Emmy-winning former The Americans star Matthew Rhys has been tapped for the lead in Perry Mason, HBO’s limited series from Team Downey. Rhys will play the classic character in the reboot, which tracks the unorthodox investigator/defense attorney’s origin story. Perry Mason is in the process of hiring a director, and once a helmer is on board, the series is expected to head into production.
Written and executive produced by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald, who also will showrun, the reimagined Perry Mason is set in 1932 Los Angeles. While the rest of the country recovers from the Great Depression, this city is booming! Oil! Olympic Games! Talking Pictures! Evangelical Fervor! And a child kidnapping gone very, very wrong! Based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner, the limited series follows the origins of American Fiction’s most legendary criminal defense lawyer, Perry Mason (Rhys). When the case of the decade breaks down his door, Mason’s relentless pursuit of the truth reveals a fractured city and just maybe, a pathway to redemption for himself.
Rhys, who also will produce, is Perry Mason at a time in his life when he is living check-to-check as a low-rent private investigator. Mason is haunted by his wartime experiences in France and is suffering the effects of a broken marriage.
The project was originally set up at HBO in 2016, with Nic Pizzolatto writing and Robert Downey Jr. attached to play the title character. But Pizzolatto turned his attention to the third installment of his HBO series True Detective, with Jones and Ron Fitzgerald stepping in as writers, and it also became clear, because of Downey’s feature commitments, that he would be unable to act in the series, so a search began for an actor to play the title character.
Robert and Susan Downey, who developed the project, executive produce along with Team Downey’s Amanda Burrell, and Joe Horacek. Team Downey originally had a Perry Mason feature reboot set up at Warner Bros. six years ago with Downey Jr. attached to star. He today welcomed Rhys to the project (see below).
Rhys is an Emmy and Critics’ Choice award winner for his portrayal of Philip Jennings on critically acclaimed FX drama series The Americans which recently wrapped its sixth and final season. He also received a Golden Globe nomination for the role.
Team Downey is an entertainment company founded by Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey that produces film, television and digital properties. Team Downey is currently in post-production on Universal’s “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle,” which is set to release in January 2020. “Dolittle” features an all-star cast with Downey Jr. in the title role. The company is also in pre-production on the third installment of the Sherlock Holmes franchise, which is slated for a December 2020 release. The film comes off the success of Team Downey’s 2009 “Sherlock Holmes” and it’s equally prosperous sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.”
Team Downey is in various stages of development on several additional anticipated feature projects including Focus Features’ “A Head Full of Ghosts” with Osgood Perkins attached to direct. Additionally, they have partnered with Annapurna Pictures on an untitled feature based on Gimlet Media’s “Reply All” podcast episode “Man of the People,” starring Robert Downey Jr. with Richard Linklater writing and directing.
On the television side, Team Downey has had a first-look deal with Sonar Entertainment encompassing digital, scripted and non-scripted content. Under the pact, they are in post-production on TNT’s pilot Constance starring Elisabeth Shue. In addition to Perry Mason, Team Downey is prepping pilot“Sweet Tooth for Warner Bros TV and Hulu and is in production on an eight episode docuseries entitled Age of AI for YouTube.