How Perry Mason showrunner Michael Begler brought 1933 to 2023 (Exclusive)

A still from Perry Mason (Picture from HBO Press Room)
A still from Perry Mason (Picture from HBO Press Room)

Who can we get on the case? We need Perry Mason.

So sang English heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne in 1995 about the enigmatic defense lawyer who’s been a part of pop culture since the 1930s.

Fast forward to 2023 and HBO’s hit drama based on the legendary character is back for its second season, where Perry Mason defends Rafael and Mateo Gallardo, two men accused of murdering Brooks McCutcheon, a wealthy oil scion.

Showrunner and writer Michael Begler ensured that the case unraveled in the most fascinating manner to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

SK POP spoke to the man himself about the series, about the men who play the McCutcheons, and how certain elements of 1933 mirror today's world.

Social commentary about today's world was never intended as a theme for Perry Mason

Two Mexican-Americans are accused of brutally murdering Brooks McCutcheon and one can certainly draw parallels to today’s world. Begler admitted that he did not set out to tell this story:

"The sad answer is that we wanted to tell a story that is historically accurate to the time. But what you find out is, unfortunately, humanity doesn’t change that much. Unfortunately, you can easily draw those parallels to today. And I think that’s what is great about it. That it lends itself to that. But it also makes you ask those questions of how far have we really come?"

Due to the nature of the said topic, Perry Mason also features language from that era. Begler mentioned how sensitively he incorporated terms that might make some uncomfortable into the show:

"We had discussions with various actors and we take that stuff very very seriously. But it was important for us to be historically accurate as much as possible and again, the unfortunate thing is that means that certain language is going to, you know, especially racist language, misogynistic language is going to come out. But as long as it felt believable to the character and it wasn’t something we just threw in there because they did say this in 1933, then that was the most important thing."

But while elements of the show may mirror today’s world, the setting is vital to the plot. Begler elaborated:

"I think the most important and most significant thing in the series is that 1933 is the worst year of the Depression. So it really lends itself to the idea of the haves and have nots. What we’re really looking at between the wealth of the McCutcheons and the Camilla Nygaards versus the Gallardos and the Hoovervilles and the whole idea of what does justice look like for those two halves was very important to us"

Begler had the ultimate praise for the Perry Mason cast. Paul Raci plays Lydell McCutcheon, father of the murder victim. A man who is hatable from the word go. Begler explained:

"He’s phenomenal. He’s so good. He’s so committed. Physically he’s got such a great look. And a great voice and a great presence. He breathed a life into the character that I didn’t necessarily hear on the page and once he stepped into it, it became this whole other thing. Paul Raci if you don’t know, what else does he do? He is the lead singer in a Black Sabbath cover band. So he’s playing the part of Ozzy."

How can one mention one McCutcheon without a reference to the other? Begler also praised Tommy Dewey's work on Perry Mason:

"Oh my god, it was so good. And to be honest, at first, we only had a few scenes with him in the first episode but then we realized, not only a.) what a brilliant talent he was, but b.) we really needed to understand the relationship and who he was...and to let him get under your skin a bit. We felt like that was very important."

Perry Mason showcases new episodes every Monday at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max. Stay tuned to SK POP for further coverage of the show.

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Edited by Upasya Bhowal