As Rian Johnson has quickly become Hollywood’s go-to mystery mind, the Knives Out and Glass Onion filmmaker is expanding from the “whodunit” to the “howcatchem” with Peacock’s Poker Face.
The 10-episode series stars Natasha Lyonne as Charlie, who has a special ability to determine when someone is lying and uses the skill to solve the strange crimes that come across her path. The show is a return to a mystery-of-the-week format — featuring a mostly new cast and wrapped-up story in each episode — and began with casual conversations between Johnson and Lyonne about how much they missed that era of TV.
“We’d been talking about it but then he actually put pen to paper, which I always think about as just about the most generous and loving act that we can do. It’s really like writing someone a song or something, like, ‘Oh shit, you’re all the way in. OK, buckle up!” Lyonne told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s premiere on Tuesday. “He’s such an incredible filmmaker, but he’s also a beautiful writer. It was a no-brainer.”
Johnson said when thinking back on shows he loved growing up, like The Rockford Files, Magnum P.I. and Columbo, “I don’t watch them for the mysteries, I watch them to hang out with James Garner and Tom Selleck and Peter Falk. It’s really kind of a hangout show,” he explained. “I’d become friends with Natasha and I adored her, but when I saw Russian Doll and I saw the charisma that she has on screen when she created that character, I thought, ‘This is somebody who can really center and ground a show like this.’ And we were off to the races.”
In creating the character, who Johnson joked is the first person she’s played who actually likes people, Lyonne said she tapped into her longtime love of Philip Marlowe and his portrayal by Elliot Gould.
“A lot of my talking to myself just walking through the streets, I’m usually thinking, ‘If Elliot Gould could get away with this so can I,’” she teased, noting that with the character they shifted away from a city slicker and more into a seasoned ex-gambler with the desert sun on her back.
“I think I’m in my Gene Hackman Night Moves era, just solidly middle-aged, back-foot,” Lyonne added. “Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, The Dude — somebody who’s kind of taking it easy but just can’t stand bullshit, sees the truth and sees the lie and has got to follow it until the end because they love a puzzle too much not to.”
The series, which costars Benjamin Bratt, also features a star-studded lineup of guests including Adrien Brody, Charles Melton, Chloë Sevigny, Clea DuVall, Dascha Polanco, Jameela Jamil, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Judith Light, Lil Rel Howery, Rhea Perlman, Ron Perlman, Simon Helberg, Stephanie Hsu, Tim Blake Nelson and Tim Meadows.
(Excerpt) Read more in: The Hollywood Reporter