“It just grabbed me,” reveals John Lithgow in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby about the “Perry Mason” reboot (watch the video above). The actor remembers about joining the drama for its first season starring Matthew Rhys on HBO, “I didn’t have any questions. I was in. I was in on the merits.”
The two-time Oscar nominee plays “an unsettling character” named E.B. Jonathan, who did not appear in the “Perry Mason” series that premiered in 1957, but was a creation by the author of the original novels. Lithgow explains with reference to the writers of his new series, “They plucked his name out of Erle Stanley Gardner‘s pulp fiction. He was just a minor character and they decided to build him into this character who was a key element of the Perry Mason origin story.” Lithgow continues, “They created this character of an over-the-hill lawyer — a man with a high opinion of himself, but a lot of insecurities, a lot of secrets and not a lot of talent as a lawyer — a lot of really interesting things to work with.”
Lithgow earned a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Drama Supporting Actor with his work as this defense attorney and contends now for his 13th Emmy nomination and seventh win. Only Ed Asner, Allison Janney Cloris Leachman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary Tyler Moore have won more Emmys for acting, to which Lithgow laughs, “They’re all friends of mine — frenemies, as it turns out. They’re my competition!” He continues, “I’m just delighted by it. Everything I’ve won awards for are things that I was very, very proud of and it’s always nice to be recognized for that. Almost anything I say on the subject sounds like a cliché, but it does make me feel awfully nice.”
With a career spanning almost five decades, Lithgow’s accolades also include a pair of trophies from the Tonys, as well as four Grammy nominations. He reflects on his storied career, “I never thought I’d be on Broadway. I certainly didn’t think I would be in a movie, let alone win six Emmy Awards for being on television. I never imagined any of that and I just loved acting.”
Adding that he has “never stopped loving acting,” Lithgow says about his performance style, “So much of what I bring to acting and movies and TV is a theatricality. I have to almost suppress it. I warn directors every time I start working with them. I say, ‘I will be way, way too big right out of the gate, I warn you, but I will give you that. It’s your job to calm me down — tone me down, but you’ll find that there’s certain things I bring to this that you never thought you would have and if you want to, you can cut it in’.”
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