[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Perry Mason, Season 1, Episode 3, “Chapter 3.”]
We’re only three episodes into HBO’s Perry Mason and poor Emily Dodson has already been on one especially nasty emotional rollercoaster. The show opens with Emily and her husband, Matthew (Nate Corddry), losing their infant son, Charlie. Charlie was kidnapped and held for ransom, but even after offering up the money, Emily and Matthew find Charlie dead. In Episode 2, Matthew is taken to the police station for questioning because he’s suspected of having a hand in his son’s kidnapping. However, by the end of the episode the tables turn and the LAPD interrupts Charlie’s funeral to arrest Emily for his murder. That brings us to Episode 3.
Using the love letters Emily wrote to George Gannon that Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) uncovered, District Attorney Maynard Barnes (Stephen Root) insists that Emily and George cooked up a kidnapping scheme so that they could extort money from Matthew Dodson’s wealthy family. While in court, E.B. (John Lithgow) is asked for his client’s plea and that’s when we get one of the most shocking moments of the show thus far; Emily mutters, “Guilty.”
What exactly sparked that self-damning response? Gayle Rankin herself told us all about it on a recent episode of Collider Ladies Night:
“I mean, number one, I was very nervous. It felt like such a delicate moment. And we worked on it a lot. I had a lot of help from my scene partners and Matthew [Rhys] was right there always, and [director] Tim [Van Patten]. We tried it a few different ways. We tried it a few different ways because I think the amazing, special thing about Emily is that you’re not always totally sure what’s going on because her journey is very internal, and I think that’s indicative of women of that time. They weren’t really afforded the opportunity to explore themselves or be vocal or understand what’s really going on for them or not to be influenced. And I think she’s struggling. So I think for me – I’m not sure if I’m totally answering your question correctly – but for me the experience of embodying that moment was accepting her fate, because I think that’s what she’s doing in that moment.”
But does “accepting her fate” mean she considers herself to be guilty? Rankin immediately answered, ‘No,” but then added:
“But yes. No, but yes! And it’s always, ‘No, but yes,’ you know? She felt crushed. It’s an amazing psychological moment where someone has really actually kind of convinced themselves because they don’t have any other option. And that was devastating to me as an actor to wrap my head around, too.”
All of this and we’re only on Episode 3 of eight. We’ll have more from Rankin on Emily’s journey as HBO’s Perry Mason progresses, but if you’d like to learn a little more about Rankin right now and hear about her experience working on The Greatest Showman and Netflix’s GLOW, you can give her episode of Ladies Night a watch below: