The CW's new drama In the Dark stars Perry Mattfeld as Murphy, a snarky, sarcastic 20-something who unapologetically loves sex and shuns responsibility. What you may not realize about Murphy — at least at first — is that she is also blind.
Murphy lost her sight as a child, and shortly after was adopted by her parents, who opened up their own guide dog school to assist others like Murphy. However, this story isn't about Murphy managing life without sight. Instead, it's about Murphy solving the murder of her friend Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana) whom Murphy finds dead in an alley one day. And, since Murphy was the only one to find Tyson's body, no one believes that she's right about his death — making the investigation all the more difficult to pursue.
The series is far from the heightened noir of Riverdale, but instead exists as a grounded drama about a woman pursuing truth and justice. It's Murphy who brings some levity to the series: Sarcastic and sharp-witted, Murphy knows what everyone expects of her, and uses it to her advantage. Before Tyson's murder, she wasn't particularly interested in doing anything with her life, let alone be seen as anyone's hero due to her lack of sight. However, when Murphy discovers that she's the only one who will find Tyson's killer — she realizes she has to step it up.
In an interview with Refinery29, Mattfeld — In the Dark marks her first leading TV role — talks about how the preparation that goes into portraying a blind character and who her favorite co-star is. (Hint: They're furry.)
Refinery29: Your character lost her sight many years ago. How did you prepare to play a character who moves through the world without sight?
Perry Mattfeld: "The show is loosely inspired by Lorri Bernson [one of the consultants on the show as well as the Media & Community Liaison for Guide Dogs of America.] When I first got the role, I spent quite a bit of time in her house with her. I realized what a responsibility I had, and how much I had to learn. So I spent a lot of time with her, watching her morning routine, how she got ready for bed, brushed her teeth, cooked in her kitchen, and used her guide dog. I learned how to text on an iPhone using the audio settings. It was great to be able to learn and research with her, and to have her on set as well."
Outside of your portrayal, how did In the Dark utilize the blind community to help create authenticity?
"We have two writers who are blind on our writing staff, and a lot of things came from their experiences. The story is the story, but the portrayal was created to be authentic, and we get a lot of insights based on things that have happened to both of them.
"I’m most proud that the creators took the opportunity to start the project with authenticity by not only staffing the writer’s room that way, but by adding [actors who are blind.] The guide dog users in the show are real guide dog users. We have a subject that is going to educate millions of people because it’s being broadcast on a major network. That’s really exciting."
The CW is notorious for promoting inclusion. How does it feel to be a part of a show that is helping broaden the scope of the people we see on TV?
"Diversity isn’t just defined by a race or gender, so we are addressing yet another element of diversity that isn’t seen as often. The fact that the entire show is encompassed by that, that over 80% of the writer’s room is made up of women, that we have members of the LGBTQ+ community in the writer’s room and on screen, I think that makes the show that much better. Our writers pulled from their real experience. I think that’s why we are able to tell a story that is so raw and real."
"Having strong women surrounding this project is really great. We have some really awesome female directors as well. I appreciate the way that Murphy, and every character, is broken down. There’s barely any makeup, no one has their hair ‘done,’ and I think that these audiences will appreciate seeing characters in their raw form."
Murphy is a unique heroine in that she's messy, sarcastic, and vulnerable. What was it like to portray her?
"This was an actor’s dream role for me, because of the mental, emotional, and physical challenges. It was something that I trained in a four-year acting program for. Our brilliant creator Corinne Kingsbury said she never felt that she related to the ‘perfect’ female characters that she saw growing up. She wanted to create a flawed, very real, very vulnerable character who is still celebrated, and vocal, and strong. It was really cool to put myself in that position, and to feel that vulnerable, but also to be encouraged to be that bold."
In the Dark is also a mystery series — are you excited for people to become armchair sleuths, and try to figure out the "whodunnit?"
"I can’t wait for that, because we had so much fun at the table reads, every episode, trying to figure out what the hell would happen next. It was a surprise for us every episode. We would pause because there would be laughter or gasps or bets won, bets lost over what happened. I’m excited to watch other people go through this, especially my friends and family I’ll be watching with. They’ll have no clue what’s coming next."
What's it like working with Murphy's guide dog 'Pretzel'?
"It's great. Her [real] name is Levi, and she’s the most perfect specimen of a canine. The entire crew had the opportunity to be educated around guide dogs because so many of them were on set. While Levi is an actress [and not a guide dog], it was so wonderful to get close to her. It was such a joy showing up at work and seeing guide dogs, puppies, the whole thing."
In The Dark premieres on The CW April 4 at 9 p.m.