Happy Endings star Zachary Knighton has been chosen for a lead role in CBS' Magnum P.I. reboot. The pilot for the '80s classic, which launched Tom Selleck's career, was picked up by the network back in January. It will join several other vintage TV reboots on the airwaves, including Hawaii Five-O, Lethal Weapon, and MacGyver. In addition to the pilot for the new Magnum P.I., CBS is also developing an updated take on fellow 80s classic, the female-fronted police procedural Cagney and Lacey.
The new take on Magnum P.I. will focus on an ex-Navy SEAL who uses his military skills in his investigative work for "lost causes." The role of former military man Higgins, who was originally the caretaker of the opulent estate where Magnum resided in the guesthouse, has been reimagined as disavowed MI6 agent Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks). Suicide Squad actor Jay Hernandez has already been cast as Thomas Magnum.
Now Deadline is reporting that Knighton has joined Magnum P.I. as Oahu nightclub owner Rick Wright, another character from the original series, then played by Larry Manetti. In this new take on Magnum P.I., Rick will be a former Marine, like his friend Magnum, and was a POW in Iraq. Rick will once again be portrayed as a popular and well-connected guy: "If you want something on the island, Rick is the man to see."
Though perhaps best known for Happy Endings, Knighton has appeared on several other TV series, including Parenthood, Elementary, The Good Fight, and Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet. The new Magnum P.I. will reportedly tackle serious issues like dealing with PTSD, but it's likely Knighton has been cast for his ability to carry the lighter, more comedic aspects of the show. The new Magnum P.I. will is co-written by Peter Lenkov (MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0) and Eric Guggenheim (Hawaii Five-0, Parenthood), while Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond, Fast & Furious 6) will direct.
The original Magnum P.I. was a popcorn-y action show that became wildly popular in its time, largely based on Selleck's Everyman charm and entertaining interactions with his friends. Audiences loved Magnum's careless attitude, distinctive Hawaiian shirts, and really cool red Ferrari. Remaking it with a "grittier" and more realistic take might make for a fine drama, but unless it finds a way to have fun and honor those original iconic touches in its own distinctive way, it will be Magnum in name only.