Knight Rider Returns to TV Tonight

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KITT is coming back to television! That’s right, “Knight Rider” is returning with a two-hour movie.

Completely updated, Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) is handing over the reigns to a new breed of high tech crime fighters. For those of you not alive – or for those who just weren’t cool enough to watch the original 1980s series, Hasselhoff played sort of a modern-day ‘knight’ who drove a car with super powers, and the ability to talk. He was basically a cowboy on wheels. Pretty much, if you were a kid in the ’80s, “Knight Rider” was the coolest thing in the world.

This modern version stars Justin Bruening as Mike Traceur as an ex-Army Ranger (and the estranged son of Michael Knight); he comes back into town to help his childhood friend Sarah Graimen (Deanna Russo) find her father Charles (Bruce Davison), who’s in danger. This movie tells the origin story of how Mike Traceur becomes Knight Rider.

Justin says it was stepping into the shoes of a legend that really got him excited to play this part. But it was dealing with the talking car that was the biggest hurdle. “It’s a little unsettling I should say; the way I figured the character was he was over in Iraq and fought in the war and has driven everything, helicopters, tanks and all that. But the first time he gets in this car, the doors shut on their own, it drives itself, and he can’t steer it. So it’s probably hard for guys to relinquish control of anything, especially in relationships – and now I’m having a relationship with the car and it drives itself.”

It’s a relationship with Sarah that Mike quickly finds him in; at first, it’s a bit rocky. But with KITT on their side, they work out those moments. “I need the help of Mike Tracer to kind of keep me safe,” Deanna says. “Fortunately he’s played by the handsome guy over there, Justin Bruening, who is so much fun to work with. It’s a pretty interesting relationship between Sarah and Mike because they did grow up together, but they grew up on opposite sides of the tracks. It’s kind of like ‘Great Expectations’ when you think about it. There’s this childhood love and then they go their separate ways. There’s definitely some sexual tension now that they’re being chased by bad guys in a really cool car, it’s sexy!”

Deanna does, though, state the best thing about “Knight Rider.” “I’m smart, we all say big words and ride around in fast cars and crack jokes. It’s very cool!”

On their journey, the two get help from FBI agent Carrie Rivai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), who has a history with the Graimen’s. Her character’s back story is part of many storylines that will be tackled in the movie (and then possibly the series, if it gets picked up). “My character starts going after the bad guys and trying to figure out what happened to Charles to secure the safety of his daughter. She’s the liaison between the FBI and Mike Tracer and Charles Graimen and all those sort of KITT foundation people.”

As for KITT, originally Will Arnett was going to be the voice but because of his work for GM he couldn’t do it. Instead, NBC got the assistance of another ’80s icon, Val Kilmer – but I don’t think he’ll be asking Maverick for any assistance this time. “We all joke around on set with funny things that KITT might say,” exclaimed Deanna.

This series brought out the big guns with KITT; they developed three different models of a Ford Mustang Shelby 500 GT KR for the new version. One is a hands-free remote car, which can drive on its own. Another one is the stunt car, and the last is a real car.

Justin was clamoring at the bit for a chance to sit down in any one of them. “Like a 10-year-old; every time I turn the engine on, I just start grinning from ear to ear ’cause it sounds cool. I don’t get to drive it sometimes, but it sounds really cool. It really is. I feel like a little kid who bought his own candy store and just gets to play around in it. It’s got KITT. I watched the show growing up, and I got KITT. Playing Knight Rider sounds weird to me; it hasn’t sunk in yet. But it’s just amazing – the technology, the things they can do with this thing now. That car absolutely drives with no one in it, which is weird to me, ’cause I’ve been in it when it does it, and it freaks me out – and it works as the character.”

You can see the driver-less KITT for yourself when the “Knight Rider” movie premieres Sunday night at 9/8c on NBC.

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