JACK RYAN

IN AN AGE OF EDGY, RULEBREAKING HE­ROES, CIA WORLD SAVER JACK RYAN STILL DOES THINGS BY THE BOOK. BUT, AS THE MAK­ERS OF HIS SMALL-SCREEN RE­TURN IN­SIST, THAT’S EX­ACTLY WHAT MAKES HIM FASCINATING

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS OLLY RICHARDS

John Krasin­ski finds a quiet place to talk about his small-screen take on Tom Clancy’s ac­tion hero.

LOOK­ING OUT OF the win­dow of Lon­don’s Soho Ho­tel, on a high enough floor that there’s a clear view of the city’s com­ers and go­ers, John Krasin­ski is scan­ning the streets. He’s ex­plain­ing to

Em­pire how one might start the hunt for per­pe­tra­tors in the event of an at­tack. “You look for the cam­eras,” he says, squint­ing against the sum­mer sun. “I do this now. I stand on cor­ners and think, ‘Where would the footage come from?’ There are cam­eras on the ATM. There are cam­eras on the street­lights. Lon­don has a ton of them.” He never used to do this, but then, he never used to be the most fa­mous CIA an­a­lyst in the world.

Krasin­ski is the fifth ac­tor to play Jack Ryan on screen. Tom Clancy in­vented the char­ac­ter in 1984, in the novel The Hunt For Red Oc­to­ber, as a Boy Scoutish ex-marine who al­ways strives to do the right thing in a Cold War world. Over Clancy’s eight nov­els, Ryan went from wide-eyed desk jockey to US Pres­i­dent. He is the em­bod­i­ment of how Amer­ica likes — or used to like — to view it­self: smart, tough, com­ing to the res­cue of coun­tries less for­tu­nate and solv­ing the world’s wrongs. He has Su­per­man val­ues with Lois Lane pow­ers. Over six films, Ryan has been played by Alec Bald­win, Har­ri­son Ford, Ben Af­fleck and Chris Pine. Au­di­ence in­ter­est dwin­dled as he went through his third and fourth faces.

Clear And Present Dan­ger, the series peak, with Har­ri­son Ford, did $216 mil­lion in 1994. Jack Ryan: Shadow Re­cruit,

a per­fectly cred­itable out­ing with Chris Pine in the lead, did $135 mil­lion in 2014. Krasin­ski and the team be­hind his Ryan re­boot are hop­ing they can re­v­erse that trend, not least by re­lo­cat­ing Ryan from the big screen to the small.

“Three-and-a-half years ago, Para­mount ap­proached us about get­ting in­volved [with Jack Ryan],” says Carl­ton Cuse, the TV pro­ducer who made his name with Lost, and who co-cre­ated this show with Gra­ham Roland, an­other Lost

alum­nus. “It was a mori­bund fran­chise, so they were look­ing at mov­ing it to tele­vi­sion.” He and Roland jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. “It made so much sense,” says Cuse. “Clancy’s books are 800 to 1,000 pages and they’re al­most im­pos­si­ble to re­duce to two-hour movies, but do­ing eight hours [over a series]

al­lowed us to stay true to the spirit of what Clancy was do­ing.” “Spirit” is the right word, be­cause this Clancy ad­ven­ture isn’t a di­rect adap­ta­tion of any of Clancy’s nov­els. In­stead, it acts as a pre­quel of sorts, tak­ing core char­ac­ters and cre­at­ing early days for them. It is the story of how Jack Ryan be­came Jack Ryan.

It be­gins with Ryan work­ing in a de­press­ing CIA of­fice, in­ter­cept­ing bank trans­ac­tions that look po­ten­tially sus­pi­cious. He’s been an an­a­lyst for less than four years, af­ter a he­li­copter ac­ci­dent in Iraq ended his ca­reer as a Marine. He has no­ticed trans­ac­tions that lead to a man named ‘Suleiman’, who he sus­pects may be a new Bin Laden. He brings this lead to the at­ten­tion of his new boss, James Greer (Wen­dell Pierce), who in the books was CIA Deputy Di­rec­tor, but here is lead­ing Jack’s lowly team, af­ter be­ing kicked out of a post in Pak­istan. He takes Ryan to Ye­men to in­ter­ro­gate a man who might know Suleiman’s where­abouts. Things go wrong and Ryan is pulled back into the dan­ger­ous field work he’s been try­ing to avoid. Cathy Mueller (Ab­bie Cor­nish) also fig­ures, but she’s not Ryan’s wife, as in the books. She is not yet even his girl­friend. Ryan is a man half-formed.

