Poker Face, created by Rian Johnson, follows Charlie Cale as she travels across the country trying to stay off the radar of a dangerous casino owner. Charlie has an uncanny ability to spot a lie and a mind for puzzles, which often get her into trouble. In every town she stops, Charlie meets a unique cast of characters who pull her into a mystery, which she inevitably solves using her skills as a human lie detector.

In episode eight of Poker Face, “The Orpheus Syndrome,” which star and executive producer Natasha Lyonne co-wrote and directed, special effects artist Arthur (Nick Nolte) unearths a dark secret from his past that changes everything. When the footage from an old project reveals the horrifying truth about a fatal on-set accident, a deadly plot unfolds, with Charlie left to figure out what happened in the past and how it ties to the deaths today. Poker Face features an ever-expanding star-studded cast with “The Orpheus Syndrome,” adding Nick Nolte, Cherry Jones, Tim Russ, and Luis Guzman to the roster.


Related: Stephen King Reviews Rian Johnson’s New Mystery Series

Screen Rant spoke with Guzmán about his role in the eighth episode of Poker Face. The actor revealed that he was drawn to the project because of his admiration for Natasha Lyonne and discussed what it was like to work with her as an actor and director. He also shared new insight into his character and what motivates his decision-making.

Luis Guzmán on Poker Face Episode 8

Poker Face Luis Guzman

Screen Rant: Fantastic job on Poker Face. You are a certified legend, my friend. How did this collaboration process come about with you and Rian Johnson, and how did you come onto the Poker Face project?

Luis Guzmán: Well, I was sent the script and I read it and I said, “This is pretty interesting.” I’ll be honest with you, what drew me to this project more than anything was Natasha Lyonne, because I’ve always admired her work. There’s just something about her artistry that I absolutely admire. I didn’t know she was directing, but when I heard I’d be working with her, I said, “Oh, please, yes.”

And then when I showed up, and I found out she was directing, I go, “Wow, this girl is taking it to another level here.” And I got to tell you, I was super impressed with her total ability of what she did. I think we’ve had a wonderful collaboration with each other. I was falling in love the whole time I was there.

That’s amazing. I think this series does such a fantastic job with the structure of a show. It really breaks it down, and it really keeps audiences guessing all the way through. Can you talk to me a little bit about your character, Raoul, and what you wanted to bring to him that wasn’t necessarily on the page?

Luis Guzmán: What I wanted to bring to Raoul pretty much was just a guy that does the job. It’s not the best job in the world, but it’s a job, and it pays his bills. And all of a sudden he’s drawn into this situation, and it’s like, “Okay, it’s giving me some meaning to my job. Yay. Finally.” And meeting Charlie and just trying to figure out like, “Yo, really, what’s going on here?” But it made me feel as the character Raoul, somebody that was doing a service, a real service to justice at the end. And just to be a part of that and not having a detective role in there and saying, “Okay, kid, I got it from here.” Because there was none of that.

What do you think inspired Raul to help his friend, risk his job, and then later help Charlie with the investigation?

Luis Guzmán: Well, because [his] boss, Terri Jones, she kind of let [him] down, really let [him] down. [He] didn’t expect that from her. And then to fire [him] the way she fired [him] and to think, “Wow.” So [he] never really had any value to her.

Your performance made Raul so authentic and so real. You weren’t able to dive into his backstory, but did you create a backstory for him to help you craft your performance?

Luis Guzman: Just a guy that’s been working in a dungeon for many years, and I’ve seen some really, really super cool stuff. And I’ve been doing that for, I don’t know, like 20 years or something. So it became being a token booth. So you show up, and you know what you’re going to do.

Natasha Lyonne is brilliant in the role of Charlie. But in episode 8, she gets to direct. Can you talk to me about what her directing style brings to the show and the collaboration process of working with her?

Luis Guzmán: The collaboration was beautiful, man. We had an incredible energy between us two. Our chemistry was really super awesome. I’ve said this today in a few interviews, but I’m a fan boy. So I see her work, and it was, like I said, it’s really what drew me to this. And man, she was so prepared. Because one thing that I do as an actor, I don’t normally hang out in my trailer, and in between takes and stuff, I just kind of hang around and then go around, because I like to observe people.

