The last killer that Columbo ever caught also happens to be the new Perry Mason
Raymond Burr and Peter Falk started out playing bad guys, too.
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Perry Mason and Columbo remain two of the most iconic mystery characters in television history. They both worked their beats in Los Angeles for decades, in long-running series and strings of mystery movies. Unfortunately, the two never appeared together on the same screen. But this past weekend, as we were watching "Columbo Likes the Nightlife," the final Columbo tale that originally aired in 2003, something dawned on us. The killer in that story is now Perry Mason.
Matthew Rhys is best known for his role on The Americans, the cable KGB spy thriller that earned him an Emmy award. Born in Wales, Rhys began his acting career in the U.K. around the turn of the millennium. In 2001, he starred alongside Peter Falk in a BBC production of The Lost World. Perhaps that connection is what landed him his first American television role, a juicy spot in the final Columbo case. In "Columbo Likes the Nightlife," Rhys portrayed Justin Price, a club owner with a very of-its-era Caesar cut and a fondness for electronica.
Flash forward to the modern day and Rhys is currently prepping to step into the role of Perry Mason for an HBO series. Rhys will be the tenth actor to play the brilliant defense attorney. (Raymond Burr was the eighth man to take up the role.) The upcoming take on Perry Mason is more of an origin story, set in 1932 Los Angeles with the lawyer young and struggling. Tatiana Maslany, who played multiple lead roles on Orphan Black, was recently cast in the limited series — but not as Della Street. It seems like she's playing more of a baddie.
As for Rhys going from bad guy to hero, well, that's not so strange. Both Raymond Burr and Peter Falk were typecast as gangsters and villains early in their careers. Maybe that's why these guys end up understanding the criminal mind so well.