Presumed Innocent: Episode 2’s Big Change From the Book Explained, Sets Up ‘Very Intense’ Face-Off

The following contains spoilers from the first two episodes of Presumed Innocent, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Even just two episodes in, Apple TV+’s Presumed Innocent has made several changes from Scott Turow’s 1987 legal thriller.

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Like both the novel and the 1990 film starring Harrison Ford, the story revolves around the shocking death of Carolyn Polhemus, a prosecutor in the Chicago DA’s office — though here, the crime scene does not suggest a sexual bondage encounter gone wrong, but a heinous murder that evokes a past case that Rusty and Carolyn worked. Also, whereas the evidence in the novel included Rusty’s semen found inside the victim and a bar glass with his fingerprints, the TV series’ first clue sweep does not place him at the scene of the crime.

The TV series does, however, reveal that Carolyn was pregnant at the time she died — with Rusty’s child.

But perhaps the biggest deviation thus far from the Presumed Innocent novel and film is who Rusty (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) chooses to defend him against the murder charge.

There is no defense attorney Sandy Stern character here (played in the film by the late Raul Julia); instead, Rusty asks his longtime friend and mentor, Raymond Horgan (Bill Camp), to stand up for him. Thing is, Raymond has just been ousted as DA due to Rusty’s (conspicuous?) lack of progress investigating Carolyn’s death; Raymond also feels extremely betrayed by Rusty concealing his affair with a colleague, especially in the wake of her murder.

Why did showrunner David E. Kelley, whose previous book-to-TV adaptations include Big Little Lies, make that major change in Rusty’s defense?

“I love the Sandy Stern character,” Kelley tells TVLine, “but the sense of betrayal that is so paramount to the series, I wanted to mine that with Raymond as well.

“We think of infidelity as being just between husband and wife, but the tentacles go much further — they invade friendships,” Kelley notes. “Rusty, [wife] Barbara (played by Ruth Negga), Raymond and [his wife] Lorraine (Elizabeth Marvel), they were a foursome. They’re friends, and that equation was severed by the infidelity.” (As on page and screen, Barbara knew of Rusty’s affair long before Carolyn’s death.) “Raymond’s political career was perhaps crippled by this affair and Rusty’s inability to be straight with him,” Kelley adds. “Keeping that sense of betrayal in the Rusty/Raymond relationship and infusing the trial with that interested me. It wasn’t a question of getting away from Sandy Stern but leaning into Rusty/Raymond.”

Having Raymond standing at Rusty’s side also will generate juicy drama in the fact that the ex-DA will be squaring off against “Thing 1 and Thing 2” aka the ambitious duo that supplanted him: Nico Della Guardia (O-T Fagbenle) and chief deputy prosecutor Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard).

“We’ve got the old DA and the new DA in direct conflict with each other. It’s like the old lion versus the young lion!” previews Fagbenle.

As the case against Rusty builds and eventually goes to trial, “There’s a lot at stake both professionally and personally,” Fagbenle says. “The way things unfold with those dynamics in play gets very intense.”

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