CS Interview: Perry Mattfeld on The CW’s In the Dark comedy-drama
The CW’s comedy-drama In the Dark follows a young, blind woman, played by Perry Mattfeld, who tries to solve her friend’s murder while navigating through her relationships and self-destructive behavior. ComingSoon.net spoke with Mattfeld about preparing for the new role, what fans can expect in the new series, working with guide dogs, and the series’ diversity both on and offscreen. Check out the interview below and be sure to catch the series premiere of In the Dark on The CW this Thursday!
In the Dark follows Murphy (Perry Mattfeld), a hard-living, hard-drinking, disaffected twenty-something with a penchant for cigarettes and casual hookups. She also happens to be blind, and lives in downtown Chicago with her guide dog, Pretzel. Murphy’s acid tongue and bitter temper leave her with few friends — but one of which is a teenager named Tyson with whom she develops a true friendship. However, when she and Pretzel stumble upon what Murphy is sure is Tyson’s lifeless body in an alley, and after the police refuse to investigate, Murphy takes it upon herself to uncover the truth.
The series is executive produced by Ben Stiller (The Meyerowitz Stories) with the pilot directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer). In the Dark was created by Corinne Kingsbury (The Newsroom), who also executive produces alongside Jackie Cohn, Showalter, Nicky Weinstock, and Levi as Pretzel. The series also stars Brooke Markham, Rich Sommer, Derek Webster, Kathleen York, and Keston John.
ComingSoon.net: How did the project come about, and what interested you in the role?
Perry Mattfeld: When I first read the script I flew through it. That’s how I usually judge if a project speaks to me, based on how quickly I get through the scripts. If I struggle and I have to go back and keep trying to figure out who’s who… But something with In the Dark, I flew through it. I related to it and I laughed and then I got teary-eyed. I felt a lot. And then this character of Murphy was something that I was dying to try because it was an emotional, mental, and a physical aspect as well. Coming out of theater training I felt like I wanted the opportunity to try just based on my training.
CS: What can you tell us about your character, Murphy?
Mattfeld: It’s really special to have a flawed female anti-hero at the forefront. Murphy’s a total hot mess. She’s sarcastic, she drinks too much, she’s very self-destructive. Super smart. She’s also blind, but she’s not at all defined by her blindness. And you get to kind of understand why she is the way she is as the season goes on.
CS: Besides Murphy herself, the series is centered around the death of a teenager that Murphy had befriended and her need to uncover the truth. What can you tease about that mystery and what it means to her?
Mattfeld: Some of my favorite scenes from the season are the flashbacks that you get to see with her and this boy who’s her best friend, Tyson. They have the most innocent, playful, fun relationship and those are the times where you see Murphy the most free, in my opinion. There’s a scene when she meets Tyson’s mom for the first time, his mom says to Murphy, “Tyson never told me you were blind.” And [Murphy] says, “Because that’s not how he thought of me. He knew me for everything else.”
As she tries to understand why this happened to her friend, she’s exposed to a world that she would have never been exposed to otherwise. So where she ends up at the end of the season and where Season 2 is going is fascinating.
CS: How did you prepare for the role especially playing a blind character? I know you have a co-star, Calle Walton, who is blind. Did she help you with the nuances of the role?
Mattfeld: Of course. It was awesome to have her on set, too. The show is loosely inspired by our blind consultant. Her name is Lorri Bernson. Before starting production I spent a lot of time with Lorri in her house watching her [during] her night routine, morning routine. Watching her brush her teeth, cook in her kitchen, watching her send emails or work with her guide dog, just so I could get a grasp of her physicality. On set, the director would explain the blocking and then I’d watch her do the blocking, and then I’d try to mimic exactly how she moved through the space. Getting to work with Calle and have scenes with her were some of our most fun scenes as well.
CS: Do you feel a sense of responsibility or pressure to play a blind character while not being sight disabled?
Mattfeld: Of course, and I think upon getting the role I understood how much responsibility I have and how much I was gonna get to learn as well. The fact that the creators used the opportunity to surround the project with a lot of authenticity is something to be really proud of.
CS: One of your co-stars is Murphy’s guide dog, Pretzel. What was it like working with Levi [who played Pretzel]?
Mattfeld: I’m so in love with that dog, as is everyone. I was saying before that there’s times in the pilot you see where Murphy’s a little rough with her dog, so when we would cut I would pull her aside and tell her, “You’re so talented and we love having you here and you bring so much depth to the character.” [Laughs] Just having not only her on set every day but having real guide dogs on set, having puppies on set, not only was it an opportunity for our entire crew to learn and be educated about the guide dog community and what it’s like to be around guide dogs, but it made showing up to work that much better.
Levi is so brilliant and so talented. People think their own dog is cute and smart until you see that dog. When we’re rolling, our trainer, Vee, she can’t always give vocal cues to the dogs, so she has to give a lot of cues from off camera that are just visual cues with her hands. Levi can respond to those and put her head down and roll or speak with just a visual cue from the trainer, Vee, without a vocal cue. So, she’s perfect. She’s the star of the show. Levi is really the star of the show and I have no problem with that.
CS: Speaking about the other star of the show, what do you love about playing Murphy?
Mattfeld: Just the fact that she’s so bold. This was also one of the first times where I was stripped from, you know… You see with the show there’s not a lot of makeup or hair or anything like that. So, the fact that I was kind of stripped of that. Physically, it’s Perry, but obviously the character is Murphy, so to be able to be that bold and vulnerable and exposed in raw form like that was very freeing for me. It was a cool experience for me as a woman, too.
CS: For my last question, why was this story important for you to tell?
Mattfeld: Because it’s such a character-driven, relationship-driven show. I appreciate the realness of it. I also appreciate that we’re representing a lot of diversity not just on camera but behind the screen as well. We have over 80% of women in the writer’s room and representatives from the LGBTQ community. We have two writers from the blind community as well. I love that they dove really deep and gave us a lot of raw material. It’s gonna be refreshing for people to see this raw portrayal of these people and these relationships and how Murphy’s self-destruction affects all of her relationships.