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SYFY WIRE Poker Face

Natasha Lyonne says her 'Poker Face' heroine's skill is more puzzle-solver than superpower

Who doesn't want the gift of a flawless "bulls***" radar?

By Tara Bennett
Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face Season 1 Episode 6

There are many, many mystery shows on TV, but it's no mystery what separates the classics from the rest: the strength of the lead sleuth. From Peter Falk's Columbo to Kristen Bell's Veronica Mars, it's the person sniffing out the clues and the crimes that ultimately keep us coming back. In the case of Peacock's new series Poker Face, creator Rian Johnson (Glass Onion) is hoping audiences fall in love with the lead of his show, Charlie Cale, as embodied by Natasha Lyonne. 

When we first meet Cale, she's in Nevada working as a casino waitress. But her boss Sterling Frost Jr. (Adrien Brody) discovers she's got quite the talent as a human lie detector. Just with a look, Cale can determine if someone is telling the truth or laying down some "bulls***," and that's a unique ability to wield in the world. At the recent TCA press day for Poker Face, Lyonne said Cale's prowess with determining fibs is something she appreciates because of her own life experience dealing with liars. 

"I'm sort of somebody who has a pretty quick read on people, something you might call street smarts, I guess," Lyonne said of her own aptitude with people. "But certainly it would be more fun to have it in the way that Charlie does. Mine is, I guess, just intuitive."

Throughout the series, audiences will see how adept Cale is with her powers of observation, which Lyonne said shouldn't be confused with an actual "power," per se.

"I think what's so fun about the way Rian has crafted it [so that her abilities are] just enough that it kind of gets her in through the door, but it's not a superpower," the actress said. "She has to go about solving that suspicion and following that thread all the way through in a very human, practical way that's much more just a puzzle than it is a power. It's a way of sort of saying, 'Hey, something's fishy.'

"And, you know, on the back of that, the thing I love so much about playing her, is she really cares about the truth ultimately, which is something I identify with a great deal," Lyonne continued. "She's looking out for the little guy. When she sees something corrupt, it's kind of like a nose for integrity and righting a wrong, especially if the type of person has been [wrongly] imprisoned. Let's say, [that] is somebody that her heart is with. It's a lot of nuanced fun games within all that, rather than just the conceit itself."

The first four episodes of Poker Face premiere on Jan. 26 on Peacock. New episodes will air weekly.