Though they're both based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels, the similarities between HBO's new Perry Mason series and the iconic 1950s TV show of the same name all but stop there. For starters, the titular character is played by Matthew Rhys (The Americans), taking over the role that Raymond Burr made famous decades ago. HBO's Perry Mason will also serve as an origin story for the character, following him not when he's a famed defense lawyer, but when he's a nearly broke private detective operating in early 1930s Los Angeles.
In addition to Rhys, the new series boasts an impressive ensemble cast. In anticipation of the series premiere this Sunday, here's who's set to star, and who they'll be playing:
Starring as the show’s titular private investigator is none other than Matthew Rhys. Best known for his Emmy-winning performance as Russian spy Philip Jennings on FX’s The Americans., he also appeared as Kevin Walker on the long-running ABC drama, Brothers & Sisters. Outside of TV, Rhys’ biggest film credits include the 2015 Bradley Cooper drama Burnt, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, and last year’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. HBO’s Perry Mason marks his first recurring role on a TV series since The Americans..
Tatiana Maslany was widely recognized for her breakout work in the BBC America series Orphan Black. The sci-fi series saw Maslany expertly embody the individual personalities of the show’s numerous clones, receiving critcal accolades and winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series awards at the 2016 Primetime Emmys. Following Orphan Black’s conclusion, Maslany went on to star opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the 2017 drama Stronger, and opposite Nicole Kidman in the 2018 thriller Destroyer. She plays Sister Alice, the leader of the Radiant Assembly of God.
A screen legend, John Lithgow’s film credits include his Oscar-nominated performances in Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp, as well as films like Blow Out, Footloose, Cliffhanger, The Pelican Brief, Shrek, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Pet Sematary, and Bombshell. TV viewers will likely remember him best for his performances as Dr. Dick Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun, Arthur Mitchell on Dexter, and Winston Churchill on Netflix’s The Crown. In Perry Mason, his character, Elias Birchard “E.B.” Jonathan, is a personal attorney at a low point in his career who is also a semi-regular employer of Rhys’ private detective.
Robert Patrick has starred in some of the most beloved films and TV shows of the past three decades. He may be most well-known for his performance as the villainous T-1000 in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but his work extends far beyond that sci-fi classic. He’s also had memorable roles in films like Wayne’s World, Last Action Hero, Cop Land, The Faculty, Spy Kids, Walk the Line, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Laundromat. His work on the small screen includes his performance as John Doggett on The X-Files, along with recurring roles on The Unit, Last Resort, True Blood, and Scorpion. In Perry Mason, he plays Herman Baggerly, a local bigwig who hires Lithgow’s E.B. Jonathan and Rhys’ Mason to run an investigation into the show’s central case of a kidnapping gone wrong.
One of Hollywood’s favorite character actors, Shea Whigham is no stranger to prestige TV productions. He starred as Elias 'Eli' Thompson on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and has gone on to play Roger Dooley in ABC’s Agent Carter, Moe Dammick in the third season of FX’s Fargo, Ray Liptrapp in HBO’s Vice Principals, Mitch Decker in Paramount Network’s Waco, and Thomas Carrasco in Amazon’s Homecoming. He has also had guest roles on True Detective, Modern Love, Dirty John, and Narcos, while some of his most notable film credits include Joker, Vice, First Man, Kong: Skull Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silver Linings Playbook, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Take Shelter. He stars as Pete Strickland in Perry Mason, a man hired by Mason to act as another set of his eyes during his investigation.
Juliet Rylance plays Della Street, the legal secretary for Lithgow’s E.B. Jonathan in Perry Mason. One of the less familiar names on this list, viewers may remember Rylance as Cornelia Robertson on the Cinemax original series The Knick. Her other credits include her role as Alison Hawthorne-Price on CBS’ American Gothic and as Rebecca Harper on AMC’s McMafia. Her film credits include the 2012 horror film Sinister, 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose, Love After Love, and 2019’s The Artist's Wife.
