How Paul Raci's grandfather influenced his Perry Mason character (Exclusive)

Paul Raci as Lydell McCutcheon (Credit: Merrick Morton & HBO)
Paul Raci as Lydell McCutcheon (Credit: Merrick Morton & HBO)

In the closing moments of Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 7, there is a tense and unforgettable confrontation between Lydell McCutcheon and the lawyer after whom the show is named.

Choosing to defend two brothers accused of killing a wealthy oil scion, Mason's investigations led him to the older McCutcheon's doorstep.

We spoke to the ever-personable Paul Raci, who plays the role of Lydell McCutcheon on the show. A veteran actor who has credits stretching back all the way to the 80s, Raci even became emotional for a spell during the interview, remembering his grandfather and how fear motivated him.

In fact, he claimed he had to tap into his grandfather's flawed personality to embody his Perry Mason character.

Paul Raci has an interesting connection with Perry Mason that stretches back all the way to the 50s

The 75-year-old actor grew up in Chicago in the 50s and the original Perry Mason series, starring Raymond Burr, was a big part of his childhood. He used to even communicate the show to his parents through ASL. He explains:

"I used to watch Perry Mason, the original, religiously as a boy. And my parents were deaf. I don’t know if you know this about me. So American sign language was the way I communicated with my parents. And at the time, there were no closed captions for television. Nothing like that."

The Sound of Metal actor fell in love with the HBO version of Perry Mason once Season 1 aired, because of "the period, the clothes, the cars." But when he was cast as Lydell McCutcheon, he had to draw into another part of his childhood.

His grandfather inspired the rough, villaneous character he portrays on television:

"But to be honest with you, my grandfather, way back in the 50s was kinda like this character. Racist. He tried to teach me to be a racist because it was ingrained in him. You have to remember back then, when Civil Rights was still a thing being fought for, if you can believe that, he was actively using the N-word around me and my siblings."

Raci even teared up for a spell, recalling his past. He added:

"And I look at my grandfather, you know, you can’t help but love your family. But I knew something was wrong. I knew that he was a rough character. But I think the reason he was that way is because he was afraid. He was fearful of losing what he had. He was fearful of somebody else coming in and taking away something that he worked so hard for being the son of Polish immigrants to this country."

Speaking of the showdown with actor Matthew Rhys in the most recent episode, Raci illustrated how much he relished the confrontation:

"What the showrunners did with this, they didn’t do the classic Perry Mason moment in the courtroom. It happens right there with the shotgun in his hand. I think Lydell wants to make it right finally. He’s going to hold on to the final last second before he can even say the words out loud. So, I don’t want to give anything away but that is a great scene for me. I loved working with Matthew on that."

Much is revealed in season 2 episode 7 about who truly was behind the murder of Brooks McCutcheon.

New episodes of Perry Mason air every Monday at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max. Catch extensive coverage of the finale on SK POP next week!

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Edited by Upasya Bhowal
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