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The moment HBO's Perry Mason made actor Chris Chalk truly take notice

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, the actor from The Newsroom and Gotham talks about auditioning for Perry Mason, being in When They See Us and making his feature film directorial debut.

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Matthew Rhys (left) stars as Perry Mason and Chris Chalk (right) plays Paul Drake in the HBO series Perry Mason.

Merrick Morton / HBO
This story is part of I'm So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.

As the coronavirus pandemic canceled our travel plans, one escape many of us found this past summer was the new Perry Mason series on HBO. Matthew Rhys, from the excellent show The Americans, stars as the titular defense lawyer along with actor Chris Chalk, who portrays detective Paul Drake. The onscreen chemistry between Rhys and Chalk is just one of the things that makes this Perry Mason reboot so compelling.

Chalk, who also played Gary Cooper in the Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom and Lucius Fox on the show Gotham, was a guest on CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast. He explained how initially he almost didn't audition for Perry Mason.

"I was like, 'Oh, that's just a bunch of white people,'" said Chalk with a laugh. "Then I saw Paul Drake and I went, 'Wait a second.' They took Paul Drake, this classic character played by an older white male, and completely invested in him being a young black man in the '30s."

Perry Mason initially aired during the wave of global protests for Black Lives Matter and against police brutality that took place this summer. The series reflects what's happening in American society without being heavy and hard. Before Perry Mason, Chalk starred as Yusuf Salaam in Ava DuVernay's acclaimed four-part series When They See Us, based on the true story about five Harlem teens falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park.

During our interview, Chalk discusses DuVernay and working with people like Sorkin, Steve McQueen and Katherine Bigelow. He also opens up about making his directorial debut with the feature film Farewell, which he also wrote, produced and starred in along with his wife, K.D. Chalk.

Listen to my entire conversation with Chalk on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Season one of Perry Mason is available to stream on HBO Max. Also, you can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.