At the end of the first season of HBO’s Perry Mason, star Matthew Rhys told Town & Country, “I had no interest in meeting Perry mid-summation, mid-trial as the established lawyer. What stopped me in my tracks was when [the creators] said to me, ‘we’re interested in how he became Perry Mason,’ and I thought, oh yes, that would be interesting.”

He wasn’t wrong. The first season of Mason told a dark story of how a seemingly broken man found his way to law and order, and gave viewers something very interesting as well: a new take on a known character—with no lack of style or dark humor in the mix.

This week, the second season of the series premieres, kicking off not where we left Mason and his cohorts—having won their big case and started a firm of their own—but a few months out, when the reality of solving crimes in a seedy, Depression-era Los Angeles has set in. That’s just what Rhys had in mind when he previously said, “I’m not necessarily in a hurry to see him ascend quickly to be an amazing lawyer. That’s a linear story and I don’t know how much interest there would be… I’d prefer not to see him seamlessly ease his way into nailing cases and having people confess on the stand.”

For Mason, the new season might depict a trying time, but for Rhys, it’s as good as it gets. Here, he tells T&C what to expect.

How does the second season of Perry Mason differ from the first? He’s in a new phase of his life, but that’s not all.

I was relieved when the writers came to me and said, “we want to shake up season two.” That’s what you want to hear when you have the luxury of coming back. They said, “let’s see where Mason is six months down the line.” We’re not going to pick up where he left off, instead he’s having a real crisis of faith and dealing with imposter syndrome over how he got to where he is.

The character became famous thanks to Erle Stanley Gardner’s books and Raymond Burr’s TV portrayal. But for many viewers, you’re the only Perry Mason. How does that feel?

What a terrifying thought! I was trying to find the sweet spot was for the age when people knew Raymond Burr or didn’t; [it seems like] if they were older than 45 they’d know. There is a new generation ready for this and I think, I hope, that our reimagining of Perry Mason is modern and engaging enough for them.

For a series about terrible crimes and the toll they take on the people who solve them, the show has a sly sense of humor. How do you strike that balance?

First seasons are always difficult in that you have to set a tone—we’re in the Depression, so where do we land the humor? I think we did that incredibly well. Gallows humor lends itself well to Mason, who predominantly lives his life in bad places and uses dark humor as a coping mechanism. In the second season, we wanted to evolve that a bit, especially in his relationship with Della [his business partner, played by Juliet Rylance] which feels at times like they’re siblings. We wanted to bleed that in at appropriate times, and inappropriate times as well.

What does this season have in store for Mason?

In season one, his choice about what to do was very clear. His simplistic way of looking at life as right or wrong threw him headlong into a situation he’s now waking up to. Season two is the antithesis of that; he’s not sure what right and wrong are anymore, or how to deal with them. If season one was him feeding a locomotive with coal, season two is him pumping the breaks.

Where do you see things going for him from here? Do you think there’s enough story left to tell for a season three and beyond?

I do! We’ve been introduced to Mason at an early stage in his career if not his life. He’s a newfound lawyer, so him finding his legal legs could take many seasons.

Now that you’re firmly established as a TV detective, do you become the person tasked with solving mysteries in your own life?

I have become my family’s point person for where phone chargers go. That’s the ongoing mystery in our house; usually it’s the teenager.

2023-03-07T01:39:54Z dg43tfdfdgfd