On October 11, 1990, the world got its first look at a modern day James Dean in the character “Dylan McKay” on Beverly Hills, 90210. From that point on, the name Luke Perry was synonymous with “cool.” It wasn’t a comparison he asked for, but it was easy to take on that mantle in a role that was written to bring that same laid back, effortlessly sexy character that James Dean encompassed in his time.
As we mourn the death of the beloved Luke Perry, the result of a stroke he suffered on February 27, we want to pay respect to the man who embodied some of our favorite characters in television and movies.
Early on, the writers for 90210 set up the McKay character as a bit of a renaissance man, toting a copy of Byron’s poetry as a “bit of light reading” in episode 2, while driving a 1964 convertible Porsche Speedster and sporting perfect hair. He supported women’s rights and fought against bullying. And his character’s struggle with alcohol was groundbreaking at the time: McKay attended AA and had a sponsor in an age when addiction and recovery were rarely-if-ever discussed subjects on primetime tv.
90210 castmate Ian Ziering expressed his grief at the loss of his friend on Twitter, calling attention to their long friendship.
I will forever bask in the loving memories we’ve shared over the last thirty years. May your journey forward be enriched by the magnificent souls who have passed before you, just like you have done here, for those you leave behind.
— Ian Ziering (@IanZiering) March 4, 2019
Most people associate Perry with his character on 90210, but between that hit series and his most recent role on The CW’s Riverdale, Perry had a myriad of roles, many of which weren’t very widely known. However, the role of Oliver Pike in the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still a fan favorite. Perry’s portrayal of Pike, an ally and love interest of Buffy and another tortured and sometimes emotionally destructive character, was the perfect counterpart to Kristy Swanson’s strong and feminine Buffy.
If sci-fi wasn’t your thing, then maybe you knew Perry best for his portrayal of the handsome bronco rider, Lane Frost, in 8 Seconds. Frost died tragically at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1989, and Perry’s portrayal of the athlete brought Frost’s name to the mainstream. Perry discussed his love of westerns as a genre in a 1992 interview with US Weekly, two years before the biopic would premier.
Sean Gleason, CEO of Professional Bull Riders Inc., released a statement regarding Perry’s performance in the biopic and expressing the association’s condolences.
In Luke’s first leading feature film role, he captured Lane’s competitive and generous spirit in a very convincing way in a film that remains a favorite of bull riding fans. The PBR’s thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day.
Heartache and memories were shared online among friends and co-stars over the course of the day, most notably from fellow actor and close friend, David Arquette, brother of Perry’s good friend Alexis Arquette.
Just devastated by the news of #LukePerry He will be a brother forever we grew up together and I will never forget his loving spirit, his incredible wit and charm that won all of us pic.twitter.com/lkKLx3e2kS
— David Arquette (@DavidArquette) March 4, 2019
The friendship between Perry and Alexis often drew speculation of a romantic relationship, but Perry famously shut down rumors while showing a love for the transgender community and the causes that Alexis championed. Perry spoke about his friendship with Alexis while introducing her sister Patricia at the 28th annual G.L.A.A.D. awards in 2017, according to People Magazine.
“Look, when you love somebody, you love them. Bottom line,” Perry told Entertainment Tonight at the time. “And I loved Lex and Lex loved me, and I don’t need to explain that to anybody. That’s how love works, and that’s what’s so special about the message Patricia spreads.”
G.L.A.A.D. expressed their condolences to the family through a Twitter post as well.
The news of Luke Perry’s death is absolutely devastating. He was a friend to our organization and to the LGBTQ community. Our hearts go out to his loved ones. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/gCj1WscAst
— GLAAD (@glaad) March 4, 2019
Perry was most recently associated with The CW’s hit show Riverdale, based on the wildly dramatic and dark Archie comics. In the role of “Fred Andrews,” Perry’s same calm and cool demeanor came through with class and ease, no doubt because of the supportive relationship he had developed with his young castmates. The CW, along with Riverdale executive producers and Warner Bros., released a statement warmly remembering Perry and his contribution to the show.
Luke was everything you would hope he would be: an incredibly caring, consummate professional with a giant heart, and a true friend to all. A father figure and mentor to the show’s young cast, Luke was incredibly generous and infused the set with love and kindness.
Several of Perry’s Riverdale costars have shared their grief on social media, ranging from disbelief to reminiscence about the man he was. Lili Reinhart, who plays “Betty Cooper” on the show, shared her sadness with fans on Twitter.
I’m finding it hard to grasp that he will no longer be around to give long hugs and share his wisdom and kindness with all of us.
I’m thinking of his family. His children.
I pray for them to heal and find peace in this devastating loss.
— Lili Reinhart (@lilireinhart) March 4, 2019
Madchen Amick, who plays Reinhart’s onscreen mother “Alice Cooper,” posted on Instagram to praise Perry as “incredibly loving and generous.”
Riverdale creator Roberta Aguirre Sacasa shared a picture of Luke via Twitter along with his heartfelt sentiments.
So heartbroken about Luke. He was a father, brother, friend, and mentor. Each night before he had to shoot a scene, he’d call me and we’d talk about…everything. I will miss those calls. And my heart goes out to all his family and friends. 💔 pic.twitter.com/2GaFkV2mI7
— RobertoAguirreSacasa (@WriterRAS) March 4, 2019
Perry passed away at 52 years of age on March 4 and is survived by his two children and a fiance as well as many family members and friends. There are many resources to help people learn about the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Check out the National Stroke Association website for more information, as well as the Act FAST checklist to help you determine if you or someone you love has had a stroke.
Luke Perry was an unassuming, quiet, but warm and generous man who made his presence known through kindnesses shown to famous and non-famous folks alike. May he live on through the characters he made us believe in and the loving spirit he’s shown to others.