Down-at-heel private investigator Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) – based on the hero of the detective novels by Erle Stanley Gardner (1933-1973) – will one day become a crusading public defender (lawyer). When we meet him in 1931 Los Angeles at the start of the new noir drama series on M-Net (DStv 101), though, he’s still a long way from being that man. He has a broken marriage, he’s failing as a father, he has a problem with the bottle and a head full of World War I memories and guilt that still have their teeth sunk deep into him in the form of undiagnosed and untreated PTSD.
Perry is on the whiskey and cigarettes for breakfast diet as he skids into the gutter. But a tragic child kidnapping case (based on a real-life kidnapping case from the time) sets him on the path to justice as he finds that he just cannot let go, no matter how many people the case winds up involving, or how powerful and corrupt they are. “He has his one kind of very true guiding north star, which is what’s right, and you have to do what’s right. His ways and means of doing that can be heavily criticised. But if it’s right, then it has to be done. That was a big appeal to me about him,” says Matthew. Perry is a man with little to lose and justice to gain – and he dresses the part.