In The CW series In the Dark, 20-something Murphy (Perry Mattfeld) is a hard-living, hard-drinking blind woman who turns her back on maintaining her responsibilities and figuring out any life goals, in favor of her disaffected attitude and penchant for casual sex. Even though her parents (Derek Webster, Kathleen York), who own a guide dog school, are trying to help give her direction, her room and best friend Jess (Brooke Markham) tries to be supportive, and her trusty guide dog Pretzel is 100% loyal, Murphy just wants someone to believe her when she stumbles upon the lifeless body of the teenager (Thamela Mpumlwana) who saved her from a violent mugging and becomes determined to find the truth, no matter the risk.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Casey Deidrick (who plays Max, a food truck owner/money launderer that finds himself intrigued by Murphy) talked about what attracted him to In the Dark and his character, what draws Max to Murphy, working with co-star Perry Mattfeld, shooting the more intimate moments, and how he hopes viewers will feel about Max by the end of the season.
Collider: This show is so different from anything else on TV, from its blind lead character to its relationships to its insanely adorable dog co-star.
CASEY DEIDRICK: If anyone takes anything from the show, it’s that we have a cute dog on set with us, at all times.
If you ever get frustrated with the characters, just remember the dog.
DEIDRICK: Yeah, that dog was a perfect stress ball.
Because there are so many different elements of this show that we haven’t really seen before, it’s a hard show to describe for people. How was this show presented to you, when it initially came your way?
DEIDRICK: In the audition process, I didn’t even really understand what it was. All I knew was that it was a very well-crafted show, with all of these characters that were so authentic, but I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was. I didn’t know what genre it was, or if it was comedy or drama, or a mixture of the both. The show really lies somewhere in between all of that. Every episode is a little bit different and focuses on new characters, so sometimes there’s a lot of comedy, and sometimes there are some really dark aspects of it, that talk about real shit. That’s what’s so beautiful about the show. It’s so diverse. And hopefully, we will raise questions at home about alcoholism and depression and relationships, which I think is an awesome thing.
What was it about this character, in particular that you really liked and found interesting?
DEIDRICK: Max is not your typical guy. I don’t think he has that toxic masculinity that some male characters portray. That’s not him, at all. He’s a very fun guy. He’s dodgy guy with some mystery. He runs his own food truck, that’s actually a money laundering front for a drug enterprise with this business partner, Darnell. He’s got these secrets that he hasn’t fully been up front about with Murphy. But what I love about him is that I think he genuinely really cares about Murphy. He brings her out as much as she brings him out. They just challenge each other, in this really cool way, which I haven’t really seen before on television. What I love about Max is that he’s pretty much there to crack Murphy’s guarded vulnerability in this show. He’s her rock, and he takes so much shit from her. It’s funny to watch how the roles are reversed, in a sense. It’s a really cool thing that they’re doing.
Would you say that Max and Darnell are genuinely friends, or does Max deal with Darnell just because he doesn’t really have a choice?
DEIDRICK: That’s a really good question. For Keston [John] and I, it was really important to create a backstory. In our first scene together, we were thrown into counting money together and we really had to create that backstory of how we maybe grew up on the same street and were childhood friends, and that our families know each other. I do think there is more there than what you’re seeing, as far as just being business partners. I do think that there is more of a solid foundation of friendship, prior to being business partners.
Max is definitely an interesting character because he pushes Murphy in ways that she’s not used to, and she seems actually repulsed by people who like her. What do you think it is that keeps him coming back to her, knowing how prickly she is?
DEIDRICK: I think a lot of it may have to do with his backstory, as well. You will learn a little bit about Max’s history with his mother, in later episodes. But Max doesn’t make any allowances for Murphy’s blindness, and I think she likes that about him. He just treats her like everybody else. She’s not being treated like she’s visually impaired because Max has never been around someone who is visually impaired. He’s exploring things, for the first time, with her. And I don’t think he’s ever been challenged by a woman before, the way that Murphy challenges Max. That’s ultimately what the drive is there. He sees a lot of broken-ness in her, and Max is a very broken character, as well. That’s what connects the two, in the end.
What’s it been like to work with Perry Mattfeld and to have her to explore the dynamic between your characters, but then also add a dog into the middle of some of those moments?