“We tried to adapt one of the books, but they were kind of dated,” ex­plains Roland of the pre­quel de­ci­sion. “It was part of the bril­liance of Clancy that he wrote these geopo­lit­i­cal thrillers of the time, and we needed to do the same.” Ef­fec­tively cre­at­ing a new ver­sion of Ryan, Roland drew sig­nif­i­cantly on his own past as a Marine; he served be­fore be­com­ing a screen­writer. “Jack Ryan and ev­ery­one around him is very com­pe­tent,” he says. “That was my ex­pe­ri­ence in the mil­i­tary… It’s not as por­trayed in other films and shows. The CIA isn’t this se­cret ca­bal of peo­ple stab­bing each other in the back and schem­ing on ways to ma­nip­u­late the world. It’s mostly self­less peo­ple try­ing to pro­tect the coun­try. That’s the sig­na­ture of the Clancy books that we want to bring into our show.”

This, in fact, is one of the great dif­fi­cul­ties of mak­ing Ryan a mag­netic lead­ing man: his good­ness. He’s not a man who does what he must in or­der to save the day and to hell with the con­se­quences. He’s a man who does the right thing in or­der to save the day. He doesn’t break the rules. He doesn’t beat peo­ple up un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. He doesn’t shag his way around the globe. He’s just a re­ally nice guy, and nice guys are hard to write. “We were ac­tu­ally in the bar last night, work­ing on a fu­ture episode,” says Cuse. “And we got onto this di­gres­sion about how much eas­ier it would be if Ryan were an an­ti­hero. He’s not like Bond, Bourne or Claire Danes in Home­land, these dam­aged peo­ple do­ing what­ever nec­es­sary to get their goal ac­com­plished. The drama with Jack Ryan is main­tain­ing his moral­ity in an amoral world.”

Cuse says that pu­rity of spirit is what makes Ryan the right hero for now and why he’s worth an­other chance. When asked what Ryan has, aside from brand recog­ni­tion, that makes him still rel­e­vant, nearly 35 years af­ter his cre­ation, Cuse says, “At this mo­ment in time, em­brac­ing a clas­sic hero ac­tu­ally feels fresh. This genre is now so full of an­ti­heroes. We’re liv­ing in cyn­i­cal times. The idea that we could em­brace a heroic char­ac­ter work­ing among com­pe­tent peo­ple, there’s an amount of wish ful­fil­ment in that… I think we all hope there’s a Jack Ryan stand­ing be­tween us and the dan­gers of the world. Some­one ca­pa­ble, in­tel­li­gent and ra­tio­nal.”

JOHN KRASIN­SKI DOES

not look like the kind com­bat. Jim from of guy That’s The you’d Of­fice, largely find the out the role fight­ing point. that The made ter­ror­ists 38-year-old him in fa­mous. hand-to-hand still In looks fact, like that’s why he was given this role. That and 13 Hours, the Michael Bay Benghazi movie, for which Krasin­ski packed on an ex­tra Krasin­ski’s worth of mus­cle. As Roland puts it, “the guy from The Of­fice was try­ing to rein­vent him­self as a dra­matic ac­tor… Jack Ryan was very much about a guy sit­ting be­hind his desk in an of­fice try­ing to re-brand him­self as a com­pe­tent CIA of­fi­cer in the field. The par­al­lel felt right.”

“It was not a hard choice for me,” says Krasin­ski, as chirpy and af­fa­ble as a man can be af­ter a red-eye trip into the UK. “I’ve been a big fan of Jack Ryan since

I was about ten, when I saw Hunt

For Red Oc­to­ber. It didn’t feel nor­mally block­bustery to me, even at that age. It felt smart.”

He laughs. “Also… I was ob­sessed with the CIA.”

As a kid, he and his brother would pre­tend they were spies, to such a pas­sion­ate de­gree that when Krasin­ski landed this job and called his elder brother to tell him he’d be go­ing to the CIA, his brother re­fused to be­lieve him. Krasin­ski talks about the CIA visit like a kid who got to go to space camp. “It was lit­er­ally a dream of mine since I was lit­tle. I couldn’t be­lieve it. Of course, I can’t tell you any­thing about it.” He will say that the visit was the most sig­nif­i­cant step in get­ting to the heart of who Ryan is. “It’s not only about their work at the CIA, but how it af­fects their per­sonal lives, their fam­ily, hav­ing kids. I’d

say that’s the big­gest thing for me, was con­nect­ing to the real peo­ple. With 13 Hours, con­nect­ing to the real guys and train­ing with the Navy SEALS is how I found any and all things I put in that per­for­mance… I had the [Jack Ryan] char­ac­ter in the books, so it’s about where you con­nect it to real life.”

