One of the themes that fans of the original “Magnum P.I.” hoped would be a mainstay in the new reboot of the show is the sense of brotherhood that Magnum shares with his battle brothers, Rick and TC. This definitely is a focus in the contemporary version of the series, starring Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum. As Magnum is a former Navy SEAL, he often asks his best friend and former Marine door-gunner Orville “Rick” Wright, played by Zachary Knighton, to help him solve his various cases.
Like in the original, Knighton’s Rick runs the King Kamehameha Club and usually knows someone who has the intel — legal or otherwise — in order for Magnum to work his investigations. Rick’s connections give Magnum an edge. Without them, Magnum would not be able to complete his casework. Still, after everything Magnum and Rick have been through together — fighting in Afghanistan and spending 18 months and 11 days in a prisoner-of-war camp — the two friends will do anything for each other.
Knighton’s Rick is obviously the funnyman yet is always sincere. He comes through when he’s needed, which in Magnum’s case is pretty often. Rick always has a line on a guy, a person he can call, a favor he can pull. Magnum’s signature ring tone for Rick is “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” but Rick still has a big gun on hand to back up Magnum when needed.
Knighton grew up surfing in Virginia Beach before making his way to New York and then Los Angeles where he landed his first major role as the lead in the 2007 remake of “The Hitcher.” Before joining the cast of “Magnum P.I.,” Knighton was best known for his leading roles in the television series “FlashFoward” and “Happy Endings” and in recurring roles in “Parenthood” and the Netflix series “The Santa Clarita Diet.”
Knighton seemed pleased in a 2018 ComicCon interview that the series was allowing him to do his own surfing in “Magnum P.I.” He said he didn’t want “some kook out there representing me” and standing in for him during surfing scenes. One of the elements about the show Knighton likes is how physical the role is and how easy it is to stay physical in Hawaii. In the Paley Fest interview with the cast of “Magnum P.I.,” along with the casts of “Hawaii Five-0” and “MacGyver,” Knighton shared a story about how he convinced Hernandez to buy a surfboard, yet he has been the one to use it on their off days.
Knight also talked about how the cast “really felt welcomed” in Hawaii. “I’d heard so much about the aloha spirit and the people of Hawaii, but I guess I’m surprised how true it is,” Knighton said in an interview posted on the official CBS website.
KNIGHTON ON RICK
Knighton’s version of Orville “Rick” Wright is similar to the original played by Larry Manetti. Knighton plays Rick as a handsome lady’s man who runs the hottest club on Oahu. While Knighton looks nothing like Manetti — they both are strong comedians and have that kind of charisma that seems to come naturally. Rick is the kind of character that could be overplayed and become melodramatic, but Knighton has cool control and can be both funny and serious when he needs to be.
In an article posted on the CBS website, Knighton talked about how much he “appreciated a different opportunity with a character he’s always loved.” He talked about watching the show growing up and how he was “a huge fan of the original ‘Magnum’ … Rick was my favorite, he was the guy that made me laugh on the show. I get to live in both worlds, the comedy (and) the drama world.”
As much as Rick brings the laughter, he has had a tough life and been down a dark road fighting in Afghanistan and being a POW. Knighton plays the character naturally and believably, and fans seem to adore his version of a classic character.
RICK’S BACK STORY
While we have only bits of Rick’s life story revealed so far, we do know that, like in the original, Rick seems to know a lot about the underworld because of his relationship with his surrogate father, Icepick (Corbin Bernsen). Rick was once headed down the wrong path and Icepick encouraged him to join the Marines. After Rick came home from Afghanistan as a war hero, his friendship with war correspondent, turned best-selling author, Robin Masters got him the life he now lives.
His past gave him the tools to not only run the club but to also be the most connected man in town. His friends are his family now, and though he might hate being called “Orville,” he lets TC get away with it because they are brothers. When he and TC befriend fellow veteran Shammy (Christopher Thornton), their relationship is both funny and sincere.
Knighton effortlessly plays Rick as a charismatic true friend with many secrets and scars that we have yet to discover.