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In The Dark's Perry Mattfeld Dishes On Season 3, Shameless, And The Supernatural Cast - Exclusive Interview

Since the series premiere of the CW's "In the Dark," the show has morphed from honing in on a seeing eye dog charity and a search for the truth to a hardcore turf war between rival drug gangs. While the characters continue to evolve and get in deeper with their deadly shenanigans, the cast evolves and adapts, too.

In 2019, "Shameless" alum Perry Mattfeld took on the role of the series lead, Murphy Mason, who happens to be blind. With the help of her seeing eye dog Pretzel — played by K-9 extraordinaire, Tripp — Murphy continues to find herself while she slowly sheds her tough exterior to let her friends in.

During an exclusive interview, Looper spoke to Perry Mattfeld, who dished on the development of her character, seasons 3 and 4 of "In the Dark," and how the CW strives for inclusivity and representation. She also delved into her time on "Shameless," being friends with Emmy Rossum, and revealed the hilarious thing she does to "Supernatural" stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles when she sees them at press events.

The Pretzel of it all

Can you walk us through what shooting a typical scene with your canine counterpart, who plays Pretzel, looks like? Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories with everyone's favorite pooch?

His name is Tripp and this was his first big job, and he's been so great. He's not an actual guide dog, which I always think is important to explain. So we always explain that the reason we don't use an actual seeing eye dog is because one, we wouldn't want to take a guide dog away from someone who needs one. And two, because when you repeat an action with a guide dog, that is a cue to them that they need to correct something, that they've made a mistake. So for a guide dog to do take after take, after take after take, they become very anxious and frustrated that they're not able to do things right or correctly, or please their owner.

Whereas someone like Tripp — someone because he's a person [laughs] — whereas an animal like Tripp, he knows that the more takes we do, the more treats he gets. So he'll do it all day. He'll do it over and over, and over and over again. 

He burps a lot in the middle of our scenes. Oftentimes very dramatic scenes, which sometimes we can get through it, but most of the time, the whole set breaks out in laughter because I'll have tears running down my face. And he's just like ... He's the cutest, sweetest, most playful boy. And it's so funny how he maintains his focus so well, but then the minute you allow him to just be a dog, he's totally a crazy, wild, goofy dog.

Raising the stakes

Have you ever seen a real seeing eye dog in action, and what might that experience have been like if you did?

Yeah. So our show is actually inspired by a real person named Lorri Bernson, who is not only involved in the story, but I'm super close to, and so she's like my second mom. I think since I've known her, this is the third guide dog that she's had, and this one's name is Captain. 

And so part of ... Kind of getting ready to do the show, I spent a lot of time with her, obsessing over her physicality and watching her move around her space, watching her get ready for bed, make her bed, watch TV, send emails, do her makeup, and organize her clothes. I spend a lot of time watching her work with her guide dog and kind of tried to learn about their relationship — what his relationship is like with other dogs. Anyway, but I have her as a resource in the flesh as a real person to just mirror and mimic and base this character off of.

Each season of "In the Dark" seems to up the ante for the characters. What has it been like getting more and more intense as the series moves forward, and what are you most excited to tackle this season?

It's funny, a lot of my family, they're like, "What happened to the show about a guide dog school? What happened?" The show continues to reinvent itself, and every season is like, I explained it recently, it's its own book. It's this trilogy or a series of books and the story. I mean, and they continue to reinvent themselves, and they're each different. They're connected. It's our same people, but each season has its own... 

I don't want to call it a theme but its own through-line. Its own unique tone. And it's so impressive to me how our writers continue to just grow the story and yet maintain the nuance and depth of these characters that are messed up and yet goofy and loyal and someone everyone can relate to. But I love that it's taken on that crime and thriller genre as well. It's such a hard show to describe, but it's a little bit of everything.

Murphy's reality check

Definitely. Did you know where it was sort of headed before you went in, or has that just been a progression?

No, I knew that it was going to stay probably in the ... It was always going to be a drama. I mean, I don't think we realized how funny it was going to be or could be until we started making it and we all kind of got together, and then the writers saw, okay, some of these actors are really funny. Felix can say anything, and it's funny. But I don't even think our writers knew. I think a lot of that was inspired by ... It was like, there's this woman named Lorri, and she has this guide dog, and she's such a unique person who's confident and full of life and strong and unapologetic and sarcastic and loving, and there's a story here.