Chris Chalk is a familiar face to most TV viewers by now. Whether you know him from his work as Lucius Fox in Gotham, Tom Walker in Homeland, Jody Adair in Justified, Gary Cooper in The Newsroom, William Still in Underground, or Yusef Salaam in When They See Us, Chalk has amassed some impressive TV credits over the past several years. He's also appeared in films like Being Flynn, 12 Years a Slave, Detroit, and The Red Sea Diving Resort. He plays Paul Drake in Perry Mason, a beat cop with an aptitude for detective work.
Veronica Falcón has worked primarily on Spanish-speaking films and TV shows, but english speaking viewers may know her for her work as Camila Vargas in the USA crime series Queen of the South, or for her performance as Clara in the Epix original series Perpetual Grace, LTD. In Perry Mason, she plays Lupe, who is both an accomplished pilot and the owner of a speakeasy.
Nate Corddry plays Matthew Dodson, a grocery store owner whose young son is inexplicably kidnapped. A TV veteran, Corddry has had recurring roles in several notable TV shows of the past decade, starting with one of his earliest screen roles as Tom Jeter on Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He followed that with recurring roles on United States of Tara and Harry’s Law. More recently, Corddry starred as Gabriel on CBS’ Mom, Detective Art Spencer on Netflix’s Mindhunter, Neil Simon on FX’s Fosse/Verdon, and Larry Wilson on the Apple TV+ original For All Mankind.
Like a few of his Perry Mason co-stars, Stephen Root is capable of bringing both real comedy and real drama to his on screen roles, a talent he has consistently displayed throughout his decades-spanning career. He’s turned in memorable film performances in Office Space, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Dodgeball, Just Friends, The Soloist, Trumbo, and Get Out. His varied work extends into television as well, with recurring credits on shows like NewsRadio, The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, Boardwalk Empire, Justified, and The Man in the High Castle. He may be most recognizable nowadays for his performance as Monroe Fuches on HBO’s Barry, and for voicing both Bill Dauterive and Buck Strickland on King of the Hill. He plays Maynard Barnes in Perry Mason, a formidable man in Los Angeles who is said to be capable of both schmoozing and intimidating anyone around him.
A newer face than most in the Perry Mason cast, Gayle Rankin broke out with her performance as Sheila the She-Wolf on Netflix’s GLOW, and received critical attention for her performance as Pam in Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories and for her work as Ali van der Wolff in last year’s Her Smell. Earlier this year, Rankin appeared in the independent films Blow the Man Down and The Climb. In Perry Mason, Rankin plays Emily Dodson, a mother who becomes convinced that her son’s kidnapping is a punishment from God.
Jefferson Mays plays Virgil in Perry Mason, an attendant at the city morgue and friend of Matthew Rhys’ detective. A talented actor of stage and screen, Mays has had guest roles in several TV shows over the past several years, including Westworld, The Blacklist, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Americans, and Law & Order: SVU. One of his only recurring TV roles to date came last year, when he played George Hodel in the TNT limited series I Am the Night.
Lili Taylor has been a recognizable actress since the late 80s, when she appeared in films like Mystic Pizza, Say Anything…, Born on the Fourth of July, Short Cuts, and Rudy. She followed that incredible run with several notable TV roles, including Lisa Kimmel Fisher in Six Feet Under, Claire Coates in American Crime, Captain Sandra Maldonado in Almost Human, and Lynda Rumancek in Hemlock Grove. She plays Birdy McKeegan, the mother of Maslany's Sister Alice.
Following his performance as Red Scare in last year’s critically acclaimed season of Watchmen, Andrew Howard is returning to HBO with Perry Mason, where he plays Detective Ennis, an LAPD homicide detective with a reputation for ignoring proper procedure. Outside of his recent HBO work, viewers may also recognize Howard from his recurring roles on shows like The Outpost, The Oath, Hell on Wheels, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Bates Motel.
Perry Mason premieres Sunday, June 21st on HBO.
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Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.
TOPICS: Perry Mason (2020), HBO, Andrew Howard, Chris Chalk, Gayle Rankin, Jefferson Mays, John Lithgow, Juliet Rylance, Lili Taylor, Matthew Rhys, Nate Corddry, Robert Patrick, Shea Whigham, Stephen Root, Tatiana Maslany, Veronica Falcón