It’s been 30 years since Boston’s friendliest bar closed its doors, but everyone still knows John Ratzenberger’s name. The Greetings Pixar’s lucky charm turned star makes an increasingly rare on-screen appearance in live-action Poker face, the new “case of the week” crime series from Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne. In the tradition of classic detective shows such as Columbus And The murder he wroteeach episode features appearances from famous faces from movies and TV shows past and present, and the now 75-year-old Ratzenberger takes center stage in the show’s second hour, currently streaming on Peacock.
“He’s an absolute legend,” says Johnson GreetingsThe master of random trivia is resident of – and famous Danger! flop. “He came to Albuquerque and was so happy to be there. He would make us laugh on set.” Lyonne confirms that Ratzenberger enjoyed making the cast and crew laugh during his guest-starring stint with a very distinctive comedic style. “John would say something weird where you think he’s not listening, and then he’d walk away with this whole mini-riff,” she recalls. “He’s a fun, fun guy.”
Johnson adds that Ratzenberger’s presence in the second episode encapsulates the show’s overall approach to the vast array of guest stars appearing throughout the first season, including Judith Light, Tim Meadows and Ron Perlman. “It’s about people coming on screen who are going to bring you joy,” she notes, adding another Greetings the cameo is planned for a future episode. “Rhea Perlman will also have a part later, so we’re slowly reassembling the Greetings launch.”
Watch our interview with the stars and the creator of Poker face on Youtube
In addition to setting the stage for future cameos of joy, Ratzenberger’s episode also sets the tone and structure for a typical Poker face case after the series premiere led by Johnson does all the heavy world-building. The super-sized premiere details how Lyonne’s former card player, Charlie Cale, is forced to flee Las Vegas after running afoul of a casino mogul and his dogged head of security, played by Benjamin Bratt, the only other series regular cast member besides Lyonne. .
In the second outing, Charlie stops in a small town in the middle of nowhere… and promptly stumbles upon a murder investigation. The presumption of Poker face is that viewers know the killer’s identity right away, but Charlie has to piece together what happened using her Incredible Hulk-like superpower: the ability to catch anyone in a lie. In this particular case, Ratzenberg plays local mechanic Abe, who has a personal connection to the killer.
Abe is also representative of the kind of characters Johnson strives to play Poker face: Working-class, middle-nation Americans who aren’t typically featured in network crime shows or big-screen detective stories like the director’s Knives out franchise. “That was a big part of the show, this idea of Charlie going places that you don’t see on a lot of TV shows,” confirms Johnson. “It won’t be skyscrapers where he’s tearing down executives. It will be regional dinner theaters and stock car races. To be able to take little deep dives in those corners of America is exciting.”
“Our joke was that this show doesn’t take place at the Four Seasons,” adds Lilla Zuckerman, who serves as the Poker faceshe is the showrunner along with her sister, Nora Zuckerman. “It takes place at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping.”
Poker face he is also keen to reveal that those corners of America now boast a more diverse population than is often expected. This is a piece featuring recent shows like the Apple TV+ anthology series, Little America – overseen by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, which likewise seeks to debunk some of the long-held myths about what the so-called “real America” looks like today. “There are microcultures all over our country,” notes Zuckerman. “Our show is really a celebration of that.”
Johnson says so Poker faceThe diversity on the screen of was also reflected in the writer’s room. “We’ve tried to make an effort to enter those little worlds that we enter,” he explains. “We tried to get as close to reality as possible. Obviously, it’s not a Frederick Wiseman documentary, it’s still a detective show. But we wanted to put together a writer’s room that had a certain degree of diversity in terms of backgrounds and also from where the people in the country came from.”
Poker face is currently streaming on Peacock