HBO’s ‘Perry Mason’ is a period crime drama series that follows the titular character as he tries to solve cases to help innocent people from getting convicted for a crime they didn’t commit. While the debut season serves as an origin story for Mason, the second season takes him to his roots and the things he came to be known for over the years.
Created by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald, the show’s seasons differ in how they feature radically different stories. Specifically, the sophomore season focuses more on corruption and greed and how it affects the judicial system. With a grounded story with realistic characters, you might wonder if this season of ‘Perry Mason’ draws inspiration from actual events. Let’s find out.
Is Perry Mason Season 2 a True Story?
No, ‘Perry Mason’ Season 2 is not based on a true story. Like the first season, the sophomore round of the show features characters from Erle Stanley Gardner’s novel series of the same name. In reinventing the world of ‘Perry Mason,’ the HBO series takes liberties with the characters while featuring original plot lines that are entertaining and focus on pertinent issues.
Jones and Fitzgerald served as the showrunners for the first season, whereas the baton was passed on to Jack Amiel and Michael Begler for the second season. To get a sense of the story and do justice to the characters, the latter duo studied the first season and “looked at what wasn’t there in the characters and in the storytelling.” In an interview with Orange County Register, Begler said: “The mandate was to do it and do it better. We felt we could expand the size of the story and what you see of Los Angeles.”
The duo focused on expanding the backstories of the other two leads— Della and Paul. “Our instinct was following them home, going into Paul’s world in the Black community, giving Della a more adult relationship [with Jen Tullock as Anita] and keep mining the hauntings of Perry,” Begler said. Considering how dark and gritty the first season was, the showrunners also decided to add a pinch of humor to it while staying consistent with the tone of the first season. “We try to find the humor in things. When shows get too serious, we’re a little turned off; if a show doesn’t look at that side of human beings, it becomes exhausting,” the co-showrunner added.
The second season of ‘Perry Mason’ takes place in 1933, which Begler and Amiel recognized as “the worst year of the depression in LA.” “We really took that and ran with it because of this whole idea of the two Los Angeles—the glamorous money side of the city, but there’s also a tremendous amount of poverty. There are all these Hoovervilles that are popping up,” Begler said. He revealed that they had to dive deep into historical research and called it “fun to dive into these worlds and discover how we can use what we find.” Moreover, they received help from experts in LA history, Mexican community history, and the show’s legal side.
The research allowed the duo to explore more complicated aspects of that time and weave them into the storyline. The main plot of ‘Perry Mason’ Season 2 revolves around the lawyer proving the innocence of two Mexican-Americans who are arrested for the murder of a rich white businessman. “We were looking at Los Angeles communities in the 1930s and learned about the deportations at the time and how the government was deporting people born here of Mexican descent. It is obviously relevant today. What does it say about humanity — we haven’t evolved that much. We just try to sell the best human story we can,” Begler said.
Begler added that though several issues of contemporary importance surface in the show, they never set out “to teach something about racism or the LGBTQ+ community” to the audience. Their main goal was to focus on the idea of justice and how it looks different for different people. “What does justice look like for the people with the means and the power versus those who have nothing?” Begler explained. With this in mind, it is clear that though the second season is fictional, it is drawn from research to make it as realistic as possible.
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