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Jake Gyllenhaal: Slow, intense boil of 'Presumed Innocent' mirrors real trials

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the new limited series, "Presumed Innocent." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the new limited series, "Presumed Innocent." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, June 11 (UPI) -- Jake Gyllenhaal says his TV adaptation of the book, Presumed Innocent, slowly reveals critical new information over time much the way a real criminal trial does.

Premiering Wednesday, the eight-episode limited series is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Scott Turow.

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The story was previously adapted as a 1990 movie starring Harrison Ford.

In the TV version -- which Gyllenhaal executive produced alongside David E. Kelley (The Practice) and J.J. Abrams (Lost) -- the actor plays Chicago's married chief deputy prosecutor Rusty Sabich, whose life is turned upside-down when his former lover is murdered.

The ensemble includes O-T Fagbenle, Nana Mensah, Ruth Negga, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel, Peter Sarsgaard and Renate Reinsve.

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"You have more time to explore characters and spend time with ones that you wouldn't normally in a 2-hour movie," Gyllenhaal told UPI in a recent Zoom interview about how the miniseries expands on what the film could accomplish in a shorter run-time.

"Also, what you can do is create these endings like you do in an actual case, right? You have an opportunity to get a piece of information and then it is one of the only forums now -- a trial -- where you have to wait," the actor said. "That's a big aspect to it -- having to wait to know, to learn."

Gyllenhaal said the cast experienced the mystery the way viewers will when they watch the story unfold.

"We didn't know what was going to happen either. We were given the episodes as we went along," he said. "It's pretty tense."

The Handmaid's Tale alum Fagbenle -- who plays Nico, the prosecutor trying to put Rusty away for murder, in Presumed Innocent -- also thinks a limited series offers more time and space than a film to get to know people who were so well-developed in the popular novel.

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"There's so much depth and breadth to the book, and, so, to make a movie from a book, you condense it and, so, to get eight hours to do it really kind of allows you to explore that."

The actors liked being part of a thriller that also takes a closer look at concepts such as guilt, innocence, justice and power imbalance.

"This story is a human story about all the human interactions, human relationships outside of really the case itself," Gyllenhaal said.

"That's really one of the things that I loved about it was the issue of marriage, the issue of a relationship and a family in the midst of all this," he added. "It is what David E. Kelly does so well."

Gyllenhaal noted the story looks at the homicide from every angle, careful to demonstrate humanity in all of its characters.

"I love what O-T and Peter bring to this. Even though they would look like they're the antagonists, actually, Rusty becomes an antagonist. It's a flip-flop back and forth," he said. "That's really human and I think really, really wonderful."

The Batman and Dopesick actor Sarsgaard plays Tommy, Nico's powerful boss, in Presumed Innocent.

The actor is also married to Gyllenhaal's actress-filmmaker sister Maggie in real life.

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"He's one of our best actors working and, so, I'm, obviously, biased but I'm pretty tough about that stuff, too, so I love working with him," Gyllenhaal said.

"He's aware and awake and alive and constantly challenging and he demands honesty as an actor and he demands honesty as a brother and it's why our relationship is so deep and why it's so wonderful to work with him."

Fagbenle called working with Sarsgaard one of the "greatest privileges" of his career.

"You could read a scene and be like, 'OK, I've got a good idea of how this scene will work,' and you get in there and he just does something completely different," Fagbenle said.

"You're like, 'OK, OK, OK, let's play now, let's catch up.' Because he's just so inventive and has such a fidelity to the truth."

Gyllenhaal is modest when asked about his producing duties on this project.

"Look, you have two of like the most behemoth producers you have on television, right? So, it's really their show, but it was very interesting being a partner, looking at having a bit of a seat at the table, [watching] their process," he said.

"To be honest, I was so overwhelmed with the acting and the weekly schedule," Gyllenhaal laughed. "Sometimes you have to focus so much on what's going on in front of you. It was just an honor to be working with this group."

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