‘Law & Order’ Alum S. Epatha Merkerson Cast in Peacock’s ‘Poker Face’

by Taylor Cunningham

Former Law & Order star S. Epatha Merkerson had officially joined the star-studded cast of the much-anticipated mystery series that’s set to hit Peacock soon.

According to Deadline, creator Rian Johnson won’t share any details of Merkerson’s character just yet. But Johnson did share a brief synopsis of the plot with Variety last month. And he completely centered it around the lead star, Natasha Lyonne (Russian Dolls).

Poker Face is a case-of-the-week mystery series, anchored entirely by Natasha as the ‘detective,'” he revealed. “The show was created around her, and the whole thing is tailored to Natasha like a bespoke suit. It could only exist with her charisma and presence at the center of it. She’s got a very Fellini-type sensibility, where the funny and absurd is a way into the dark and personal. It’s inspiring to me, seeing how unafraid she is to push further and further in that direction.”

S. Epatha Merkerson’s news was shared with the joining of another cast member, Judith Light. The latter has worked on series such as Who’s the Boss and Ugly Betty.

The actors will join Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chloë Sevigny, Dascha Polanco, and Lil Rel Howery. Adrien Brody, Stephanie Hsu, Benjamin Bratt, David Castañeda, and Ellen Barkin have also confirmed their places in the series.

Production Has Begun for S. Epatha Merkerson’s ‘Whodunit’ Series

Peacock ordered ten episodes of Poker Face back in March of 2021. And production has officially begun in Newburgh, New York. Johnson will write, direct, and executive produce the series. Lyonne will also serve as an EP.

“Rian Johnson’s distinct sensibility and talent for telling edge-of-your-seat mysteries is a massive gift for Peacock,” said Lisa Katz, President, Scripted Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “And we can’t wait for audiences to delve into each case. Paired with the acting genius of Natasha Lyonne, this series will be entertaining and addictive.”  

Johnson has been enamored with the mystery genre for years. And recently, he took his first shot at it when he wrote Knives Out, which earned him an Oscar nod.

In a 2019 interview with Vanity Fair, he passionately explained exactly why he’s so drawn to “whodunit” stories.

“In the ’30s, when it was really taking root, you think about the state of the world back then, and how much moral uncertainty there was in the world. And that’s something that’s very distinct to the whodunit genre, is the moral certitude of it,” he said. “It has this comforting thing where the world is thrown into chaos by this crime. And the detective comes in. And you know that the good-person detective is going to set the world right by the end of it. Figure it out, restore moral order. And the bad person will go to jail.

“You can see why that would have felt really, really good in the ’30s,” he added. “And I think that’s also, that feels really, really good right now.”