I cut my legal drama teeth binging syndicated episodes of the original “Perry Mason.” My tween self was in awe of the 1957 series’ handsome leading man and his sharp and stylized courtroom dealings, which led to a lifelong obsession with mysteries and all things crime-related. So when I heard HBO was revamping the beloved procedural, I was all in! Having read little about it prior to viewing, the first episode left me confused. In its new incarnation, Perry (Matthew Rhys) is a disheveled, down-on-his-luck private investigator gumshoeing his way through Depression-era Los Angeles. Sporting rumpled suits and a floppy cut, he is a far cry from the suavely debonair character Raymond Burr depicted. Deemed an “origin story,” the new version has a decidedly dark and gritty “L.A. Confidential” feel. This is definitely not your grandmother’s “Perry Mason!” But it is no less transfixing. One thing the HBO series has a major leg up on the original? The locations, all of which are striking – none more so than the sprawling Spanish estate belonging to flamboyant preacher Sister Alice McKeegan (Tatiana Maslany) and her overbearing mother, Birdy (Lili Taylor). So I set out to find it.
Thanks to its considerable size and Mediterranean architecture, I knew the property had to be somewhere in my old hometown of Pasadena. I promptly hit up the usual suspects, i.e. the plethora of filming location databases scattered around the internet. But Sister Alice’s pad was nowhere to be found. So I turned to Instagram, first scouring the feed of @filmpasadena, the official City of Pasadena Film Office account. Sure enough, on January 16th there was a photo of Sister Alice’s house with period cars parked in front along with the caption “#perrymason.” The image turned out to be a repost from film liaison @ginaacunaphotography. I headed over to her page and found another picture posted that same day. In it, a line of cars about a mile long stopped on a picturesque two-lane road was visible and I knew immediately that filming had taken place on Columbia Street. I have been in that exact line countless times, as has anyone who has ever spent any time in Crown City, when on the way to State Route 110. I promptly ventured over to Columbia via Google Street View and, sure enough, there was Sister Alice’s house in all of its glory smack dab between Brookmere Road and South Pasadena Avenue.
Click over to the gallery for more Dirt on the gorgeous pad!