[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Poker Face, Season 1 Episode 4, “Rest in Metal.”]
John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats has a wide-ranging resume, but Rian Johnson’s Poker Face added a new job skill to it: Actor. In Episode 4 of the Peacock mystery drama, streaming today, Darnielle guest-stars as Al, a heavy metal guitarist who conspires with his struggling bandmates to murder their drummer and steal the potential hit song he wrote.
While Darnielle has been performing for decades, he tells Consequence that making television was “a very alien world to me. I had no idea really how giant the shooting of one episode is. It took weeks, and the set moves every day — they move this huge operation, hundreds of people, from one lot to another, with all these trailers, all this stuff. Have you sat in a director’s chairs? Strangest thing to me. The music business is not like that at all. Or if it is, not on my end anyway. It was very unusual in more ways than I could really catalog.”
What brought him to that set? Darnielle says that he and Johnson have known each other for a “long, long time — since 2003… Well, no, before that he had ordered a t-shirt from my old webzine that I did.” Following Johnson’s breakout film Brick in 2005, they collaborated on two music videos for The Mountain Goats: 2007’s “Woke Up New” and the 2010 performance film The Life of the World to Come. “It was him and Steve Yedlin, his cinematographer, who’s a total genius.”
Since that time, Darnielle says, “we have mainly a text-based relationship because he lives on the West Coast. And also, I don’t hang out with people. But we text back and forth and send gifts or ideas or whatever — we workshopped a really cool music video idea for the Goths album, if there was a budget for it. It would’ve been the only video I ever liked, but it didn’t happen.”
At the beginning of 2022, Darnielle reached out to Johnson about his new crime novel Devil House, and “we wound up in conversations about crime fiction and stuff like that. Ryan has a great ear for noir, great ear for genre tropes, generally speaking. So, at some point, he said, ‘Hey, what are you doing in…’ I think it was June, I forget, maybe May. And I said, ‘Well, I’ll be freshly home from tour then.’ And he said, ‘I was wondering if you wanted to have something to do with this episode of this Columbo-type thing I’m doing.'”