We didn't know the characters would be running because of dealing heroin, but that's kind of where it went.

We're really seeing Murphy tackle more things on her own this season without some of the help that she's grown accustomed to. So what was that change like for you, and what's most important for you to get across as an actor when Murphy has to handle some of the more difficult situations on her own?

This season I definitely feel Murphy ... It's a reality check for Murphy, for sure. She's very difficult. And I think in Season 3, she's really ... I don't want to say getting a taste of her own medicine, but she's really helpless for the first time, or at least the first time that she's willing to recognize she's helpless. And it's heartbreaking. And my job as an actress is to make sure as tough as she is, and annoying as she is and as mean as she is, sometimes that people still want to root for her. And still want her to be okay and still want Max to want her, and so that's what I have to work on and ... this season is very emotional in that way because Murphy is truly desperate.

Alan van Sprang: From Shadowhunters to In the Dark

What was it like working with Alan van Sprang on the show?

He's so great. He's such a vet. I really haven't gotten to work with him that much because all of his scenes are in the district — a police station with Josh and Gene, so they're lucky they get to work with him more. But I know he's been in the trial film scene for a long time and people have a lot of respect for him. 

I remember when he got cast, and his name was on the call sheet, the hair and makeup people were like, "Ah! van Sprang. Here he comes." [Laughs] Everyone knows him. He's very respected, and he fits that role so perfectly, and I don't think that was supposed to be a very big part. It's now going on to the next pre-season, and so he has a really big part this season as well.

I read that the show has several visually impaired writers on staff. How much input do they have in the final script, and can you remember maybe a storyline or a scene that they might have vetoed if there was one?

Gosh, there are so many, I mean. So two of our visually impaired writers, Jess Burkle and Ryan Knighton, they both have retinitis pigmentosa, but they had two very different experiences with losing their vision and are at two different stages in their life of losing their vision. And so, in season two, Jess was kind of representative of a ... They kind of use Josh and Murphy as two different examples of people losing their vision or already being functioning as someone without vision and how two people can cope completely differently with something.

I think what's so important about having visually impaired writers as well is we're getting a glimpse at the scope, at the variety of experiences and types of visual impairment and just color that there is, like there is with anything else. So I love when I hear it, that stuff that made it in or stuff that they were able to finesse to make it for Murphy because of their own real experiences.

The bathroom incident

Can you think of anything specific?

There's one from Lorri specifically that just came up. There's a scene in season one where Murphy gets ... She's under the bathroom. Maxwell is looking for her, and he walks into the women's restroom, and she is on the floor coming out of the stall from the floor. And that happened to Lorri because she couldn't unlock the door of the public restroom out of the stall. And couldn't figure it out. A little piece of the screw fell to the ground, so then she's really screwed. So the only way she could get out of a public restroom was by laying on her back on the bathroom floor and scooting herself out of it. And so Max walks in and catches her and is like, "What are you doing?" And that was straight out of Lorri's book.

Right. That's amazing.

So there are those little things like that. I mean, it's hard for me that there's just so many.

Carving a space for badass women

The thing I love most about Murphy is that she's so unapologetically herself. The CW has amplified a strong woman in her own right who doesn't necessarily conform to the kind of woman that society expects us to be. She's hard, she's a little selfish, and she's strong — but at the end of the day, she will fight for those that she loves. So what is the most exciting and challenging thing about getting into that headspace and sort of ditching the word "sorry" that women tend to use even when we haven't done anything wrong?

I have to give a lot of credit ... obviously, a lot of credit to Mark Pedowitz at the CW for supporting our show because it is so different and unique. And I give credit to him for supporting Corinne Kingsbury, who's our showrunner, who wanted to create a story with a woman that she could relate to. And she felt growing up, she didn't relate to the women onscreen often, and she wanted to create an imperfect woman. 

She wanted to see women talk about their period. She said she never saw it talked about on TV, and she did it. And the CW supported her and supported me. And I think that's so rewarding to see how many people root for Murphy, considering that she is so messy and imperfect. And I think that so many people love to be able to see raw, real, imperfect versions of people, not just Murphy, but of Felix and Max.

