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Rian Johnson Says ‘Poker Face’ Carries the Legacy of ‘Columbo’ and ‘Quantum Leap’: ‘It Is the Heart of What I Am Trying to Get At’

POKER FACE -- "The Night Shift" Episode 102 -- Pictured: Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale -- (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock)
Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock

During the premiere of Rian Johnson’s “Poker Face” at the Hollywood Legion Theater on Tuesday evening, the cast and crew had nostalgia on the brain.

Viewers who have been longing for a good old-fashioned episodic mystery series like “Columbo” and “The Rockford Files” may finally have their wishes granted by the “Glass Onion” director’s new murder mystery series, starring Natasha Lyonne.

The Peacock series follows a 10-episode mystery-of-the-week template that puts Lyonne’s Charlie on the road with the help of her Plymouth Barracuda, as she solves various crimes from one stop to the next. Lyonne’s character, a “human lie detector,” uses her ability to sniff out the truth in a series of strange situations. Joining Lyonne is a strong cast of guest stars including Adrien Brody, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chloë Sevigny, Tim Meadows, Benjamin Bratt, Hong Chau, Ron Perlman, Stephanie Hsu, Lil Rel Howery and Luis Guzmán.

Defining the tone and feel of “Poker Face,” Johnson compared his show to “Magnum P.I.,” “The Rockford Files” and “Quantum Leap.”

“All of these shows I was watching as a kid, sitting on the rug in front of my TV, is the heart of what I am trying to get at,” Johnson told Variety.

Series star Benjamin Bratt shared similar feelings, reminiscing, “It reminds me of when I was a kid in the ’70s with the NBC murder mysteries. That was my jam. It was family viewing. ‘McCloud.’ It reminds me of ‘Vanishing Point,’ and, of course, ‘Columbo.’ I really appreciated Rian’s intent to replicate that; it brings the warmth that comes from that nostalgic type of viewing.” 

Lyonne, best known for “Russian Doll” and “Orange Is the New Black,” praised Johnson as well, calling him a “brilliant filmmaker and beautiful human” and referencing their shared love for classic mysteries.

Like “Glass Onion” and “Knives Out,” Johnson said “Poker Face” has a “sense of play to it,” adding that since “there are 10 episodes… and we had to keep moving fast, we would just try stuff to keep it fresh. There’s a lot of experimentation in each episode to make it a unique experience. All I know is that I had fun.”

“Poker Face” premieres on Peacock on Jan. 26.