Jack Reacher fans are in for a treat. A big one!
After Tom Cruise's film forays as Lee Child's iconic hero, Alan Ritchson makes the character his own - and then some - in the just-released Reacher, the Prime Video series based on Child's debut book, Killing Floor.
Here's the gist: having just left the army, former military police investigator Jack Reacher makes good on his promise to himself to become a drifter, "carrying no phone and the barest of essentials as he travels the country and explores the nation he once served".
However, when Reacher arrives in the small town of Margrave, Georgia, the towering tough guy immediately becomes the prime suspect in the first murder in 20 years.
Then all hell breaks loose.
The eight episodes here make for a brilliant opening season, with just as much for Lee Child devotees and curious newcomers alike. Within a couple of minutes, it's hard to see anyone else playing Reacher - Ritchson (Titans, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) is that good.
Below, the man himself talks about filling the biggest shoes, doing right by Lee Child and the fans, and what would make the world a better place.
Over to you, Mr Ritchson...
It felt too surreal getting the part of Jack Reacher to feel like fate.
The moment I saw myself on the cover of the re-release of Killing Floor - it's such an out-of-body experience it's hard to describe. I can acknowledge that a million stars had to align for this to happen: from Mr Cruise carrying this franchise with the features (Jack Reacher and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) and drawing in millions and millions of eyes that had never heard about the books, to the new streaming medium that we have now to enjoy a book in a way that I feel is the right format to tell the story properly, to me being available. I was on a series [for] months before this one and I just happened, you know, for my character to explode! And then I'm a free agent again! There were so many factors in play that led up to me just being in the right place at the right time that I guess fate's a good word for it. But, a lot of luck was involved in me getting this. I came into it with a lot of gratitude.
Reacher's physicality and intellect are characters in and of themselves in the book.
I understood that that was there. I also saw a lot of levity. His sense of humour in the book - he's a bit of a smartass. He uses his intellect against people and he's entertained by himself sometimes when he's playing games with people. I find that very fun. I enjoy those dimensions of him. Being able to bring to life a character that is multi-dimensional in that way is a lot of fun. I feel like it sort of touches on certain aspects of my career: I've gotten to do comedy, I've gotten to do drama, I've played smart people, dumb people, all in between. But Reacher is sort of an amalgamation of the best of all the characters I've had a chance to play. To roll that into one is a joy.
I wanted to make sure this show didn't take itself too seriously. If it did, I think we'd miss out on what makes the books such a special read for people.
There are many important qualities to this show. The fact that we get the mystery right. We get Reacher and the supporting cast right. We enjoy the thrills, the action. But I care that this is a fun experience for people too. It's the experience I have when I read the books. I laugh, I get wrapped up in where he's going with something, I enjoy his fallibility. And they nailed it - it was all there. I didn't really have any notes [to add] - we were always on the same page. I never had to fight anybody - thankfully!
One of the biggest challenges was whether or not I could eat enough to look like Reacher!
It was a full-time job! I had a conveyor belt of food in front of me all day long trying to get enough calories to bulk-up a bit. I walk around at 205 (lbs). I wanted to honour his physicality. In the first book, Killing Floor, he's 6'5", 220. I'm 6'3.5" and I was 235 when we started filming. I usually walk around a little lighter so I put on some weight for the role. It's about eight months of hard work - and I was happy to do it. The rest of it is just absorbing the source material. There's a lot of intellectual property to digest and the scripts were great. It was just about drinking that in and being present on the day.
Reacher's brutal fighting style definitely took its toll physically.
But what's funny is in the books it's 'Reacher said nothing' every few pages. I thought I was going to get away with one on this show where I didn't have to talk at all! And then I have a four-page monologue where I'm ripping through the entire case! I had to put in a little work at night to get through that stuff. But four pages of dialogue in 30 seconds or a torn oblique? I don't know, it's a toss-up!
The injuries on-set? Where do I start?!
Look, we were safe, but you cannot tell a story like this without some bumps and bruises along the way. The supporting team that I had around me... I'm only as good as the actors across from me. I'm only as good as the stunt team that I'm working with. Just on all fronts, everybody that was within my orbit was phenomenal. The stunt team is included in that. I want the audience to be able to experience the best version of these fights, and I think when I do them you can film it in a way where you're never taken out of it. Audiences are savvy these days; they know if they're shooting the back of a stunt double's head or hiding somebody's face. I don't want that.
It's not lost on me that there are hundreds of millions of Jack Reacher books sold - one every nine seconds somewhere in the world.
This is not just a 'US product'; this isn't like 'the domestic James Bond' for us here. This is a worldwide phenomenon, this character. He reaches, for lack of a better term - pun intended! - into the hearts of millions. And I share in that. I read all 24 books - at the time there were 24 - before we shot a frame of this and I'd arm wrestle anybody to see who the biggest fan is.
Lee Child is a surprising guy.
You look at somebody and on the surface, you see nothing but success. He's one of the most popular authors on the planet. He's an incredible writer. He himself is an everyman. He's somebody who reads a book a day and you can tell. He's very curious and wants to understand the how and the why of things. He's just an incredible guy and you sort of think, 'Well, somebody like that has the right to be a little bit of an a****** or arrogant or condescending'. And he's none of those things. Our first phone call was one full of just such humility and grace. I was nervous to talk to him. I mean, I read all his books, all his novellas, and short stories - I was a huge fan. I expected something different and it was just a very warm reception and that's been the case now every day we've had a chance to hang out. He trusted in his casting choice. He trusted in the fact that they got the right guy so there was no real advice. I had 24 books to pull from so it was more encouragement [from him] - 'You're the right guy, just enjoy it'.
I grew up watching and revering Tom Cruise.
I don't feel worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as his name! He's a true film legend. If I was ever so lucky to get a stamp of approval from him, I could die happy. I'd probably quit while I was ahead. I think one season's enough if I heard that from him! I care deeply about what he and the rest of the people that have been a part of this for a long time think. I want to get this right. I feel there are some brilliant minds around me. Nick Santora, our showrunner, really understands this and tonally has nailed it. Lee Child has been involved and cares deeply. He feels good about this so I'm very happy. There's a lot of brilliant minds that have worked very hard to give this new show a fair shot and to be as authentic as possible. Everybody's feeling really good about it so far and I'm very happy. If Mr Cruise joined in that chorus, I'd be elated.
I think Reacher is such a popular character because he strikes at the very heart of what we crave as a global society.
We wish for that knight errant, that mysterious stranger that has existed in stories for millennia and has been retold in ways for hundreds and thousands of years. He is someone with his own set of rules but craves fairness and justice. He's somebody that is capable of and willing to protect the innocent at all cost. I think, you know, we need that. Maybe not in as extreme a way as Reacher delivers, but in little ways every day I think we need to be Reacher. We need to be reminded that we do and we can stand up for what is right. Collectively, if we all had a little Reacher in us, the world would be a better place, I think.
Reacher is streaming now on Prime Video.