‘Haves and Have Nots’ star Peter Parros embraces being heartthrob in his 50s

Peter Parros, star of "The Have and Have Nots," talks to theGrio.com about being a television heartthrob and how his boss, Tyler Perry, inspires him.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Peter Parros is keeping things hot and steamy in his starring role as David Harrington on OWN’s The Haves and the Have Nots. At 56, he’s showing Hollywood that it’s never too late to become a TV heartthrob and look good while doing it.

After four seasons, Parros and his fellow castmates continue to ride high from the show’s network ratings success, and with the direction and vision of boss man Tyler Perry, carve out a distinct place in television.

In an exclusive interview with theGrio.com, Parros talks the longevity of what he calls a “primetime soap,” how he’s enjoying the evolution of David and why he says Perry has inspired him far beyond the set of the show.

theGrio: How are you enjoying the success of The Haves and the Have Nots? You’re probably recognized everywhere you go.

Peter Parros: Yes, I do get recognized a lot from the show, and it’s great. We’ve got really passionate fans. It’s the best kind of character for me, and I’m loving it.

What do you like most about playing the character of David Harrington, and what drew you initially to the show?

PP: I think what really drew me to the role was the opportunity to work with Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. It was Tyler’s first scripted, dramatic series, and at that point, the network was only doing reality programming. It was more so that than the character. The character, as I initially read it, wasn’t the David Harrington we know on the show. He wasn’t even a judge — he was actually a certified financial planner. The role became much more than I thought it would be.

David seems to be one of the few characters on the show who has sort of a moral compass. Do you think that’s so?

PP: People say that, but honestly, I think David just has a high level of loyalty. Certain people do stuff I think out of a more malicious attitude than David, but David is involved in covering murders, trying to get people taken out of the picture, and having affairs and all that. I don’t play him with malice when he does what he does. I think people understand his motivation more. Morality is a very relative kind of thing, but he’s just not a mean-spirited person.

David is also a heartthrob. We don’t always get to see older actors of color is such roles. Do you enjoy that about playing David?

PP: It’s funny because initially the response was complaints about his loyalty to Veronica despite how she was treating him. And then out of that relationship not working, the character has been more romantically involved with other women, and it’s surprised me that the character now has that heartthrob appeal. It surprised me that it happened in this role, but it doesn’t surprise me, because there’s this void there in terms of the way older black men are written. Hollywood would write us in authoritative roles, whether head cop, attorney, the lead doctor, or even a  soldier — but never within a sexual context. Because this character is being expressed that way, because he has that Southern charm, physically it’s beginning to take off. We’ll see how it takes off and if it lasts (laughs).

David’s character is also significant because he accepts his gay son, which is something rarely illustrated among black fathers. What does that mean to you?

PP: The significance or importance of this role in the way that it’s played and written is that it’s about a personal relationship. It’s not about the politics of it. It’s about how you love your children, and the feedback that I got from gay viewers is not about what the laws should be. It’s ‘I wish my dad had accepted and loved me the way that you love Jeffrey.’ The thing that’s really hit me is the importance for parents to get away from whatever their politics for the sake of their children. I’m Christian, but whatever their view, I hope they understand that, at least in the context of their children, that your love for them should be unconditional.

You also starred in the very popular soap opera As The World Turns, and HAHN is often compared to that genre. How would you compare and contrast the two?

PP: From the first season, I considered The Have and Have Nots a primetime soap. There were some people who were resistant to that, but to me it’s like a Dynasty or Dallas. I would definitely place it to that genre. And there are a lot of regular primetime shows that I would consider soaps. Soaps are women-driven stories, and on our show, we have really women-driven relationship stories.

Do you anticipate HAHN having the kind of longevity seen by some of the most famous soaps in TV?

PP: Absolutely. As long as Tyler enjoys writing and producing the show, it will live and go on. There is nothing on television like The Haves and Have Nots, and there’s never been anything on television like it. As long as the fans keep enjoying it the way that they’ve been enjoying it, there’s no reason for it not to.

What do you enjoy most about working with Tyler Perry?

PP: A big lesson for me with Tyler Perry is investing in yourself and the vision that you have. There are certain projects that I have that I’ve sort of waited on support for. They used to say don’t use your own money, but if you don’t use your own money, you don’t own it. He uses his own money. He creates for his audience, and he owns it. Tyler is an excellent lesson; he’s done what nobody of any color in the industry has done. He has a studio where he produces his own content that he owns for different networks, and he’s extremely successful. He’s got a studio that’s bigger than Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and Paramount put together. He creates more hourly content than any other producer on the planet. He’s on the set everyday, writing and directing. If you have a vision to do something, don’t let people tell you it can’t be done. When I tell people how we shoot the show, they say, ‘that’s impossible.’ And I say, ‘You say it’s impossible, but we just did it.’

How has your interactions been with the show’s network queen, Oprah Winfrey?

PP: From my experience with Oprah and Tyler both, it’s surprising how informal they are despite how successful they are. The first time I met Oprah was when she came to visit us on the set. She was surprisingly warm. I met her and spoke with her at parties, and it’s surprising to me because I’ve met people who are not nearly as successful as an Oprah Winfrey, and yet they aren’t very approachable. When you meet [others], you feel like it’s a very formal, guarded experience, as opposed to Oprah, who is very warm.

Is it true you once starred alongside Kim Fields on The Facts of Life?

PP: Just for one episode called “Crossing the Line,” but yes, I played Tootie’s cousin Michael. It was actually an interracial dating storyline.

Have you kept in contact with Kim Fields, considering you shoot the show in Atlanta and she lives there?

PP: Hopefully maybe next time I’ll try to connect with her. We’re in and out of Atlanta so fast, I haven’t really had a lot of down time there. Maybe this time, because we’ll be there longer, I’ll try to reach out and see if there’s some way I can connect with her. I’ve only seen her a few times. The last time was probably six years ago, in a black theater festival in North Carolina. We haven’t really stayed in touch.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an actor?

PP: If for some reason I stopped acting, I would probably sail about the world. I have a boat called the Bluewater sailboat, built for sailing long distances and handling storms and rough seas. I would probably just be sailing — nowhere in particular.

The season finale of “The Haves and Have Nots” premieres Tuesday, March 14 at 9 p.m. EST on OWN. Keep up with Peter Parros on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.