David E. Kelley: Presumed Innocent Series Has ‘Twists and Turns,’ Yes — But Maybe Not the Ones You Expect

David E. Kelley: Presumed Innocent Series Has ‘Twists and Turns,’ Yes — But Maybe Not the Ones You Expect

David E. Kelley is no stranger to adapting bestselling novels into TV series.

Why, in just the past decade alone he has brought from the page to the screen Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, C.J. Box’s The Highway novels (in the form of ABC’s Big Sky) and Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer.

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The prolific writer-producer does worry, though, about running out of inspiration.

“I read a lot of books now, and it’s hard finding stories that compel me to keep going, with characters that have me leaning in to find out who they are and why they do what they do,” he shares with TVLine.

Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow’s legal thriller circa 1987, very much filled the bill, however.

“I’m a big Scott Turow fan,” Kelley effuses. “I also love the [1990] movie [starring Harrison Ford], but because it’s only two-and-a-half hours, it couldn’t really delve into the character pathology that we had opportunity to do with the miniseries.”

Presumed Innocent Apple Jake Gyllenhaal
Rusty and Carolyn, in flashbackCourtesy of Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s Presumed Innocent debuts Wednesday, June 12 with its first two episodes (of eight) and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Rusty Sabich, a Chicago prosecutor whose colleague, Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve), is brutally murdered. Given that Rusty once had an affair with Carolyn (that his wife Barbara, played by Agents of SHIELD‘s Ruth Negga, ultimately got wise to) — and amid a battle for control of the prosecutors’ office — Rusty finds himself the prime suspect in the slaying.

The cast also includes Bill Camp (The Night Of) as Rusty’s mentor and friend Raymond Horgan, O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Peter Sarsgaard (The Killing) as workplace rivals Nico “Delay” Della Guardia and Tommy Molto, and Nana Mensah (The Diplomat) as Det. Alana Rodriguez.

Rusty, Barbara and their kids
Rusty, Barbara and their kids

Which character was most important to Kelley to expound on, with nearly 400 minutes of screen time at his disposal?

“They all offered opportunities…,” he says, “but Rusty first and foremost.

“Rusty is a strange beast, and with the contradictions he brings to the plate, I’ve just not seen that kind of character before,” Kelley explains. “He is a hero and antihero at once. He very much believes in the truth, and yet he lies. He is a guardian of justice, and yet he subverts it. He’s a devoted family man, and betrays his wife and his children. He is a very loyal friend, and he betrays his best friend Raymond.

“None of that is to say he is not genuine with all his principles,” Kelley notes. “He just has a tough time living up to them.”

in the Turow novel, Rusty emerges as “a guy who is trying to discover who he is and what he’s really about, and I don’t think he ever quite solves it. But that journey made him very compelling,” Kelley posits. “I thought Harrison Ford did a fantastic job in the movie, and I think Jake [Gyllenhaal] is brilliant inhabiting all these contradictions in the series.”

Presumed Innocent Apple Peter Sarsgaard
Nico and TommyCourtesy of Apple TV+

As with other mystery-based novels adapted by Kelley, those who have read Presumed Innocent (or seen the movie) may presume to know its masterful killer reveal. Whether or not the Apple TV+ series builds to the exact same climax (the finale is being withheld from critics), can Kelley promise that it will similarly pull the rug out from under viewers?

“We might. We might!” he says with a wink.

“At the end of Episode 1, the end of Episode 2… the audience should feel that the show is going to be different,” he previews. “There may be some twists and turns — and there may be some twists you expect that don’t happen.”

All told, “There are a lot of jolts in the evolution of the series, episode by episode, and I think the ending will be satisfying on that front as well.”

Watch an exclusive sneak peek from Presumed Innocent below:

Want scoop on Presumed Innocent, or for any other TV show ? Email InsideLine@tvline.com, and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line!

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