As played by Tom Cruise in two action movies, Jack Reacher was physically rather different from the hulking, 6ft 5in military veteran with razor-sharp intelligence described in British author Lee Child’s popular series of crime novels.
But the new incarnation of the strong-and-silent drifter in the Prime Video series Reacher will be rather more familiar to fans of the books, as musclebound, square-jawed 6ft 2in actor Alan Ritchson takes on the title role.
Based on Child’s debut novel, Killing Floor, the series sees ex-military policeman Reacher arriving in the small US town of Margrave, with nothing but a passport, some cash, and an old military medal.
No sooner has he sat down to enjoy a coffee and a piece of pie than he is picked up by the local cops, who are investigating a murder. In order to clear his name, Reacher realizes he’s going to have to solve the case himself.
We caught up with 39-year-old Ritchson, who’s previously appeared in Smallville and Titans, to talk about bringing this iconic character to the small screen…
Had you read the books or seen the films before taking on the role of Reacher?
"I didn’t want to go back and look at what Tom Cruise had done, but before filming I read 24 Reacher books. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the character – but I also felt more pressure to please the fans."
How would you describe Reacher?
"He is a retired military police officer who is huge, violent, highly intelligent and an incredible detective. Now that he’s out of the military, he sort of wanders the country, and trouble seems to find him. He’s that knight in shining armor who cleans up the streets for us. He is the drifter who comes into town, and who doesn’t rely on the law because he is the law."
What’s the setting for the series?
"It takes place in this small, idyllic Georgia town that Reacher wanders into and, within minutes of him arriving, he’s arrested for murder. He basically has to solve the case to prove his innocence. Along the way, he starts to uncover a sinister plot and realizes it is all a lot closer to home than he thought."
Reacher is a great combination of brains and brawn, isn’t he?
"You expect somebody who looks like that to be a bit of a brute. But he’s so sharp that he’s one step ahead of everybody the entire time. He’s a man of few words, and he allows people to believe what they want to believe about him. So he’s a mental gymnast, but the size of an ox."
He doesn’t always get it right, does he?
"One of the qualities that I love about him is that he's fallible. In a world of superhero sagas, there’s often this sort of invincible quality to these characters. But Reacher makes mistakes, perhaps because of his confidence or arrogance, and it gets him into trouble."
Do people make assumptions about you based on your physical appearance?
"Much as I’d like to blend in, it’s hard to hide when I’m taller and bigger than everybody else. And I think my normal facial expression is very intense!"
There are some incredible action scenes, including a prison fight in episode one in which, as usual, Reacher is heavily outnumbered. What were they like to film?
"It was tough, intense, and hard on the body. The fun of the books is that they’re always building up to that one epic battle. We know that, at some point, Reacher is going to snap and we’re going to get to enjoy the physicality that he's famous for."
All eight episodes of Reacher are available on Prime Video from Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.
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Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.