Perry Mason Limited Series HBO Matthew RhysPerry Mason Limited Series HBO Matthew Rhys

John Lithgow Joins Detective Drama ‘Perry Mason’

Robert Downey Jr. will executive-produce the limited series which will also star Matthew Rhys and Tatiana Maslany.

What’s it about? Set in 1932 Los Angeles, the limited series will focus on the origin story of famed defense lawyer Perry Mason, based on characters from Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels. Living check-to-check as a low-rent private investigator, Mason is haunted by his wartime experiences in France and suffering the effects of a broken marriage.

L.A. is booming while the rest of the country recovers from the Great Depression — but a kidnapping gone very wrong leads to Mason exposing a fractured city as he uncovers the truth of the crime.

Who you’ll recognize: The Americans’ Matthew Rhys will star as Perry Mason and also serve as a producer. The Emmy Award winner previously guest-starred on Girls’ “American B***h” episode.

Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) will play Sister Alice, the leader of the Radiant Assembly of God, preaching three sermons a day to a hungry congregation and a radio audience that spans the country. Entertainer, politician, God’s conduit to the City of Angels, Sister Alice wields great power when she speaks, and plans to use it in ways only she can know.

John Lithgow will play Elias Birchard “E.B.” Jonathan, a personal attorney at the nadir of his career and a semi-regular employer of private investigator, Perry Mason. A mentor and a father figure to Mason, E.B. is handed the kind of case he hasn’t seen in years: a high-profile parallel investigation to the LAPD involving a case of child kidnapping.

Who’s behind the camera? HBO veteran Tim Van Patten — whose directing credits include the Game of Thrones pilot along with episodes of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Sex and the City, The Wire, The Pacific, Rome and Deadwood — will direct and executive-produce the series. Ron Fitzgerald and Rolin Jones will act as showrunners. Both previously served as producers on Weeds and Friday Night Lights. Fitzgerald has also executive-produced Westworld, while Jones served as an executive producer Boardwalk Empire. They’ll executive-produce Perry Mason along with Amanda Burrell, Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey, and Joe Horacek.

What should I watch while I wait? To get a taste of Van Patten’s past work, check out the Jersey-based crime dramas Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos, or Deadwood, a Western series set in 1870s South Dakota amid a gold strike. For something about the other side of the law, try anthology series True Detective.