Perlman appears opposite fellow "Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam in director Jordan Roberts' comedy as Phyllis, an ex-con computer hacker who went by the name Phil before undergoing a sex change. And it's not just surface details that changed when Phil became Phyllis, either — to hear Perlman tell it, it's the whole shebang.
"Phil is now really, truly Phyllis," Perlman told MTV News in an interview for our Fall Movie Preview week. "She's true transgender, had the operation, all of the plumbing has been rearranged. You do the math."
Perlman's already done the math, it seems. The actor was originally offered a different role in "Frankie," which sees Hunnam's titular lead on a misadventure fueled by his horrible brother Bruce ("Bridesmaids" comedian Chris O'Dowd), Phyllis' old cellmate back when she was still Phil. But Perlman quickly knew that he was meant to play the film's transgender centerpiece, if only for one key reason.
"There was something about the idea, the notion of Charlie Hunnam, who plays the other badass biker on 'Sons of Anarchy,' opening the door and seeing Ron Perlman, who plays the president of that biker club on 'Sons of Anarchy,' as a chick," the actor said with a laugh. "I said to myself, 'Holy sh--, the sight gag alone is worth the price of admission. No matter what happens after that, I'm good.'"
"It was challenging, because there is nothing familiar in this new paradigm," Perlman said about working opposite Hunnam in the very different context of "Frankie." "The guy who plays the stepfather on the show is now [Charlie's] wicked stepmom. We were asked to do some things that were a little bit outside of the box, pardon the pun. It could have been very uncomfortable, but it also could have been [marked] by the two of us not being able to stop laughing — which was more the case."
It also didn't hurt that Perlman, no stranger to weeks of heavy makeup through the "Hellboy" franchise, only had to appear as Phyllis for one day of shooting. "If there is anything distinguishing about me as an actor, it's how short my concentration span is," he said of the experience. "I can give you one day on a movie without breathing hard."
Watch an exclusive clip from "Frankie Go Boom" in the player below. The movie hits theaters on October 12, 2012.