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How Perry Mason Explored Hidden World of Queer Identity – The Hollywood Reporter



In the primary season of HBO/Max’s Perry Mason, the Nineteen Thirties-set sequence unspooled the origin story of the titular protection lawyer, first made common in Erle Stanley Gardner’s sequence of novels and the next CBS authorized drama starring Raymond Burr. With a contemporary lens, nevertheless, HBO’s reboot brings extra depth to the sequence’ supporting characters in its second and ultimate season — particularly, Mason’s devoted authorized secretary, Della Avenue (Juliet Rylance), and his courtroom sparring accomplice, district lawyer Hamilton Burger (Justin Kirk).

“I signed on only knowing I was playing this famous character in Perry Mason iconography — the losing lawyer from every episode,” says Kirk. However this iteration of Perry Mason forgoes the case-of-the-week format, as an alternative specializing in one case for a complete season. “[As the writers] filled in the details, we found out that Paul Drake [the private detective who works with Mason, played by Chris Chalk] would be Black, and Hamilton and Della would be closeted.”

Naturally, their sexuality is just too taboo to reside brazenly in such a fiercely homophobic period, and thus Della and Hamilton’s friendship can also be mutually useful: They will exit collectively publicly in order that Hamilton particularly can evade questions on his non-public life, with Della posing as a romantic curiosity. “Hamilton has checked all the other boxes as a man in society who is powerful and white,” says Kirk, who provides that there’s enjoyable in enjoying a personality who has a secret.

Justin Kirk as Hamilton Burger

Courtesy of HBO

In season two, nevertheless, Della pushes the boundaries of her privateness when she meets Anita St. Pierre (Jen Tullock), a screenwriter who’s immediately interested in her. Impressed by Gents Want Blondes scribe Anita Loos, who boasted over 100 writing credit in her Hollywood profession, Tullock’s Anita is brash and assured — primarily Della’s reverse.

Like Kirk, Tullock discovered her character’s double life thrilling to play. “I’m always drawn to characters that have to hide their inner worlds,” she says. However Tullock, who can also be queer, leaned into what she shared along with her onscreen persona. “I’ve never done a period piece where I got to explore a gay experience,” she says — whereas admitting the period during which Anita lives is way totally different from her personal era, regardless of their comparable identities.

“I told my therapist, ‘This is going to be great. I can pull from my own life,’ ” says Tullock. “And she rightly said, ‘Well, you’ve been gay, but you’ve never been gay in the 1930s. Don’t get ahead of yourself.’ ”

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone situation of The Hollywood Reporter journal. To obtain the journal, click on right here to subscribe.

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