And I was observing her, and man, she was so spot on, man. I was every moment just blown away by how intricate she was, how much attention she paid to all the details and stuff of her shot selection. She wouldn’t settle just for this or for that, and this. And she got what she wanted. She had the vision. She showed up with a vision of what she was going to direct, not only acting, which is really, really incredible to experience.

natasha lyonne and luis guzman in poker face 108

Natasha made some really interesting directing choices, especially in the final moments of the episode, which were fantastic. Talk to me a little bit about her preparation work for the episode and working with you directly.

Luis Guzmán: Well, I can’t tell you what she did as far as preparation because I just showed up for that last episode. But we hit it off, man. We hit it off like that. It was like showing up to a blind date, and I was like, “I’m liking this.” And like I said, it was a beautiful chemistry. We had a beautiful flow. And she would shoot me with ideas. There was one moment that she was directing everybody, and then she comes up to me, and she’s looking at the script, and she looks at me, and she looks at the script and said, “You know what to do. Go for it.”

Rian Johnson’s been able to re-popularize a lot of these classic mystery-style whodunnit tales. Now they’re called howcatchem’s. But what is it about Rian’s style as a writer and producer that really draws people in?

Luis Guzmán: Well, people always love a good mystery, People always love that whole aspect of whodunnit. And it’s the person that you least expect. And it’s like, “Wait, are you kidding me? Man, I never saw that coming.” And when you see something like that, it takes a real brain to come up with that type of storyline. And it’s not your normal thing, which is beautiful. Do you ever watch something and just think, “Man, I know who did it?” And sure enough, it’s who did it. But you ever watch something and said, “Oh, damn?”

Scooby Doo.

Luiz Guzmán: It was Scooby Doo. It was Felix the Cat. So he has a unique style, and I’m glad that he’s doing what he’s doing.

Switching gears for a second, I loved you in Wednesday. Are we going to see more of Gomez Addams in Wednesday season 2?

Luis Guzmán: That’s the plan. I’m going to dance, I’m going to have a sword fight. And there was one other thing. I don’t know what it was, but yeah.

Dancing and sword fighting, that’s amazing. That’s what I want to see out of Gomez Addams. Back to Poker Face, I love this episodic storytelling where each episode feels like a mini-movie. How does being on set on Poker Face for television feel compared to a film?

Luis Guzmán: I don’t really compare them. Because it’s still the art of acting. Poker Face though, it was really deliberate where most TV is like you’re racing a clock. And you got to make your dailies and stuff. And I felt that in Poker Face, it was really deliberate, really well thought out. That’s why the product that you see is a damn good product.

The footage, the acting, in my particular episode, all those freaky monsters and stuff. I’m happy I did this episode, because when I walked in, I said, “Oh, shit, this is like, hey, am I allow to take pictures of this stuff?” Because I just love this type of stuff. It blew me away. And so, like I say, it is different in that sense, because again, you’re not racing the clock. You’re there to be creative and getting the work done.

How do you bring that authenticity that draws people in and care about these characters and stories in such a short amount of time? Because I think the writing’s brilliant, but you bring that extra bit of authenticity to the characters.

Luis Guzmán: It’s what I do. But it’s also an homage to the writing. Because if you don’t have that in the writing, you’re not going to get to solving it. So you got to really be on that track. And not necessarily a fast track, but a track of like, “Okay. Clue, clue, clue. Okay. It’s getting hot in here. Clue, clue, clue. It’s getting hotter. Clue, clue, clue. Bingo. It was you.”

Look, Mr. Guzman, this is the last question I have for you. Like I said, you’ve done it all. You are an absolute legend. Is there any genre that you haven’t done yet that you’d like to explore?

Luis Guzmán: Oh, man. Genre. I had an idea, and I still have an idea, and actually a friend of mine wrote it. So it’s a comedy, a dramedy, satire type of deal that the state of Vermont gets kicked out of the union. I become the first president of Vermont. And we just do things differently up here.

About Poker Face

Natasha Lyonne as Charlie in Poker Face smiling while carrying her jacket

Poker Face follows Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne), who has an uncanny ability to know if someone is lying to her, when she hits the road in her trusty Plymouth Barracuda. Every stop pulls her into a new mystery with a unique cast of characters that she can’t help but solve. Ryan Johnson’s new series is a “how catch ’em” style of mystery inspired by the television classic Columbo.

Check out our other Poker Face interviews here:

Next: Charlie’s Lie-Detector Gift In Poker Face Explained (& Is It Truly Reliable?)

New episodes of Poker Face season 1 drop Thursdays on Peacock.

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