Krasin­ski was for­tu­nate that he didn’t have to put in any in­tense phys­i­cal train­ing for Ryan, hav­ing kept up parts of his 13 Hours regime, “al­though to a lesser de­gree. It would have been stupid to make that huge phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion and not main­tain it in some fash­ion, if only be­cause I now don’t put my back out pick­ing up my kids.”

Jack Ryan comes at an un­usual time for Krasin­ski. Ear­lier this year, his third movie as di­rec­tor, A Quiet Place, be­came a sur­prise phe­nom­e­non, mak­ing $328 mil­lion world­wide from a $17 mil­lion bud­get and in­spir­ing a flood of praise. Some even hailed the one-time star of

The Of­fice as an un­likely new master of horror. Krasin­ski had al­ready be­gun shoot­ing Jack Ryan when A Quiet Place came out up, but it’s easy to as­sume that he has been busily plot­ting his fol­low-up. That, how­ever, seems not to be the case. “It’s ac­tu­ally re­ally nice just to be an ac­tor,” he says. “It’s their world and they’re mak­ing all the de­ci­sions. On week­ends I get to think about what I might do af­ter the show.”

What he’ll ac­tu­ally be do­ing for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture is more Jack Ryan; a sec­ond series was green­lit be­fore the first was fin­ished. Krasin­ski calls each sea­son “a re­boot”, in the sense that each will tell a new story. In Sea­son 2, the ac­tion will move to Venezuela, with film­ing to be done both there and in Colom­bia. Though fur­ther sea­sons aren’t green­lit, they are planned, with Roland men­tion­ing a pos­si­ble China set­ting for Sea­son 3. “Ev­ery sea­son you get to see a new part of the world,” says Krasin­ski. “By the third or fourth, he’s ex­pected to be a black-ops bad ass, be­cause that’s what hap­pened in the books.”

The up­date to the mod­ern era meant a tricky de­ci­sion for the show cre­ators. The orig­i­nals were set in the deep­est chill of the Cold War. The series is set in our time, with a lot of our geopol­i­tics, but it’s not en­tirely our world. Krasin­ski, Roland and Cuse all call the show “apo­lit­i­cal”. It’s a strange word be­cause Jack Ryan’s world is all po­lit­i­cal — in fact, it’s about the ills pol­i­tics causes and how Ryan tries to fix them — but any al­lu­sions to Trump’s Amer­ica or any real-life geopo­lit­i­cal is­sues are avoided. It sounds ini­tially like a bit of a cop-out, borne of keen­ness not to of­fend any po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion or la­bel any­one the ‘bad guys’, but Roland and Cuse in­sist they had no other op­tion. “We be­gan this three years ago,” says Cuse. “When we started, we had Obama, a lib­eral Demo­cratic pres­i­dent, and now we have a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­dent. Over the time­line of a show it’s hard to pre­dict what will hap­pen.”

Based on the episode we’ve seen, Jack Ryan has the po­ten­tial to be the best it­er­a­tion of the char­ac­ter since Har­ri­son Ford stepped down. It has a mood some­where be­tween The West Wing and early 24, op­ti­mistic but not naive, brusque in its ac­tion and keen on the nerdery of counter-in­tel­li­gence. It looks a com­fort­able fit for both the char­ac­ter and Krasin­ski. He comes across as the re­luc­tant hero Ryan is, a guy you might not no­tice in a crowd, but you’d be glad to know is stand­ing on that cor­ner, watch­ing for the things you hope never come.

Top: New boss James Greer (Wen­dell Pierce) and CIA an­a­lyst Jack Ryan (John Krasin­ski) are deep in thought. Above: Krasin­ski in ac­tion as Ryan.

Right: Ryan’s soon-to-be love in­ter­est Cathy Mueller (Ab­bie Cor­nish) is a doctor spe­cial­is­ing in in­fec­tious diseases. Be­low: Se­ri­ous squad: Ryan with his CIA team.

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