SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the “Chapter Three,” the third episode of HBO’s “Perry Mason.”
In the third episode of HBO’s “Perry Mason,” Sister Alice, played by Tatiana Maslany, leads a rousing sermon, which includes a skit where Maslany dons an oversized sailor’s outfit while being manually rocked back-and-forth on a boat. By episode’s end, Sister Alice appears to fall unconscious, only to awaken and declare that she spoke with God about resurrecting the murdered infant at the center of the show’s plot. It’s an experience Maslany relished portraying.
“I’d just come from doing Broadway earlier that year, and film can often feel [like] you’re sort of performing to a silent, unfeeling camera. [There’s] not much interaction there, so to have the crowd, that energy was so much fun,” she says on the Variety After-Show.
Also fun? Getting to wear Sister Alice’s comically oversized aforementioned costume: “As soon as I saw that sailor outfit, I was like, ‘This is the greatest thing I’ve ever had to do,’” she says.
“Perry Mason” is set in post-war 1930s Los Angeles, a time of cultural upheaval that includes the advent of organized religion, where Sister Alice is a leader. The dichotomy between her public and private personas — the former, an orator with unwavering faith and the latter, contending with said faith — come to a head in light of the gruesome crime at the center of the series, the murder of a baby boy and the subsequent jailing of his mother, played by Gayle Rankin.
“I’m always really compelled by the kind of performative side of a person versus who they are privately, and she definitely has this extreme nature to both of those sides,” Maslany says. “I feel like the private-public thing has always been something I’ve contended with and been at odds with myself. I’m quite a private person.”
Growing up in Canada, Maslany attended Catholic school, something she says her mother insisted upon so that she could become fluent in French. But she says she has always been at critical of the faith because of its treatment of the LGBTQ community, and now calls the religion “not my bag.”
“We would pray every morning, and we would go to mass and all of this bizarre stuff, so I definitely had a connection to it, growing up in that system,” she says. But “I could see where people held on to religion as a means of justifying bad behavior outside of the church.”
Maslany is also not afraid to critique the Hollywood ecosystem.
“It’s arbitrary and also very concerted in terms of the system decides what stories are worthy of being told, and who can carry those stories and what faces and what bodies will get the most, whatever, mainstream appeal,” she says. “It’s a messed up system.”
Watch the full interview with Tatiana Maslany on the Variety After-Show above.
Written by Audrey Cleo Yap.