California native Perry Mattfeld started performing when she was 5, but she spent the majority of her young life as a dancer. The 25-year-old is taking on the biggest challenge of her acting career with the starring role in the new CW series In the Dark.
Taking on the lead role in a network series would be enough for some sleepless nights, but the character of Murphy Mason is complicated. Murphy is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, bed-hopping, responsibility-shirking mess. And, she's blind.
"She is definitely unique and I think a first," Mattfeld says of Murphy. "This role is an actor's dream for me. It's a mental, emotional and physical role. And, obviously, I realized how much not only was there a responsibility for me with this role, but how much I had to learn. It was an honor to get to learn about that community and become aware of that community."
Mattfeld absorbed everything she could from the writers (some are blind), fellow actors (some are blind) and especially Lorri Bernson, the consultant on the show who is legally blind.
The main thing Mattfeld learned from Bernson was not everyone who has a disability is humble, dependable, nice and kind. Those who can't see are just as likely to be annoying, disrespectful and undependable as anyone else.
"Lorri has become a second mom to me," Mattfeld says. "Just like the creators of the show saw in Lorri -- her wit, her sarcasm and her curt confidence -- that was the inspiration for any certain disability or limitations. That's where the idea for her to be defined by so many other things and for her to be so bold came from. I think that's a nice kind of change and an honest depiction of who Lorri is."
All the information went into Mattfeld playing the character, who is trying to live her own life while people go from being overprotective to understanding. The one person who doesn't define Murphy by her blindness is Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana), a teenager who deals drugs on the street.
While she is out for a walk, Murphy's life comes crashing down when she stumbles upon what she's sure is the lifeless body of Tyson in the alley outside her apartment. But when the police arrive, there is no body to be found. Others' lack of interest in Tyson's fate frustrates Murphy and sends her on a mission to discover the truth.
Mattfeld's early days of performing might not sound like preparations for starring in a TV series. She began her career as a ballet dancer with the Long Beach Ballet and under the tutelage of choreographer Debbie Allen. But that helped her with a recurring role on Shameless and guest roles on Homecoming and Stitchers.
Mattfeld's convinced all the dance work she has done has given her an extended awareness of space. That was helpful as Mattfeld spent hours observing how Bernson moved, even to the point of having her do a walkthrough of a scene with her before filming so Mattfeld would understand how a person without sight would move in that moment.
The first season deals with the mystery of Tyson, but that's only one layer of the show. There are story lines involving Murphy's relationship with her best friend, how she deals with her parents, the connection she makes with the only police officer (and his blind daughter) willing to help in the investigation and her curious bond with her Seeing Eye dog.
"There are so many layers to this show and I think that is what people are going to appreciate so much. And all of the relationships were complicated and complex and detailed and ornate," Mattfeld says. "It is such a character-driven, relationship-driven show. You have characters from all walks of life and I love that.
"I love we have so many different love stories and at the forefront is Murphy and her best friend. One of the favorite relationships people are drawn to is the love story between Murphy and her guide dog."
And for the record, Levi, the dog who guides Murphy in the series, has been trained to work on TV and film sets. Using a real guide dog on the show would have taken away a canine from a person who really needs the assistance.
In the Dark also stars the human actors Rich Sommer, Brooke Markham, Casey Diedrick, Keston John, Morgan Krantz, Derek Webster and Kathleen York.
In the Dark airs at 8 p.m. on The CW.
Style on 04/16/2019
Print Headline: Perry Mattfeld is a bright light for In the Dark