After suffering a stroke last week, actor Luke Perry passed away on Monday morning at a Los Angeles area hospital. He was 52.
For more than three decades, Perry made a name for himself on several iconic series, most notably Beverly Hills, 90210, on which he played the brooding Dylan McKay. For an entire generation of teenagers, Perry served as the ultra-cool reincarnation of James Dean. The role would go on to define Perry’s career, but it’s not the only performance that showcased Luke Perry’s range of talent.
If you’re not a fan of high school dramas, there’s still at least one Luke Perry role you should check out: 1992’s horror-action-comedy Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Four years before Joss Whedon enlisted Sarah Michelle Gellar to fight the undead, the writer-director was a no-name talent with just a few writing credits under his belt. Whedon’s first — and perhaps most enduring — original product was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a Valley Girl twist on a tried and true set up. Starring Kristy Swanson and Donald Sutherland, Buffy the Vampire Slayer follows the titular rich kid, a vapid blonde concerned only with fashion trends and nabbing the right boyfriend. When she’s tapped as the reincarnation of a fearsome vampire hunter, Buffy is forced to cast off all that shallow shit and step up to save the day.
At every turn, however, Swanson and Sutherland are completely upstaged by Luke Perry. As Pike, the unwashed alcoholic who gets roped into the centuries-old conflict, Perry isn’t cool. There’s no brooding in his portrayal. He’s just a wise-cracking burnout who routinely gets his ass kicked.
For a guy known as a sensitive lady’s man, Perry seemed thrilled to play against type as Kristy Swanson’s “damsel in distress.”
In every scene, Perry remains unfailingly charming as he channels the wit for which Joss Whedon would eventually become a household name. Even as Luke Perry went on to great acclaim on a series of dramas, it’s his snarky turn as Pike that remains the actor’s standout performance, at least for horror nerds the world over.
Luke Perry will forever be known as the heartthrob who wooed Shannen Doherty, as the man who became a teen idol in his mid-twenties. As movie fans across the nation mourn the actor’s loss, however, take some time to remember not just Perry’s most famous parts, but those that demonstrated the actor’s immense talent and willingness to take risks.
You can catch Buffy the Vampire Slayer currently streaming on Starz.