And there was like ... Again, it goes beyond even just Murphy. Max was in these Kirkland brand gray sweat pants for all of Season 2, and Casey Deidrick hated it because they weren't necessarily form-fitting. They weren't very stylized, but that is our show. I mean, it's not a hair show. It's not a wardrobe show. 

And our showrunner was like, "You just got out of prison. It's not like you have a bunch of stuff on you. You have no friends and family nearby, so yeah, you're going to be in those sweats." And he hated it, but the fact is that the intention is to keep that realness throughout the whole show. The cars everyone drives, the amount of makeup, the food, all of those things I appreciate and I'm proud of because it is grounded and real and consistent.

Murphy can't catch a break in the love department

The plot twist with Dean in Season 2 was absolutely wild. I had a bit of an inkling before the reveal, but it still blew me away. Did you know about that plot twist for a long time, or was that just as much of a surprise to you as it was for the rest of us?

I knew about three-quarters of the way through the season that was kind of going on, and I thought it was brilliant storytelling. But I was devastated because Rich Sommer is the best. And he's just so fun to work with and so talented and made work so much fun. And so I was just sad because I was going to miss Rich. But in terms of the storyline for Dean, I think it was absolutely the best choice.

It's so funny because even when you think that she's got a good guy and she's dating the right person and she's finally in a stable relationship, wham!

That's what keeps it interesting. I mean, and real.

I think we can all relate to that.

And that's the goal.

Peeling back the 'cool' layers

How do you think that Murphy has changed and grown as a person from Season 1 to Season 3, and how do you hope she continues to develop?

I think it's always been ... We started especially in Season 1, just establishing how hard it is to ask for help. And then Season 2, I feel we see how manipulative she can be — and how pushy she can be. And then I feel this season, for sure we get to see the most we have of her vulnerable side, which I'm happy about. 

And I feel a big part of that is Max and his complete denying of her — his complete rejection of her. And it's deserved. I mean, I think what's great is we see he gets his voice this season, and he says, "You've treated me horribly. You're mean to me. I went to prison for you. I buried two bodies for you. And then you broke up with me the same night. I'm done." And as much as Murphy would like to say she doesn't care — that she just is cool. That's her go-to. She's cool. It kills her. And so the entire season, I think she's really having to beg for the people in her life to stick around.

Canadian winters are no fun (when you go swimming)

What has been your favorite scene to shoot so far, and which has been the most challenging?

There are so many good ones. Swimming in Lake Ontario, Season 1 was really tough. That was in November.

It was bad. I was really cold. Shooting, our writers love nighttime exterior shots, and I get it. It's the tone of the show. It's dark, they love exterior nights, but that means we shoot outside in winter, in the middle of the night. So, that's hard. Just in general, any scene that starts with exterior bench or night exterior it's ... There's a little bit of hesitation there, but I always loved shooting at Guiding Hope because we had the background filled with dogs, and that was our opportunity to have some people who are visually impaired come on a set for the first time and bring their real guide dogs. And that was always cool to see their reactions to walking around a 350% crude soundstage. So those are always so special for me, but I just ... I'm biased, but I do think I have such a great cast, and we're all so close, so every day at work, I get to go to work with my best friends.

When Emmy Rossum is your job reference

Switching gears for a second, what was it like working with Emmy Rossum and the rest of the "Shameless" cast and what was that set like?

Well, I was extremely star-struck walking on that set and so nervous. I called one of my acting professors from college and I said, "I don't know what to do tomorrow." And he was like, "What do you mean?" And I said, "I got this part, and I don't know if I know how to act. I don't know what to do." And he was like, "Just do what you did in the audition." And I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess I could do that." I mean, it's such an established show, and it's ... It has such a following, and there are big names on that show, and that was my first big job out of school.

