HBO’s ‘Perry Mason’ Reboot Cost Tens of Millions of Dollars to Make 

Perry Mason
Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

If you’re wondering about HBO’s Perry Mason‘s production cost, you’re not alone. Since the series premiered on HBO in June 2020, fans have wondered how much the show cost to produce . The series—which is a reboot of CBS’ Perry Mason, which ran from 1957 to 1966—stars Matthew Rhys (The Americans) as the titular character, Perry Mason, a famed defense lawyer in 1932 Los Angeles. The show, which is set in the aftermath of the Great Depression, serves as Perry’s origin story as he struggles with his divorce and the trauma from The Great War. Perry is set on a series of events when when he’s hired for a sensational child kidnapping trial and his investigation leads to consequences for himself, his client and Los Angeles that he could’ve never predicted.

So how much did Perry Mason cost to produce? Well, according to a 2019 report by Film LA, a non-profit that tracks filmmaking in Los Angeles, Perry Mason cost $74,272,000 in total expenditures to create. In terms of employees, that money was spent on 361 cast members, 325 crew members and 5,445 extras. It’s unclear how much was spent on the actual set, costumes and production of the series, but given that Perry Mason is a period piece that was dedicated to the authenticity of the post-Great Depression era in the United States, we assume that the show didn’t skimp on expenses to make Perry Mason as true to the 1930s as possible.

Production designer John P. Goldsmith told Fortune in July 2020 that his team scouted locations in Los Angeles for “bones that were around in 1932″ so they didn’t have to build whole sets themselves. Instead, crew members would take out modern elements and add in historical details, such as wallpapers, to make the show look like the time period it’s set in. “You’re always on a sliding scale between what’s historically accurate and cinematically interesting,” Goldsmith said.

He continued, “You’re always sort of finding a middle ground, which is interesting visually, and as close or in the spirit of what was historically accurate.”

Historical details also involved the interior sets. Goldsmith told Fortune that the crew would change everything from streetlights to stop signs to mail boxes to awnings to make sure the series looked like it was in the correct time period.  “For interiors, like a bungalow in a kitchen, we would change out the appliances so that they were correct for the period,” he said. “In a couple of kitchens, we put down linoleum floors that we had printed from patterns we developed ourselves from historic patterns.”

As for costumes, the series’ costume designer Emma Potter told Fortune that she looked at paintings, specifically watercolor ones, done in the 1930s Los Angeles to inspire the color and texture palette seen in the series. He research also included looking at documentary photography, newspapers and film studio portraits from that time period.

While coming up with costumes, Potter looked at paintings—particularly watercolors—done in Los Angeles during the ’30s, which helped determine the color palette and textures seen on-screen. She also looked at a mix of documentary photography, newspapers, and film studio portraits of that period.“So many of those characters have that kind of one side that people see, and then this other side that was hidden,” Potter said.

Potter used Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) as an example. The character is an evangelical preacher who wears specific types of gowns in the series. For Sister Alice, Potter was inspired by Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, a real-life evangelical figure from the 1900s.

“I remember reading this note that said that she had often had her stage gowns made by people who designed costumes for the movies,” Potter said. “And that really inspired this idea of wanting to have these kind of luxurious or figure-hugging fluid gowns that she wore.”

Perry Mason airs on HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET / PT.

New Entertainment Newsletter

share