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Alan Ritchson sizes up Jack Reacher in first look at Amazon series

·4 min read
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  • Alan Ritchson
    Alan Ritchson
    American singer and actor
  • Lee Child
    Lee Child
    British thriller writer

Move over, Tom Cruise, there's a new Jack Reacher in town.

To Lee Child, "Reacher is special; Reacher needs something that is large and substantial and impactful." And now, after 26 books and two movies, the author says his iconic figure has finally gotten that with Reacher — a new Amazon Prime Video series (debuting Feb. 4) starring Titans alum Alan Ritchson as the towering, roaming veteran military police investigator Jack Reacher.

"Lee created a beloved character, and I thought trying to help make that character live on TV was a great challenge," showrunner Nick Santora (Prison Break) tells EW. "I knew I'd always have Lee there to make sure everything about Reacher and the story was exactly how he wanted it. If Lee liked the product, we were doing it right."

Jack Reacher
Jack Reacher

Keri Anderson/Amazon Prime Video Alan Ritchson on 'Reacher'

It's a slightly different feeling from what Child had after the 2012 and 2016 Cruise-led films, which combined to gross almost $400 million at the worldwide box office. "When I picture Reacher, let's say you're in a bar or restaurant, the door opens, he steps in, and the temperature in the room drops by a degree, because people think, 'What the hell is this?'" says Child, who enjoyed working with the "super-interesting" Cruise but agrees with fans who felt he didn't live up to the "6-foot-5, 250 pounds of muscle" from the novels. "Even if there's not an immediate threat, there's an impact. That's what I wanted."

Reacher
Reacher

Amazon Studios Malcolm Goodwin and Alan Ritchson on 'Reacher'

While watching audition tapes of possible Reacher leads, Child (an executive producer on the series) thought the right person would be evident within the first two seconds — which is exactly what happened when he clicked play on Ritchson's video. "This guy stepped on the screen and had this stillness and blend of menace and goodwill that is always confusing about Reacher," Child says of his 6'3" star. "If he's going to be your friend, you're very lucky. If he's not going to be your friend, you're very unlucky. All of that had to be transmitted just through stance, mood, look — and Ritchson had it right away."

Jack Reacher
Jack Reacher

Shane Mahood/Amazon Prime Video Willa Fitzgerald and Alan Ritchson on 'Reacher'

It didn't hurt that he did his homework: The actor says he read 24 books (the latest two weren't out yet) in an eight-month span to prepare, becoming a superfan. "Spending time with Lee on set was the first time I was ever starstruck," says Ritchson, no stranger to beloved properties, having played Aquaman on Smallville, a areer Tribute in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Raphael in Michael Bay's Ninja Turtles films. "I've come to be comfortable taking on outsized roles. Reacher has incredibly large shoes to fill; he's a bit of a superhero. [But] I'd become so invested at that point into who Reacher was, there weren't a lot of questions for me."

Being in awe of Child wasn't the only first for Ritchson on Reacher. "I felt intimidated learning the fight choreography," he admits. "This fighting style, I was on my heels, wondering if I could pull it off. It's so precise… We rebuilt me as a fighter. Some of the fights that we spent a month and a half learning are just three minutes on screen, but the fans deserve to see somebody move the way that a killing machine like him can."

Reacher
Reacher

Amazon Studios Willa Fitzgerald and Alan Ritchson on 'Reacher'

Despite all his research, Ritchson's reading could've stopped after one book, since season 1 is based on the first Reacher novel, 1997's Killing Floor. "It's the foundational story in the Reacher myth," Child says. "He's learning how to be Jack Reacher." Fresh out of the military, Reacher arrives in a small Georgia town grappling with its first homicide in decades. He's immediately arrested for the crime, before two local cops (Scream's Willa Fitzgerald and iZombie's Malcolm Goodwin) help him investigate a deep-rooted conspiracy to prove his innocence.

"If you've loved Reacher, then this is as close as you will ever get to him on the screen," Child promises. "Trust me: It's perfect."

Reacher
Reacher

Amazon Studios Alan Ritchson on 'Reacher'

A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly's January issue, on newsstands Dec. 17 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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