frost (1963-1989) in the biographical drama 8 Seconds (1994). He played a version of himself in the Italian comedy film Vacanze di Natale ’95 (1995) (“Christmas Vacation ’95”, 1995), where he is the love interest of infatuated teenager Marta Colombo (played by Cristiana Capotondi). Perry played the police officer and bank robber Chris Anderson in the crime drama Normal Life (1996), while his wife and partner-in-crime Pam Anderson was played by Ashley Judd. He played the suicidal character Johnny in the comedy-drama American Strays (1996), which features the character hiring a professional hit-man to provide him with an assisted suicide.
In 1997, Perry played a small role in the science fiction film The Fifth Element (1997). In a scene set in 1914, Perry plays the assistant archaeologist Billy Masterson. Masterson sees his mentor being knocked out by Mondoshawan aliens, and reacts by shooting one of the aliens. Masterson’s fate is left uncertain in the film, though the novelization features him as the victim of a poisoning plot.
In the late 1990s, Perry appeared frequently in television films and various direct-to-video films. He had guest roles in several television series, but mostly playing one-shot characters. Following the end of Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990) in 2000, his first major role was the recurring character Jeremiah Cloutier in the crime-drama Oz (1997) (1997-2003). Introduced in 2001 episodes of the series, Jeremiah was an Evangelical preacher who was imprisoned for embezzling funds from his church. He used his charisma and preaching skills to convert fellow prisoners to Evangelical Christianity, He was eventually assassinated by his own convert Timmy Kirk (Sean Dugan) and several of Kirk’s friends, after Jeremiah denounced Kirk using Christianity as an excuse to murder people.
Perry next gained a starring role in the post-apocalyptic series Jeremiah (2002) (2002-2004). The series is set c. 2021, 15 years after a plague killed nearly everyone over the age of thirteen. Most of the adult characters of the show were children at that time, and survived the event. Now they are troubled adults, trying to survive in a harsh world. Perry’s character Jeremiah is a wanderer who finds himself recruited into a Colorado-based secretive organization. He fights a war against a West Virginia-based organization which seeks to either conquer or wipe out all remaining outposts of humanity. The series lasted two seasons. A third season was planned, but plans for it were aborted due to disagreements between the production companies co-financing the series.
Perry returned to playing mostly guest star roles in television. In 2006, he was cast as one of the main characters in the short-lived drama series Windfall (2006). Only 13 episodes were produced, as the series failed to find an audience and one of the show’s co-creators had left before the season’s completion.
In 2007, Perry played businessman Linc Stark in the surf-themed series John from Cincinnati (2007). Despite relatively high-ratings, the series only lasted for one season.
In the late 2000s, Perry played guest roles in police procedural a series: the rapist Noah Sibert in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Trials (2008) and the cult leader Benjamin Cyrus in Criminal Minds: Minimal Loss (2008).
For much of the 2010s, Perry continued mostly appearing in guest roles and relatively obscure films. In 2015, a colonoscopy test revealed pre-cancerous growths in Perry’s body, that could have developed into colorectal cancer. Perry received medical treatment, and became a spokesperson for campaigns requiring early testing for cancer.
In 2017, Perry returned to prominence in a live-action adaptation of a comic book series, Riverdale (2017) (2017-2019). It was an adaptation of Archie Comics’ characters, but in a mystery series instead of their traditional comedy setting. Perry played Frederick “Fred” Andrews, Archie Andrews’s father, depicted here as the owner of a successful construction company. Fred is depicted as a single father, as his wife Mary Andrews abandoned him and moved to Chicago. The series also depicts Fred as the ex-boyfriend of Hermione Gomez-Lodge (Veronica Lodge’s mother).
On February 27, 2019, Perry suffered a massive ischemic stroke within his home in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. He was hospitalized, but suffered a second stroke days later. He died on March 4, 2019, having never recovered from the two strokes. He was only 52-years-old. His body was buried near his home in Vanleer, Tennessee, where he had bought a farm and the associated house in 1995, and spent time living there when not working on film or television projects.
Perry’s will reportedly left his son Jack Perry (b. 1997) and daughter Sophie Perry (b. 2000) as the only heirs to his estate. The press noted that the will excludes Perry’s mother, his stepfather, his siblings, his ex-wife, and his last fiancee from having inheritance claims, and there was some speculation on Perry’s motivation for this decision. His net worth was estimated at over $10 million.
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