Poker Face, Rian Johnson’s drama series starring Natasha Lyonne as a human bullsh*t detector, wasn’t conceived as a limited series and the Knives Out filmmaker said there are “endless possibilities” to continue in success.
Lyonne stars as Charlie, an effortlessly cool, cheap beer drinking woman with a preternatural ability to solve crimes. After a casino boss seeks her out to use her abilities for nefarious purposes, Charlie goes on the run and gets mixed up in more crimes.
Johnson says that it’s a “how to catch ‘em” rather than a whodunnit as the crime is front and center in each episode.
But while there’s one story that arcs through the ten-episode season, one involving Benjamin Bratt’s security expert, it’s ostensibly a procedural.
Lyonne said that she loved characters such as Peter Falk’s Columbo, Elliott Gould’s Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye and Dennis Franz’s Andy Sipowicz in NYPD Blue.
Johnson added that he took inspiration from series such as Columbo, Magnum PI, Rockford Files and Quantum Leap, episodic case of the week stories with a “charismatic figure at the heart of it”.
Speaking at NBCUniversal’s TCA press tour, Lyonne said that Charlie is “floating above a situation trying to crack a riddle, but also an everyman who has their nose to the grindstone and figuring out the sounds of the street”.
Johnson has directed episodes of television before, including Terriers and Breaking Bad, but that this was “was very much my first rodeo” in terms of creating a series and he “had a blast”, particularly enjoying the pace of storytelling.
In success, he’d like it to continue. “It definitely wasn’t conceived as a limited series, it was conceived as something that has the architecture to keep going. We’ll put this out, see if people like it, one step at a time. There are infinite stories to tell. As people watch more and realize how different each episode is… it’s a smorgasbord of possibilities of different worlds we can dip into in each episode and whole new mysteries in each one. For me, there’s endless possibilities.”
Lyonne was more circumspect but added that her character was “ageless” and “we love working together. “I think we’re just having fun for the show to come out. We’re enjoying the ride,” she added.
The series, which launches its first four episodes on Peacock on January 26, has a murderers’ row of guest stars including Adrien Brody, Angel Desai, Audrey Corsa, Benjamin Bratt, Brandon Michael Hall, Charles Melton, Chelsea Frei, Cherry Jones, Chloë Sevigny, Clea DuVall, Colton Ryan, Danielle MacDonald, Dascha Polanco, David Castañeda, Ellen Barkin, Hong Chau, Jasmine Aiyana Garvin, Jameela Jamil, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Judith Light, Leslie Silva, Luis Guzmán, Megan Suri, Niall Cunningham, Nicholas Cirillo, Nick Nolte, Reed Birney, Rhea Perlman, Ron Perlman, Rowan Blanchard, S. Epatha Merkerson, Shane Paul McGhie, Simon Helberg, Stephanie Hsu, Tim Blake Nelson and Tim Meadows.
Johnson and Lyonne executive produce Poker Face alongside Ram Bergman, Nora Zuckerman, Lilla Zuckerman, Nena Rodrigue and Iain B. Macdonald. The Zuckermans serve as showrunners, and Maya Rudolph and Danielle Renfrew Behrens are co-executive producers. The series hails from T-Street and MRC Television.