IThe CW network already has TV’s most distinctive heroines.
One is super, one’s a zombie, three are witches and one is the world’s only witch-werewolf-vampire tribred. One breaks into song; another was jolted by the return of her dead husband.
Now there’s “In the Dark” and Murphy Mason. She’s “kind of a disaster,” said CW’s Paul Hewitt. “She smokes. She drinks. She’s into casual sex. She’s rude to pretty much everybody – her parents, her roommates, the cops, her guide dog Pretzel. Oh, and she’s blind.”
That doesn’t fit the stereotype. Fiction often gives blind people super senses and great hearts. In “Butterflies Are Free,” a blind man grumbles that his mother wrote stories of a “sightless superhero.”
In real life? “A person without vision can have as many quirks as a person who has sight,” said Lorri Bernson, the show’s consultant and its inspiration.
The idea started at a management retreat, said CW programming chief Mark Pedowitz, with Bernson as a speaker. “Lorrie was captivating and she was incredibly funny and sarcastic.”
There was talk of turning that into a TV character. Nicholas Weinstock, a producer, contacted writer Corinne Kingsbury. “I said to her, ‘Do you think it’s possible to do the most unconventional blind character anyone’s seen? (Someone) you don’t feel sorry for.”
Or, as Perry Mattfeld (shown here, who plays Murphy) put it, someone “you don’t really like so much.”
This took some acting. At the University of Southern California, Mattfeld was the opposite of cynical Murphy; she was a USC Song Girl, cheerily dressed and leaping around at basketball games.
“Those four years at USC were some of the highlights of my life,” she said. “I was a dancer, but my theater training was important to me.”
Now, she said, she’s tackling something “very deep and very layered …. I beat (myself) pretty bad.”
Then there were the specific details. Since Murphy wasn’t born blind, Bernson said, she would retain the habit of facing toward a sound. And since she’s Murphy, her other techniques might vary. “How she handles her dog may not be exactly by-the-book, because Murphy is not so by-the-book.”
One person fitting easily ino her role was Calle Walton, 19. She had done a couple theater roles she said, “but then, my senior year of high school, lost my sight and kind of thought, OK, acting’s out ….
“And then I came to my new school up in Canada and within 10 days of being there, (an announcement said), ‘Any girls interested in acting, come to the principal’s office.’”
She did and soon got the role – which brings one objection: “I was called to the principal’s office 10 billion tines,” said Sommer, who plays her dad, “and zero of them led to a job. It’s not fair.”
— “In the Dark,” 9 p.m. Thursdays, CW
— Pilot film, April 4, reruns at 8 p.m. April 10