‘Presumed Innocent’: Jake Gyllenhaal’s Rusty ‘Is a Different Beast’ From Other TV Lawyers (VIDEO)

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Upstanding married lawyer has an affair. Upstanding married lawyer is accused of murdering his mistress. It’s a tale as old as time, or in the case of this eight-part series, as old as 1990, when Scott Turow’s courtroom thriller novel was first brought to the screen in a feature film starring Harrison Ford. Now on Presumed Innocent on Apple TV+, Jake Gyllenhaal steps into the dock as Rusty Sabich, a Chicago prosecutor pleading innocent to killing his colleague and lover Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve).

The lure of this adaptation from TV hitmaker David E. Kelley is not just the whodunit of it all but grappling with whether you believe such a guy-next-door, who shares two teenage kids with wife Barbara (Ruth Negga), could commit a vicious homicide. Watch the video above for an interview with Kelley and the cast.

When asked if Rusty compares to any of the lawyers in the many TV legal dramas he’s created over the years, Kelley says, “I don’t think we’ve had any that have been that particular cocktail of morality and monstrosity. What drew me to the piece to begin with was the contradiction of Rusty. Certainly, James Spader on Boston Legal was both noble and abhorrent. We played those conflicts, but Rusty is a different beast.”

Gyllenhaal says the pile-on of conflicts is “what makes a David Kelley show so intriguing and so binge worthy.” The actor continues, “I don’t know if you can separate the [grief and guilt] that [Rusty’s] dealing with. What makes the show so interesting to watch is that this character gets thrown into so many dynamic, pressurized situations. He’s grieving but he’s also been holding this secret. He has his own selfishness and his own desires.”

Another lure is the tense courtroom scenes where Gyllenhaal goes toe-to-toe with his real-life brother-in-law, Peter Sarsgaard as prosecutor Tommy Molto. The actors, who previously starred opposite each other as a Marine sniper and spotter in feature film Jarhead (2005), say their long relationship off screen (Sarsgaard has been married to Jake’s sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal since 2009) helps their performances.

“It can feel like too long before you run into other people in scenes because people are taking time to get to know one another. For example, on set the first week and a half [on some projects] all those scenes are going to be reshot,” Sarsgaard says. “With Jake, the beautiful thing is we don’t have to think about that part. We can think about the most important part, which is the story.”

That story has even those closest to Rusty questioning him, like Detective Alana Rodriguez (Nana Mensah). “Her training as a detective inspires her to be skeptical. But then she has this allegiance to her friend, to her colleague,” says Mensah. “This person is struggling a lot more internally than perhaps some other characters I’ve played.”

Sure of Rusty’s guilt is another powerful prosecutor, Nico Della Guardia, played by O-T Fagbenle, known for his role as good guy Luke in The Handmaid’s Tale. “He’s quite a departure from Luke, to be fair,” Fagbenle reveals. “One of the things that attracted to me to this part is that Nico, on the face of it, wants justice, wants the right thing, which is a bit Luke-y, but his intentions and motivations are a little bit more nefarious.”

Despite Rusty’s continuing fixation with the late Carolyn (yep), Barbara remains devoted. Is she deluded? You be the judge.

Presumed Innocent, Series Premiere (two episodes), Wednesday, June 12, Apple TV+

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