If you’re under 40, chances are that you’ve heard the name “Perry Mason,” but not much more about the storied legal eagle. The fictional lawyer was birthed in the ‘30s by Erle Stanley Gardner, who then wrote the stern figure into hundreds upon hundreds of films, radio programs, books, and even a television series in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, black-and-white reruns of which some readers may remember from childhood. Now, HBO has brought the character back, given him an origin story, and is setting him up to solve a new crime as part of Perry Mason, premiering this Sunday.
This time around, Mason is played by the scruffy and bewildered Matthew Rhys, who’s down on his luck as a private detective before being roped into the hugely publicized case of a missing baby. Other figures are involved, including a wildly popular radio preacher played by Tatiana Maslany, and it all weaves together into a deep and mysterious look at 1930s Los Angeles.
The A.V. Club sat down with Rhys and Maslany via Zoom to talk about the history of the main character, what they watch in trying times, and whether or not Rhys thinks he could dabble in the legal arts.