It’s no coincidence that “Patriot” strong members Terry O’Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Chris Conrad, Hana Mae Lee and Michael Chernus resurface on “Perpetual Grace, Ltd.”
The 10-episode noir sequence, airing 10 p.m. Sundays on Epix with stars Ben Kingsley, Jacki Weaver and Jimmi Simpson, was created by Steven Conrad and Bruce Terris, the crew behind “Patriot,” which streamed for 2 seasons on Amazon.
“We have our ensemble, performers familiar from ‘Patriot,’ but that’s also true of our editors, sound mixers, camera operators and cinematographers,” says Conrad. “We try to hold collectively. Everybody put a lot into ‘Patriot’ and … by the interval that we weren’t ready to make ‘Patriot’ we had the possibility to make this current — and all individuals merely decided to carry over.
“These are actors and filmmakers we’ve come to depend on,” he says. “It’s like when you press a note on a piano and you know how it’s going to sound. They’re like that for us. And it helps to just feel together when you have to go far away from home. There’s a camaraderie you wouldn’t get otherwise.”
“Perpetual Grace Ltd.” revolves round James (Jimmi Simpson), a hapless sad-sack who, in an elaborate ruse, assumes one other particular person’s id to pilfer $4 million stolen by crooked church elders “Pa” and “Ma” Brown (Kingsley and Weaver) from their unwitting flock.
“Bruce [Terris] came to me with this notion … and said to me, ‘What if, in order to ease some personal trauma and solve some personal problems, someone assumed another person’s identity only to learn that that person was in much worse condition than them?’ ” says Conrad. “That’s Hitchcock and folds into noir in a really beautiful way.”
“And what if your plot works, and you assume the identity of this other person, and now you’re saddled with their antagonists and the people who are after them?” says Terris. “What then?”
‘You really don’t direct him. You sort of experience him.’
Conrad and Terris say they in no way thought they’d get the Oscar-winning Kinglsey (“Gandhi”) or Oscar-nominee Weaver (“Animal Kingdom,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) to star in “Perpetual Grace.”
“Bruce and I were sitting in a bar and said to each other, ‘He’ll never do it, so what the hell?’” Conrad says about Kingsley. “Then we started to make a list for when he said ‘no thank you’ and it was a precipitous dropoff. I couldn’t get excited about the next guy on the list.”
“We wrote the script and had Jacki in mind for Lillian, which is something we rarely do,” says Terris. “What she’s been able do to with her character … you may have one opinion of her early on as this sweet little church lady who has the power to stand toe-to-toe with Pa, but when her real character is revealed in future episodes … there’s almost no one else who could do that. We couldn’t think of anyone else who could play that role.”
Conrad says he “didn’t sleep a wink” for days sooner than capturing began on “Perpetual Grace, Ltd.” on account of he was nervous about working with Kingsley. “I get asked a lot if we’re supposed to call him ‘Sir Ben’ and we’re not, he never asked us to do that, ever,” he says of Kingsley, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. “We merely identify him ‘The Man’ in personal. He was doing 10 pages a day … and when The Man was there everyone was merely on it they wanted to be just about pretty much as good as Ben is.
“On Day 3 [of shooting] I stated to Bruce, ‘You really don’t direct him. You type of expertise him.’ It was amazing expertise of six months watching who I take into account one of the best actors who’s ever acted in one thing Bruce and I wrote.”