This story about the cast of “Poker Face” first appeared in the comedy series theme from TheWrap Awards Magazine.
No new Emmy-caliber series relies as much on its cast of guest stars as “Poker Face,” let alone the caliber of talent assembled by creator Rian Johnson, star, executive producer, director Natasha Lyonne, and showrunners. Lilla and Nora Zuckerman. .
Lyonne stars in the comedy Peacock as our grieving hero Charlie Cale, a former off-grid casino worker, muscle car driver on the run from a mobster (Adrien Brody) who wants her head after she discovers the truth about the mysterious death of Lyonne. his coworker (Dascha Polanco). A tantalizing enough premise on its own, there’s another twist: Charlie is, inexplicably, a human lie detector, a skill that makes her a very good player and badass vigilante detective. That’s where our guest stars come in.
Each of the series’ 10 episodes is structured around a murder-of-the-week format, similar to “Columbo” and other episodic shows of yesteryear. As Charlie bounces from major metropolises to one-horse cities nestled in the desert, he encounters losers while working odd jobs and catches them red-handed. From Joseph Gordon-Levitt to Stephanie Hsu, from Clea DuVall to Ron Perlman, a veritable who’s who of famous faces and character actors playing murderers, schemers and victims.
“It’s really cool to go in and tell a whole story, but in a very short time. You can never really do that,” said Danielle Macdonald, who plays a barbecue killer in the episode “The Stall.” “It was amazing to be able to do a quick little pocket episode.”
Macdonald and Lil Rel Howery play the wife and brother of a child prodigy who plans to pass off his death as a suicide so he can continue the family business.
“To be one of the guest stars is kind of a dream come true,” Howery said. “And I have to play a bad boy! I always play a hero or someone’s favorite character, so being a killer was fun.” It’s the strength of these guest stars that keeps “Poker Face” so fresh, episode after episode.
In “Time of the Monkey,” Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson play a pair of ex-radical political activists who take a newcomer (Reed Birney) into their retirement home after discovering that he is a friend from the past who betrayed. Sporting bad wigs and cursing like sailors, the two TV veterans lean into physical hijinx and all-out villainy, turning their atrocities (like planning to kill children in an act of domestic terrorism) into a very funny, dark comedy. Just ask Howery, who cited the episode as one of his favorites: “He Was So Crazy!”
There’s also Tim Blake Nelson, who appears as an elderly race car driver facing off against his younger nemesis (Charles Melton). Cherry Jones is in the prime of her game as a film producer with a guilty conscience and a score to settle with the special effects genius of Nick Nolte. Dressed in a corset, Chloë Sevigny electrocutes the drummer of her band in the middle of a live set. And in one of the most inspired strokes of casting magic in the entire series, Hong Chau applies a gruff Southern drawl and cowboy hat as a nomadic trucker who gives Charlie some key tips for living off lamb. They all give perfect performances. And they all seem to be having the time of their lives.
Ellen Barkin really was. In “Exit Stage Death,” the Emmy winner plays, in her words, a “desperate” actress who “was on a bad TV show like ‘Baywatch'” and is now struggling to make her way back through dinner. theater opposite the equally hapless actor of Tim Meadows. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in that creative environment,” Barkin said. She praised the episode’s director, Ben Sinclair (“I don’t know when I was treated so well, I really don’t know”) and the force of nature that holds the entire show together. “I see Natasha Lyonne, I see the actress,” Barkin said. “Then I see her on set and I’m like, Wow, she’s really working so hard. And she’s doing a great job.”
Howery agreed. “You’re like, they can’t really be that cool in real life. But she really is great,” she said. “And so much fun.”