Perry Mason’s Chris Chalk Opens Up About Exploring The Complications Of Paul Drake’s Season 2 Journey

Matthew Rhys and Chris Chalk in Perry Mason Season 2
(Image credit: HBO)

Warning: SPOILERS for Perry Mason “Chapter Ten” are ahead!

Going into the Perry Mason Season 2 premiere, one of the important things fans needed to remember from Season 1 was that Chris Chalk’s Paul Drake had resigned from the Los Angeles Police Department, and following the end of the Emily Dodson case, he agreed to become the private investigator for the title character’s law firm. However, as a result of Matthew Rhys’ Perry and Juliet Rylance’s Della Street deciding to take more civil cases, Paul’s services haven’t been needed at the firm, requiring him to look for work elsewhere. One of these other gigs has now produced some unforeseen consequences, which is among the complications that live viewers and HBO Max subscribers will see Paul dealing with during his Season 2 journey.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Chalk ahead of tonight’s Perry Mason episode, in which Paul Drake learned that Melvin Perkins, the man that Shea Whigham’s Pete Strickland hired him to look into over concern from the LA District Attorney’s office that someone was looking to take him out, was arrested on charges of loan-sharking, racketeering, bootlegging and income tax evasion. With Perkins pouring the money from his illegal activities back into Los Angeles’ African American community, Drake feels guilty having unwittingly provided information that the authorities used to arrest Perkins, and he’s coping with that as he’s brought into the Gallardo Brothers case. I asked Chalk how important it was to have Paul dealing with such a personal struggle in Season 2 on top of being involved with the main investigation, and he said:

One, it’s important because what’s the point? We got to have a point in bringing all these people back, and they can’t be the same and they need to have a journey and we gotta deconstruct to reconstruct. So there’s that, but personally, I just wanted to see… which Michael [Begler] never heard, I said to Tim Van Patten, who was the EP and director of the first season, at the end of the season, he was like, ‘Good job, good job, everybody.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but what happens if Perry has to defend Black people?’ Let’s keep it complicated. He’s still a white dude in the 1930s, we can’t pretend he’s from 2023. And so I’m always looking for ways to complicate and densify, if that’s a word, our relationships and our journeys, and I love this season how they brought my family into it, or Clara’s family into it, because it creates such an immense amount of pressure on Paul, who used to be the big dude in charge, and now he’s looking for jobs in the newspaper while his brother-in-law bullies him.

It’s abundantly clear that Paul Drake feels betrayed after he learns that Melvin Perkins has been taken in by the District Attorney’s office given that it happened after he supplied the pictures and intel. With the threat against Perkins’ obviously being bogus, Drake has trust issues going into working with Perry and Della Street again, since Pete Strickland, one of Perry’s closest friends, “hoodwinked” him, despite the fact that Perry had no idea of Pete’s true intentions when he recommended Paul for work. Fortunately, Paul and Perry were able to get back into a pretty good groove with each other when they snuck onto a casino boat to look into the background of the late Brooks McCutcheon, who was killed at the end of “Chapter Nine,” and Rafael and Mateo Gallardo are accused committing the murder. So there’s all that, plus Paul having to deal with the pressure from his family, particularly his brother-in-law Mo.

As already mentioned, Perry Mason Season 2 will also see Paul Drake looking into matters without the benefit of being able to flash an LAPD badge. I was curious how it felt for Chris Chalk (who also played Lucius Fox on Gotham) to explore the character still working to do good, but now outside of a structured system. The actor responded: 

I think it’s very fun to see who Paul is when the rules aren’t the same, when all the rules that you were told as a kid turn out not to be true, and everyone else is benefiting from them, how much does Paul dip into that pot of gray. If it was black and white before, I think Paul is really starting to embrace what gray is and what it takes to feed a family, and I find that incredibly interesting to watch Paul fall apart… It’s always exciting to be inside of a character who has no clue what’s coming next and has no power whatsoever, because it makes him feral. And to find this incredible stoic guy from the first season suddenly becoming a bit more animalistic is very exciting.

Perry Mason’s long-awaited return arrives a little over two and a half years after Season 1 concluded, with Jack Amiel and Michael Begler taking over as the showrunners for Season 2. Chris Chalk, Matthew Rhys and Juliet Rylance are joined in the main cast this season by Justin Kirk reprising Hamilton Burger, Diarra Kilpatrick reprising Clara Drake, Eric Lange reprising Gene Holcomb and Katherine Waterston as Ginny Aimes, Teddy Mason’s schoolteacher who was introduced in “Chapter Ten” of the Robert Downey-produced series. As with Season 1, eight episodes will comprise Season 2, so we’re one-fourth of the way through this mystery taking place in 1933.

New episodes of Perry Mason premiere Mondays at 9 pm ET on HBO. Keep visiting CinemaBlend for Perry Mason-related coverage, and use our 2023 TV schedule to keep track of what other shows are currently on the air or will be premiering soon.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.