Rian Johnson Wants Poker Face's Guest Stars To Feel As Big As Columbo's

"Poker Face" has already drawn quite a few comparisons to the classic television series "Columbo." After all, it utilizes the "crime-of-the-week" structure it famously implemented, where the crime is introduced, evaluated, and solved in glorious fashion by the end of the episode. It's not fair to call "Poker Face" a direct riff or even a ripoff of "Columbo," as its central character Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) isn't exactly the willing and experienced detective that made Columbo (Peter Falk) so compelling to watch. That's not to say that our new friend Charlie and her exploits aren't just as interesting to follow — she just does things a bit differently than how we might expect.

However, while Charlie might not be a Columbo copycat, the guest stars she encounters throughout do take a page from the show's playbook. Creator Rian Johnson, far from a stranger to mysteries, told The Ringer that he wanted the one-off characters throughout "Poker Face" to feel as realistic and important to the story as possible. By focusing on one or two critical guest stars each episode, both "Columbo" and "Poker Face" makes audiences invested in their detectives' journeys.

"I think this ties very much into the form of it, what they sometimes call the how-catch-'em thing—crime first, solution later," Johnson said, "because what that allows you to do is clear the deck and not have eight suspects you have to spend time on. It really allows the killer, the main guest star, to be the star of the episode."

Intuition is key

"Poker Face" doesn't string viewers along in anticipation of the ultimate reveal. Without giving away any spoilers, we learn pretty early on who committed the dastardly crime, with viewers witnessing how Charlie eventually comes to her conclusions. It's her famous intuition that keeps us hooked – she can tell when someone's lying, but she can't prove anyone of a crime without the right evidence, something that the killer likely takes advantage of. According to Johnson, this "allows that cat-and-mouse, crime-and-punishment game between them and the detective to take center stage and to have the breathing room to really develop," and that might be why the show got the talented cast it did.

"We were sending them scripts where it wasn't just a cameo. It was, 'this is your episode,'" Johnson continued. "And really trying to write distinct characters that would let them do something juicy that maybe they hadn't done before."

Just how effective was this strategy? Well, the various suspects Charlie will meet along the way include Adrien Brody, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stephanie Hsu, Chloë Sevigny, David Castañeda, Tim Blake Nelson, Ron Perlman, Luis Guzmán, Benjamin Bratt, Simon Helberg, Hong Chau, Lil Rey Howery, and Cherry Jones, just to name a few. Seriously, we can keep going all day with this cast.

The first four episodes of "Poker Face" are available to stream on Peacock, with new episodes premiering weekly.