‘Perpetual Grace, LTD’ – Conning his way up from rock bottom
James is a man at rock bottom.
As played by Jimmi Simpson (“Westworld,” “Date Night”) in the EPIX noir drama “Perpetual Grace, LTD,” a 10-episode series premiering Sunday, June 2, he’s an addict and lost soul found unconscious by the side of a dusty, rural road by Pastor Byron Brown (Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, “Gandhi”) and his wife Lillian (Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”). The couple take him in, clean him up and try to give him some direction in life.
But the trouble is, none of these people are what they appear to be. Ma and Pa, as they’re known, are a pair of con artists who use their church to bilk hundreds of innocent parishioners out of their life savings, and James, also a grifter, is on the hunt for his next score. And in this seemingly benevolent older couple, he thinks he’s found his latest mark.
Simpson, just off of critically acclaimed work in HBO’s “Westworld,” sought to do more work in that darker vein and found such a character in James, who he calls a “stripped-down human being” and a product of many “well-intentioned bad choices.”
“He’s this naked baby,” the actor explains, “and you get to watch what happens next. You know, how does a grown man with the qualities of a naked baby get through life? How does he start over with nothing in the middle of a plan that he couldn’t control if he was on the top of his game? It’s that thing that life does where it tests you beyond what you think is possible and you feel like you’re dying, and then the next day happens and you’re just twice as strong as you were and you’re ready for twice as much. To me that’s inspirational.”
Created by Steve Conrad and Bruce Terris, the driving forces behind Amazon’s “Patriot,” the series also stars Luis Guzman (“9/11”), Kurtwood Smith (“That ’70s Show”), Terry O’Quinn (“Lost”), Chris Conrad (“Patriot”) and Hana Mae Lee (the “Pitch Perfect” movies). It was shot on location last fall and winter in Santa Fe, N.M., which Simpson credits with creating a look reminiscent of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.
“You have these landscapes, you have the tumbleweed vibration …,” he says. “You’re so high the sun is at your level, the clouds are sending shadows you’ve just never seen before. I’ve been all over the world; I’ve never seen it (like that) because the shadows it throws off of a bush makes it look like a buffalo because it’s so long. And the contrast, it’s kind of magical. … It’s a DP’s (director of photography) dream, it truly is.”