Natasha Lyonne and Benjamin Bratt Go Beyond Cat-and-Mouse in ‘Poker Face’ – IndieWire

In the immortal words of Blues Traveler, “The hook brings you back” – and the hook on Rian Johnson’s “Poker Face” is Natasha Lyonne and Benjamin Bratt.

Lyonne plays the charmingly irreverent Charlie Cale (whom he refers to as “The Big Lebowski” rather than “The Russian Doll”) in the “howcatchem” murder mystery born from his conversations with Johnson and executed as a mash-up of their voices. Bratt plays the menacing Cliff LeGrand, who is tasked with hunting down and bringing him back to Sterling Frost (Ron Perlman). Charlie spends the 10-episode series on the run, solving murders across the country while avoiding Cliff’s clutches, only to find himself caught in the crossfire between him and Sterling in the finale.

“I was blown away,” Bratt said of the experience of reading the finale and getting to know her character. “Cliff suddenly became this really unique, bizarre weirdo. Yes, he’s dangerous, and yes, he’s good at his job, but he’s got some odd interests, I’d say.

Bratt and Lyonne sat down together as part of IndieWire’s Spotlight series to chat about their characters, revel in their friendship, and lavish praise on Johnson’s creativity and intelligence. Their favorite scenes included Charlie’s coffee monologue in episode 1, the mosh pie in episode 4, and the ship battle below deck in episode 10.

“Being like a director, a writer, a producer is really helpful because you have a lot more empathy for yourself because you’re ashamed of yourself,” Lyonne said. “Like when the dick ring doesn’t work and it keeps going off and the whole team has to surround you to like, change your dick ring, there’s just a little bit more empathy to the process.”

A standing man and woman approach a third seated man in the back office of a casino;  still from it "poker face'
Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, Benjamin Bratt as Cliff Legrand, Adrien Brody as Sterling Frost Jr. in “Poker Face.”Peacock

Bratt had nothing but praise for Lyonne as both a performer and a person, pointing to his “pattern, his inherent intelligence, his wit, the kind of wry humor” he came to know.

“Rian has a very specific tone, even a cinematic vision of what he wants to accomplish, and he’s pretty definitive about it, I think, always to a pretty spectacular conclusion,” Bratt said. “She put this on a page that’s kind of a happy marriage of this completely unique character and the person I’ve come to love… so now she’s officially a magician.”

In true “Poker Face” fashion, both Charlie and Cliff face unexpected twists in the finale, setting up the upcoming second season and showcasing Johnson’s razor-sharp writing. Every chase requires a murderous antagonist, and Bratt must gradually develop himself over the course of the season, eventually coming up against Charlie.

“At the end of the day, we’re characters who are circumstantially hostile but actually respect each other,” Lyonne said. “I almost felt like there was this honest moment at the end where maybe they really just run away — not like they’re going to romance, but more like, ‘We can get out of this together.’

No detailed spoilers, but that’s not exactly what happens. Charlie and Cliff may not be getting along, but “Poker Face” viewers can’t wait to hook up when the series returns.

Watch the full Awards Spotlight conversation between Bratt and Lyonne in the video above.

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