Robert Downey Jr.'s Perry Mason limited series reboot has found its star in The Americans' Matthew Rhys, hot off his Emmy win for the FX show's final season.
The project has been in development for years, and Downey Jr. was supposed to star in it at one point. However, on Monday, Variety reported that Rhys was cast in the role.
Rhys' version of Perry Mason will start as a low-rent private investigator living check-to-check. He is haunted by his experience in World War I and recently split from his wife. It will be set in 1932 Los Angeles, with Mason investigating a child kidnapping case that could put him on a path to redemption.
The series is based on the legendary fictional criminal defense attorney, who has a knack for proving his client's innocence, created by Erle Stanley Gardner. Perry Mason debuted in 1933 and inspired a series of films at Warner Bros. during the 1930s, a popular radio series and the iconic 1957-1966 CBS series starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Burr continued playing the character in television movies until his death in 1993.
The franchise also inspired the phrase "Perry Mason Moment" to describe new evidence suddenly showing up at a dramatic moment during court proceedings.
Downey Jr. started working on Perry Mason in 2016, with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto writing the script. In 2018, Downey Jr. left the project because of his movie schedule and Pizzolatto became busy with True Detective Season 3.
“We developed two really good scripts, and we are talking about, is any actor that would be great for the role,” HBO president of programming Casey Bloys told Deadline in July 2018. “There is a lot of interest from actors, we are thinking about who that might be.”
Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald came on as writers and showrunners, and the search for a director is still on.
Perry Mason will still be executive produced by Downey Jr. and Susan Downey under their Team Downey banner. Rhys is also joining as a producer.
Rhys is best known for his role as Philip Jennings in FX's The Americans opposite Keri Russell. The series earned him two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy last year. His other credits include The Bastard Executioner, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, The Post, Archer and Brothers & Sisters. Last year, he starred in the BBC miniseries Death and Nightingales.
Before we see Rhys in Perry Mason, he will be seen in Marielle Heller's Fred Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, opposite Tom Hanks as Rogers. Rhys stars as Lloyd Vogel, a sceptical journalist whose perspective on life is changed after meeting Rogers. It opens on Oct. 18, 2019.
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