If you haven’t watched In The Dark yet, I’m jealous. I’ve already binged the first season and honestly, I wish I could go back and do it all over again (I just might). The CW show stars Perry Mattfeld, who plays a blind woman in her twenties navigating life in urban Chicago, who the actress describes as, “the girl you hate to love.” Spoiler alert: Murphy loses her best friend, and while trying to figure out what happened to him she ends up in a deep hole surrounded by some of the biggest cartel members in Chicago. It’s real, raw, and I could not turn away. It certainly helps that the cast is … nice to look at (Casey Deidrick, anyone?!). Prior to In The Dark, Perry starred in the American Girl live tour, and had roles on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel — but then stopped her acting career after her high school graduation to have a real college experience. So, grab your popcorn and read on to learn more about Perry’s incredible journey from The University of Southern California to The CW:
Her Campus: Perry, it is so wonderful to meet over the phone! We’re obsessed with In The Dark over here at Her Campus.
Perry Mattfeld: Thank you thank you! I just wanted to start off by saying I wish I had known about Her Campus when I was studying at the University of Southern California. I felt I was a little bit behind, especially romantically, with my peers. Looking back, I wish I had some sort of outlet or support system for that, I just remember feeling very naive coming from high school to a college where there was a lot going on that I was not prepared for. I think it’s so awesome that you provide a very real platform for girls to lean on each other because college is a wacky time.
Her Campus: Thank you so much! Well, you’re an honorary member of the Her Campus community now! Tell us a little more about how you balanced your career, your major and being a cheerleader?
Perry Mattfeld: I think I am the only Bachelor of Fine Arts major that has ever been a USC song girl, that’s what our cheerleaders are called. Both programs are super intense, but the Bachelor of Fine Arts program that I was majoring in was a conservatory-style, super intense acting program. And even though I was busier than I’d ever been before, I knew I was at this awesome school (that my parents are paying a lot of money for!) and I wanted to take advantage of everything USC had to offer. And because I knew I wanted to pursue film and tv more than theatre I took advantage of the film school as much as I could, by participating in student films, and I took some of the film school’s classes, too.
Her Campus: Do you have any words of wisdom for film/arts students and specifically the class of 2020 in this time of uncertainty?
Perry Mattfeld: Someone told me once that college is the best four years of your life. And it is so fun and so awesome and where you meet some of your best friends, but it is the beginning of the best time of your life. It is not the end. So I think there is so much pressure on being as social as you can in college, but my biggest piece of advice to college students is take advantage of every opportunity that you can in college but remember the best is yet to come. Your real-life starts after graduation.
Her Campus: When you graduated what was your next step or project you jumped into?
Perry Mattfeld: There were seventeen people in my acting program and as a part of our program completion, we held a showcase in NY and LA for casting directors and producers. Traditionally most acting students will do a monologue from a famous play, but I had something a bit different in mind. I raised my hand in one of our rehearsals and I said I wanted to do something different, specifically a scene from Bridesmaids. Of course, eyebrows were raised at that but I thought you know what, I’m a huge Kristen Wiig fan, that’s the kind of stuff I want to be in one day. I got a lot of slack but it ended up being such a rewarding experience when I had to wait for people to stop laughing during my scene. And that is honestly how I got my agent. He has been a champion for me ever since. When he was pitching me to his team, I didn’t have a reel or resume, I wasn’t in anything he could show his team. But he believed in me and asked them to trust him, and they did. After a year of auditions, I ended up scoring my role on Shameless and that’s really when it started to feel real.
Her Campus: Wow, that’s amazing! Backing up a bit, we definitely have some Wizards of Waverly Place fans here at Her Campus, how did that come to be?
Perry Mattfeld: In High school, I was a dance kid and I did a bunch of community theatre. A girlfriend’s mom had asked if my mom wanted to take me to audition for the American Girl tour. Honestly, I didn’t have any American Girls, I just knew they were dolls my rich girlfriends had. We’d never gone to a big open casting like that before, but my mom decided we should check it out. I ended up being cast as Kit and Kirsten in the LA tour and then I worked for Mattel for almost three years after that. It was my first real professional job, and I did 169 live shows. After that, I got a Nikelodeon pilot, I was on Disney Channel, aka Franken-Girl in WOWP, but really what I remember of those years is constantly doing algebra homework in the car, because I was still in school fulltime. But then I chose to take a full break. I knew college was so special and you only get it once and I wanted to fully have the full experience. So I let my agents and manager go and just did college for four years. I told them I want to go to school, I want to be in a sorority, I want to ride my bike to get food, I want to carry my books, I want to go to football games, I want to be a cheerleader, I wanted all of that. And looking back I have no regrets.
Her Campus: Sounds like you really did it right! And now with CW’s In The Dark in its second season, what would you say to people who haven’t watched it, yet?
Perry Mattfeld: I play a messy, imperfect anti-hero who is the girl you hate to love. She loses her best friend, and while trying to figure out what happened to him she ends up in a deep hole surrounded by some of the biggest cartel members in Chicago. It’s exciting, it’s unpredictable. There are dogs, there are incredibly talented people, amazing friends, and so much more. She also happens to be blind, so it is a very unique story, but I don’t want to spoil anything so you’ll need to watch to find out more.
Her Campus: Playing a blind woman is such a powerful role. How have you trained and learned how to represent this accurately and respectfully?
Perry Mattfeld: I’m so lucky because the show is inspired by a real person. Lorri is not only our blind consultant and part of our writers’ room for the show, but she has become like a second mom to me. As an actor I am playing someone I can study in real life. Before we did the pilot I spent quite a bit of time with her in person just watching her get ready, watching her watch tv, learning how she uses her guide dog, watching her make food in her kitchen, really just observing the basics of the physical component of being blind. I will never be able to truly understand what it is like, but I wanted to at least mirror the physical aspect as authentically as I could. I use Lorri as a resource constantly and am so lucky to have her, and I am always learning from her.
Her Campus: Speaking of guide dogs, I’m obsessed with pets named after food (my own cat is named Beignet) tell us about having Pretzel as a co-star?
Perry Mattfeld: I don’t know how I got so lucky to be on a show where I get to kiss and hug the sweetest golden retriever ever, every day. Pretzel is actually not a guide dog, he is an actor. A lot of people ask why we’re not using a real guide dog, and there are two interesting reasons. The first part is, we would never want to take a guide dog away from someone who could use them. And secondly, when you repeat an action for a guide dog that means they did something wrong. So when they’re in training that means there is a correction to be made and they need to fix it before they can move on. With actor dogs, like Tripp who plays Pretzel, he knows the more times we do it, the more treats. So he’s ready to go again with every lens change and new camera angle. Many of our cast members are blind, so they bring their own guide dogs to work, so we constantly are surrounded by dogs on set and it is amazing.
Her Campus: So what’s next for you, are you working on any upcoming projects?!
Perry Mattfeld: We are confirmed for a Season 3 of In The Dark, which is incredible. I feel hope in these uncertain times knowing that somehow and someway when the world is safe enough for us to go back to work on season 3 and I will get to put on Murphy’s hoodie again and make more episodes of this story.
Her Campus: Yay! As a viewer, I am thrilled to hear that! And after that, do you have a big goal long-term goal future goal you aspire to?
Perry Mattfeld: The cinema school at USC has huge financial donors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, although the school of theatre has plenty of crossover of classes and instructors, no one has named the school of theatre, yet. And I love the idea of giving back to the school that gave me my foundation. I want to fuel the actors that take the four years to go to college because it really is scary. I am so supportive of that because making that decision has served me so well.