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Why Perry Mason Looks So Familiar

Boomers probably will have a lot to say about the HBO reboot of Perry Mason that debuts on the network June 21, 2020. Erle Stanley Gardner's short stories and novels about Mason were adapted into a popular series that ran for nine seasons in the '50s and '60s  and was followed by multiple made for TV movies. It's no understatement that the original Perry Mason was a big deal, so there's a lot of pressure on the new cast to get it right — or, at least, make it their own. 

Leading the series is Matthew Rhys as the title character, a defense attorney with a knack for solving murders while interrogating witnesses. He's really more of a detective than a lawyer, if you really think about it, but has chosen a profession in whihc he gets to help get innocent people out of trouble. A role like that requires an actor with the right balance of intensity and sensitivity. Enter Rhys, who has given us both of these qualities time and again. Here's where you've seen the actor before. 

Matthew Rhys kept you on the edge of your seat watching The Americans

Welsh actor Rhys first caught the eye of American audiences in soft, sweet, and sometimes romantic projects. He played Kevin Walker in Brothers & Sisters, an ABC drama series that ran from 2006 to 2011. Jane Austen fans might note that he played the dashing Mr. Darcy in the miniseries adaptation of Death Comes To Pemberley. He was also Brittany Murphy's BFF in the independent rom-com Love and Other Disasters

That said, there's a dark side to Rhys' career choices that we would be remiss to ignore. This was on display in an Emmy-nominated episode of Girls on which he played a sleazy writer accused of sexual misconduct, but it was most evident in the part for which he is best known:  The Russian spy Phillip Jennings on The Americans. The enthralling thriller lasted six seasons on FX, and Rhys won both an Emmy and a Critic's Choice award for his performance. Not only that, but he and his on-screen wife Keri Russell are now partners in real life, as well. 

Rhys could be seriously intense and scary as a KGB agent on The Americans, so it checks out that, after the show ended, he went back to (somewhat) lighter fare. 

Matthew Rhys popped a cork on The Wine Show

If you have not been blessed with the opportunity to wind down with The Wine Show, we cannot recommend it enough. It totally falls into the Great British Bake-Off genre of entertaining, mildly educational, but most of all relaxing reality programs. If this is a show you watch, on the other hand, Rhys' appearance on the docu-series may help explain why it was so hard to place him on Perry Mason. The beard he's sporting on The Wine Show is an excellent disguise.

In the first season "the Matthews" Rhys and Goode (Downton Abbey, The Good Wife), spent a summer in Italy tasting wine, learning about the history of wine from all around the world, testing wine gadgets, and learning how to pair wine with food. Rhys and Goode's bromance in season 1 is one to beat — though unfortunately, in season 2, Rhys is busy with other projects and just pops in for the occasional gadget demonstration.

Matthew Rhys appeared in two Tom Hanks movies

If you are the type of person who goes for Oscar bait at the end of every year, then you most likely caught Rhys in two prestigious films about journalism — both of which, coincidentally, star Tom Hanks — in the past five years. Rhys played a small but integral role in 2017's The Post as the contractor who first leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press. He then played a journalist whose life and perspective on anger management change while profiling Fred Rogers in Marielle Heller's breathtaking A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Both films were nominated for Oscars, but didn't actually take home any wins. 

This new role as Perry Mason on HBO marks a return to prestige television for Rhys, even though not that much time has passed between the series finale of The Americans in 2018 and the premiere of Perry Mason. Whether he's a household name in your particular house or not, it's clear that Rhys' star is on the rise and here to stay.