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Jake Gyllenhaal on Presumed Innocent as 1st TV Show, Cast on Ending

Jake Gyllenhaal on Presumed Innocent as 1st TV Show, Cast on Ending

Jake Gyllenhaal on Presumed Innocent as 1st TV Show, Cast on Ending

When Jake Gyllenhaal got to the end of the first episode of Presumed Innocent, he found himself reacting much like viewers of the Apple TV+ limited series hopefully would. He wanted to know what happened next.

“Like an audience member, I think I was just drawn into the story in the same way,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter of reading the pilot script for the project that would serve as his first ongoing small-screen role.

Gyllenhaal was also drawn to the prospect of working with both David E. Kelley and J.J. Abrams, who both executive produce the show, with Kelley serving as showrunner, and approached Gyllenhaal, who also executive produces the series, about the project.

“The combination of two of them together was so interesting to me,” he said. “I just thought what an interesting thing to collaborate with people like them.”

And discovering the story as it unfolded, in a new medium, were fresh experiences for the Oscar nominee, who’d previously worked mostly in film and theater.

“I had never been involved in a creative process like that, meaning not just the length of a show and that it was going to be eight hours but also that it was going to be revealed to me as we went along,” Gyllenhaal said. “I like the opportunity of different mediums. I like what it does, the questions it asks. As a performer, it’s so interesting to be in a different medium and see how it feels.”

But Gyllenhaal wasn’t the only one learning how the story would unfold over the course of filming. All of the castmembers THR spoke to at the series’ Tribeca Festival world premiere earlier this month said they didn’t know how the murder mystery at the center of the drama would be resolved as they were making the series.

David E. Kelley had written the first couple of episodes and as we were shooting, he would continue writing,” Kingston Rumi Southwick, who plays Gyllenhaal’s character’s son, said. “As we were shooting, we were learning what was happening next, so what was good about that was I think none of us knew what was going to happen at the end or who these certain things were going to happen to, so it was very exciting for us and very exciting for the audience.”

O-T Fagbenle, who plays a rival prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, recalled the excitement when the ending was revealed.

“I remember the day the news came out, there was a real buzz on the set,” he said. “There was even talk of potentially shooting two endings. I found out with everyone else.”

Not knowing the end when they started, the actors say, allowed them to be more present while filming.

“Most of us are theater people. We know the end of the play before we start,” Nana Mensah, who plays detective Alana Rodriguez, said. “This was not that. We were getting scripts as they were being written, so all we could do was play the stakes of the moment. We couldn’t forecast anything, so we just got to be in the moment with what we had on the page in front of us, which is actually kind of liberating.”

She added, “We weren’t telegraphing anything. Everything that you’re seeing and everything that you’re witnessing is as we were filming it, not showing anything that was coming down the pike.”

And Kelley says even those who’ve read the 1987 Scott Turow book on which the series is based or seen the 1990 film adaptation of the book, starring Harrison Ford, won’t know what happens.

“They’ll be guessing like everybody else,” Kelley told THR.

Still, director and executive producer Greg Yaitanes says all the clues are there to a “watchful eye.”

“I think 100 percent we stick the landing of this series, and it’s fair to the audience because it’s there the whole time,” Yaitanes said.

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Kelley added of his take on the adaptation, “I loved the book, and I think what we were able to do with the miniseries was just go deeper into some of the character stuff. There are some plot departures as well, updating with some of the evidence gathering because the science is so different.”

Though the castmembers remained in the dark about their characters’ fates, they worked together to try to understand their characters’ past dynamics.

In order to understand this history, particularly within the Chicago district attorney’s office where Gyllenhaal’s Rusty Sabich works, Mensah and James Hiroyuki Liao, who plays medical examiner Herbert Kumagai, said discussions within the cast and rehearsal were key.

“We got a few days of rehearsal before we started and that’s unusual,” Mensah said. “Not all series do that. But I think because we have a lot of theater people in our cast, and they understood that we needed a little more of a holistic understanding of the stakes before the audience embarked on this journey with us, we just talked it out.”

Liao added, “There’s a lot of history. We talked about it and what that was. And for me, I came up with my own internal justifications to justify a lot of the actions that happen later on to create that real conflict for me. I just worked on it about what my history was with these people and specifically what they did with my evidence. If we lost a case or we won a case or my testimony ended up looking bad, it was never about me. It was about how these lawyers messed up my evidence or how they presented my evidence, and that was in the pot for me. Also being felt like you’re undermined and underappreciated and undervalued, that’s how I was looking at it. These guys think they’re such hotshots — the prosecutors, the district attorney’s office — and they don’t really appreciate the legwork that the medical examiner’s office does. They take it for granted that we do what we do and then they blame us when something goes wrong. That’s the way I was approaching that, and I tried to make it for me as specific as possible.”

Rusty and rival prosecutors Nico Della Guardia (Fagbenle) and Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard) seem to have the most drama, which simmers beneath the surface as the case at the center of the series plays out.

“I think the personal history kind of always complicates things,” Fagbenle said. “I think for Nico, Tommy’s personal history is so loud in the room that most of Nico’s energy is trying to pull that back.”

New episodes of Presumed Innocent are available to stream on Apple TV+ each Wednesday through July 24.

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