I was extremely intimidated by Emmy. Not just because she's obviously beautiful, and she's just smart, and I've tried to be like her as much as possible on my set. She knows everyone's name. She's aware of what's going on. She knows why there's a hold. She knows why we're changing our camera setup. She knows what seems next. She knows what the call sheet says tomorrow. She's just so hyper-aware and focused and driven, and she has really swept me under her wing and has totally become a role model to me. And we're still super close, and I so appreciate that she just ... Maybe because she could tell I was so nervous. I don't know, but she's just been so good to me and has looked out for me, and she actually wrote Michael Showalter an email on my behalf when I was reading for "In the Dark."

New kid on the Shameless block

What memory of your time on the "Shameless" set stands out to you the most, and do you have any fun stories from that set?

So, I don't know if they do it anymore, but the "Shameless" cast goes and films in Chicago twice a season. So everything is shot in L.A. at the Warner Bros. lot, but then two times per season, they'll fly out to Chicago and shoot exteriors. So I got to go on one of those trips because I had some scenes outside. Anyway, when I saw the massive crowd of people that were waiting to meet the cast outside of the hotel that they stay at in Chicago, I was blown away. And I remember I was ... I saw all these people and Jeremy Allen White was walking in and he couldn't even ... He could barely make it into the hotel. People were mobbing him.

And so then my black car shows up because they pick us up in these nice cars from the airport. So this tinted window black car shows up, and all these people were like, "Get your phone! Get your phones! Hurry, hurry. Someone's coming!" Is it going to be Emmy? Is it going to be Emma Kenney? Is it going to be Jeremy? Who's going to be next? And so everyone's freaking out getting their phones ready, and then it was me. And I just remember seeing everyone's face just like, "Ah!"

It was so funny at the time because that they are so loved, but I giggled to myself obviously. I thought it was hilarious. I mean, the show hadn't come out yet, and nobody knew who I was, and nobody knew that there were these two lesbians on the show yet, but I'll never forget how humbling that was to see everyone so disappointed. I don't blame them. I would have been bummed, too.

Supernatural royalty

That's amazing. Are there any other CW franchises that you'd like to appear in, maybe something in the Arrowverse? I'd personally love to see you play a villain.

I would love to play a villain. I want to do some sort of ... I'm almost 5' 11" so the idea of being in some sort of superhero costume sounds so good. Some evil something, I don't know. I totally agree. Whether it'd be like "Supergirl" or "Arrow" — something, I could totally see myself on one of those.

Sadly, those have both ended, but there are other ones, yeah.

"Batwoman" maybe.

That'd be really cool.

Really cool. I used to love the "Nancy Drew" books, so that could be cool.

Ooh, I'm obsessed with "Nancy Drew." That show is so good. It's filling the hole from "Supernatural" that left me devastated.

Those guys are CW royalty. When I would see them at press stuff, I would bow.

That's amazing. Speaking of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki at press events, I have to ask if you have any funny stories from them or if it was sort of a drive-by type of thing?

I mean, they giggle because I always bow. Immediately if I see them on a red carpet or something, I bow, and then they're like, "Relax, stop that." I'm like, "I owe you. You should get commission off of ... I'm here because of you. You're the royalty. You are the CW. So I have a job because of you." But just that I bow every time, I mean, every time I see them, but they're just good-looking and nice and funny and just royalty.

Already looking to Season 4

Are there any other actors or directors you're itching to work with in the future?

Honestly, I'd love for Emmy to direct an episode of "In the Dark." She directed an episode when I was on "Shameless," and it was really cool to watch her do both. Be in the show and also direct. But I love that we've given a lot of opportunities to not only female directors but Black directors, newer up and coming directors. CW and CBS and our producers do a really good job of extending that and providing a lot of opportunity for ... I remember just last season they wanted to make sure they had more female directors than males, so, I mean, stuff like that. I'm super impressed by that, and they do a really good job at that — dedicating space to that.

Can you tease anything else that's upcoming or any other projects that you're involved with or anything else that you want to talk about?

Just that we were renewed for a fourth season while we were filming.

Congratulations, by the way!

So that's the best feeling in the world is knowing that we get to go back to work at some point and that it's not over and that we don't have to say goodbye to these characters. Just knowing that's coming up is the best feeling ever.

Do you know anything about what might be in the future?

It's being planned now, but it will be very clear where Season 4 is going once people see the finale of Season 3.

New episodes of "In the Dark" air on the CW on Wednesday nights.