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The Stars Of Perry Mason On This Season's Steamy Sapphic Love Story

The Stars Of 'Perry Mason' On This Season's Steamy Sapphic Love Story

Juliet Rylance and Jen Tullock in Perry Mason
Courtesy of HBO

PRIDE sat down with Juliet Rylance and Jen Tullock to talk about the evolution of Della and Anita’s romance, along with the pleasure, pain, and responsibility of representing queer love in an era when it was forbidden.

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If the costumes, intrigue, and stellar acting aren’t enough to draw you into the world of HBO’s Perry Mason, the burgeoning romance between Juliet Rylance’s Della Street and Jen Tullock’s Anita St. Pierre is all the reason you need to get onboard.

Now in its second season, the series picks up a few months after the events of the first, with Perry having moved off the farm and into a less dangerous line of work: focusing on wills and contracts. That of course doesn’t last long, as he’s drawn into a murder case. This is Perry Mason, after all.

Working alongside Perry is fellow attorney (and closeted lesbian, because it’s 1930s Los Angeles) Della, who this season embarks on a new romance with Hollywood screenwriter Anita. It begins with a glance across a crowded room where two feel an instant chemistry that, over the previous three episodes, has been steadily growing into something deeper, if forbidden.

While there’s no guarantee yet that theirs will become a fully fledged love affair (though our money is on it), one thing is instantly clear, and it’s that the actors behind these compelling characters have a powerful chemistry. It’s something they tell PRIDE began, appropriately, over drinks.

“We went out for martinis and we ended up talking I think, for maybe five hours,” Rylance tells PRIDE, recalling the women’s instant connection. “We had so many things to talk about, I think we developed a rapport really quickly with each other. I adore Jen. So it was actually very, very natural. It was very easy to talk about quite big subjects, which I think are very Della and Anita, that sort of straight in, there’s no kind of there’s no small talk.”

The two not only got deep in their conversation, but they also laughed a ton, recalls Tullock. “I think we also found humor together in our friendship and it was inevitable that that bled into the characters. We just made each other laugh a lot,” she tells PRIDE. “I think sometimes a story is about falling in love, especially in a situation where it is forbidden in some way to tilt towards being heavy and sort of bogged down. So it was just really fun to find the levity between these two people who were just like, ‘Let’s fall in love and say yes to it.’”

Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Juliet Rylance & Jen Tullock below. 

Finding that balance between the darkness around being queer in an era when there was little tolerance, let alone acceptance of one’s true self, and the light of two people doing the most natural, beautiful thing like falling in love, was something both actors took very seriously. Tullock said they talked a lot about finding the line between aspirational storytelling and representing historical accuracy.

“I feel like you can’t tip too far one way, otherwise it disrespects the story itself,” she explains. “I think the fact that we as the audience are getting to watch them fall in love and feel confident in that love was important. But I do think, especially as we move further through the season, that there was low-lying anxiety — or at least having your head on a swivel — around who was around.”

Up until this point, audiences had mostly seen the two characters in public spaces, but, as the season goes on, Tullock hints that we’ll have more time with them in private — and, moving between those two scenarios, having to be careful to code switch.

A lot of thought went into how intimate they could appear in their body language, shares Rylance. They are hyper-aware of what they can and can’t do in public. “Can we do this much in public? Because it looks like we’re just friends?” she says. “Can we whisper in each other’s ear? How close can our lips get? Can we hold hands? Can we not hold hands? Like all those questions, we kind of mapped out the entire journey together, very specifically, because I think they would have been really, really aware of the fact that one false move really ends a career, ends a lot of things of very, very quickly. And that was a really interesting thing to explore together.

“Not to eroticize the trauma of our queer foremothers,” Tullock chimes in, “but when they are in situations where they know they cannot touch, every glance, and graze of the elbow, has more meaning. And their entire meeting, in fact, is brokered on a glance, it’s brokered on a look across the restaurant, which is the kind of queer coding that I know, we really wanted to honor.”

So what does the future hold for these two? Is there any reason to have hope for Della and Anita, who found love in the hopeless place of the 1930s? “There’s a reason to have hope,” assures Rylance.

“Yeah, there’s always a reason to have hope,” confirms Tullock.

Perry Mason season two is airing now on HBO. Watch the trailer below.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.