DEIDRICK: That’s actually a really good question, too. It’s funny, when I first met Perry, I just felt like she was one of those types of people that I feel like I met in another life, or something. We just clicked very well, and we just understand each other’s stupid jokes and humor, and things like that. That really helped us, on set, when we were shooting. And then, you throw a dog in there and there’s just a beautiful chaos between the three of us, especially a couple of the episodes where we shot in the snow. I wouldn’t change a thing, but there were definitely some crazy moments. Perry was acting blind, with a dog who is an actor, and trying to navigate through that whole thing and watch it happen was really a beautiful experience for me. I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was really cool for me to watch her do her thing with the dog. She and Pretzel, or Levi, which is the dog’s actual name, had such a special bond that was truly magic to see.
Are there any challenges specific to working with an actor who’s playing a character that’s blind? Do you always have to make sure that she’s not looking somewhere that she wouldn’t actually be able to look?
DEIDRICK: The thing is is that I trust Perry so much, and she did her homework for this role. I honestly couldn’t be more proud of her. But I didn’t want to pay too much attention to that. I purposely didn’t study how to show a person who’s visually impaired into a room, or how to walk them to a car. I didn’t look that stuff up because I wanted to organically figure that out, in the process, because that’s what Max would have done. Max doesn’t treat her like she’s visually impaired. He just treats her like a normal person, and I really wanted that to come across, in shooting the show, so that’s what I focused on. I didn’t really pay too much attention to whether she was looking the wrong way, or whatever, ‘cause I just trusted her instincts.
Because the relationship between them is not an easy one, it leads to some interesting, funny and awkward moments, with one of those moments, in particular, in the bedroom. What was that like to shoot? Is it ever hard not to laugh, or is it easier to do intimate scenes when they’re funny?
DEIDRICK: For me, personally, I don’t have any reservations when it comes to like being naked, or having to be intimate on set. That’s a place where I feel comfortable with myself, and hopefully, the show will bring more awareness to healthy sexual practices at home. I hope that will create conversations. So, that didn’t really bother me. I respect Perry and was comfortable with her, and she was comfortable with me. We were very respectful of each other, and we realize that we’re just two people telling a story, so it really didn’t bother me. But that that being said, I was pretty much naked that entire episode, for the most part. That was such a fun episode. I had so much fun filming that. Of course, it’s silly. We were all just cracking up laughing. That was a good week to be on set. It was pretty funny. And it’s a real thing. I probably watched about 20 YouTube videos about it.
As a result of being in Murphy’s life, Max also has to get to know her roommate, Jess. I love the relationship between Murphy and Jess because it’s such an odd couple relationship. How does Max see their relationship, and what does he think of Jess?
DEIDRICK: It’s like this third wheel guy coming into a marriage. I definitely get the third wheel vibes anytime Max is in their apartment and they’re together because they have their own routine and flow, and Max is just a wrench in that machine. He’s really trying to navigate through that whole process of figuring out where his place is, in that relationship. I think what you’ll find, throughout the season, is Max and Jess testing each other and testing their boundaries with each other. I’m really excited for you to see what happens, in the end, ‘cause it’s really fun.
Max comes into Murphy’s orbit because of Darnell, and due to the fact that Tyson is missing. As Murphy keeps digging into that, will there be a point where Max feels that it’s all getting a bit too dangerous?
DEIDRICK: That’s an interesting question. It’s a tricky question because I’m not sure what I can and cannot say. Sometimes Max is that good angel on Murphy’s shoulder, who’s saying, what are you doing? Why are you doing this? But at the same time, he realizes that this is something that she really, really cares about and that really means a lot to her. Max ultimately just wants Murphy to be happy, so if this is gonna make her happy, he supports her in that, regardless of how stupid or dangerous it might be. So, he wants good things for her, but at the same time, he knows it’s pretty stupid. Let’s face it, Max is laundering money for a drug dealer, which is a crime, so he’s not thinking too straight either.
How do you hope viewers will feel about Max, by the end of the season?
DEIDRICK: I just hope that viewers can relate to him and see a little bit of themselves in Max. We’ve all been in those relationships where one person maybe loves the other person more. Max was a gift for me. I’ve learned so much from him, especially in relationships involving toxic masculinity and anger. I think Max deflects all of that, and he’s the opposite of that. He’s the punching bag, and he takes it and accepts it, and accepts Murphy for who she is. We can all learn a little bit of something from Max, in that sense.
In the Dark airs on Thursday nights on The CW.