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Why Rick From Magnum P.I. Looks So Familiar

One of the most surprising TV cancellations of the year was when CBS dropped the 2018 remake of "Magnum P.I." after only four seasons. According to Deadline, despite the drama being a hit in the Nielsen ratings, the network couldn't make a deal with Universal Television after negotiations went awry. Instead, the series said goodbye to viewing audiences in May 2022.

... at least for now. The petition to save "Magnum P.I." has nearly reached the goal of 15,000 signatures as of this writing, and apparently the show's producers are in talks with other networks (via Deadline). Clearly, some fans have become fond of the characters, including avid sports fan and private investigator Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez), his investigative partner, former MI6 operative Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks), helicopter tour owner Theodore "T.C." Calvin (Stephen Hill), and local bar owner and longtime friend of Magnum, Orville "Rick" Wright.

Rick is one of the more light-hearted characters on the show, which makes sense, as the actor who played him is rather experienced in comedy. Here's where you may have seen him before.

Zachary Knighton was in The Hitcher remake

Zachary Knighton played Rick on CBS' "Magnum P.I." reboot, and he's appeared in a good number of projects since making his acting debut in 2000. Already in his 20s at the time, Knighton originally began his show business career playing teenagers. Like any working performer in the 2000s, he filmed guest star roles on "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," as well as small appearances in "The Prince & Me" and "The Mudge Boy."

His first big role in either movies or television, however, was in the 2007 remake of "The Hitcher," He played the part of Jim Halsey for this version of the 1986 horror film. According to an interview with Cinema.com, Knighton was cast after he was almost picked for "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," made by the same producers. The actor commented, "So when this came around, I was like, 'This is mine. I'm going to get it.'"

"The Hitcher" doubled its budget at the box office (via Box Office Mojo), but received negative reviews often comparing it to the original classic. Knighton continued to work on cable shows like "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Bones" in the meantime. In 2009, he starred on the much-hyped ABC sci-fi series "Flashforward" as Dr. Bryce Varley, but it disappeared after only 22 episodes.

Knighton's next show wouldn't last as long as anyone hoped, but it's become a cult classic in the years since.

He was Dave on beloved sitcom Happy Endings

"Happy Endings" premiered in 2011, but was always in danger of getting canceled by its network, ABC, as a result of so-so ratings and what the creative team felt was poor marketing (via Complex). But it did have a strong cult audience, and the show was able to make three seasons and 57 episodes before it was canceled in 2013.

The original premise of the show was about what happens to a group of Chicago friends after one of them, Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), leaves her fiancé Dave (Knighton) at the altar. The other characters include Jane (Eliza Coupe), Alex's intense sister, Jane's equally intense husband Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.), the slobby underachiever Max (Adam Pally), and Max's dysfunctional ex-girlfriend Penny (Casey Wilson). Over time, however, the sitcom shifted focus away from Dave and Alex's relationship and toward the broader ensemble of characters and their relationships.

Showrunner Jonathan Groff had a hard time casting Dave but felt Zachary Knighton was the perfect fit for a character who had to be vulnerable but not a "sad sack." The cast quickly bonded on set and became, much like their fictional counterparts, close friends. Knighton later commented regarding his time on the show, "I'm chasing that with everything I do. I know I shouldn't compare, but it was special."

Knighton was in the ensemble of Weird Loners

Once "Happy Endings" ended, Knighton guest-starred on various shows as well as filmed some short-lived sitcoms. In 2014, he had a recurring part on "Parenthood" as an attractive teacher, Mr. Knight, who briefly dates Julia Braverman (Erika Christensen) after she separates from Joel (Sam Jaeger). 

He was then one of the main characters on the 2015 Fox show "Weird Loners." Knighton plays Stosh Lewandowski, a womanizer whose habits have cost him his job and home, so he moves in with his cousin Eric (Nate Torrance). Stosh and Eric end up sharing their New York townhouse with Caryn (Becki Newton) and Zara (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) as the quartet forms a strange bond based on their fear of intimacy. However, the show only made six episodes before the network ended its run. 

He also appeared in several films at this time, including "Big Bear" and the Aaron Paul action vehicle "Come and Find Me," but Knighton largely stuck to television roles, including getting cast on "Magnum, P.I." in 2018. 

He liked playing against type in The Pale Door

Knighton starred in the 2020 horror Western "The Pale Door" as Duncan, an Old West outlaw who, as part of the Dalton Gang, pulls off a huge train heist. However, instead of finding gold in the trunk, the men discover a young woman in chains. She offers them money and hospitality if they free her, leading them to a deserted town populated only by a brothel of women. Naturally, from there, things go horribly and violently wrong.

The actor was originally supposed to play Dodd (Bill Sage) but took the role of Duncan because of his small window of availability (via Comic Book). Nevertheless, Knighton enjoyed the production and especially liked playing against type compared to his lighter roles. He told CBS, "My career has sort of taken me down a comedy path and it's kind of hard to get taken seriously to do anything like that." Director Aaron Koontz was a fan of "Happy Endings" but also liked the idea of Knighton giving a different kind of performance. 

The actor may be known best for his sitcoms and for "Magnum, P.I.," but films like "The Pale Door" — as well as the aforementioned "The Hitcher" – demonstrate his versatility and skill as an actor as well.