Miami Herald (Sunday)

On the hunt: Justin Hartley is the ‘Tracker’


Steadily and surely, the stars of “This Is Us” have been moving on to other projects.

Milo Ventimigli­a was first with the

ABC series “The Company You Keep,” while his former television “wife,” Mandy Moore, made her series comeback recently with the second season of Peacock’s “Dr. Death.” Sterling K. Brown appears in the current movie “American Fiction,” and his ex-spouse from “This Is Us” — Susan Kelechi Watson — has been working on a Netflix series titled “The Residence,” which also involved Andre Braugher before his recent death. Chrissy Metz, meanwhile, starred in the holiday horror movie “A Creature Was Stirring” (2023) and has been advancing her singing career.

Now, it’s Justin Hartley’s turn. Formerly the commitment-phobic and trouble-prone Kevin Pearson in “This Is Us,” he plays someone much more in command in “Tracker,” a drama series that gets a post-Super Bowl premiere slot, Sunday, Feb. 11, on CBS and Paramount+. The series will stay on Sundays thereafter, with Hartley (also an executive producer of the show) playing Colter Shaw, a survivalis­t who crosses the country, using his specialize­d skills to help people — both police and private citizens — with searches and collects rewards for the missions when they’re completed. His complicate­d family history has given him demons he tries to exorcise in the course of doing his work.

Also featuring Abby McEnany (“Work in Progress”) and Robin Weigert (“Deadwood”) as the managers of Colter’s business affairs, “Tracker” is one of the first new series to debut after last year’s strikes by writers and actors. The friendly Hartley admits he was “a little nervous” as those protests continued, but he marvels that “we were somehow able to save our premiere date and get back into production in enough time to let us keep going like it never happened … which is pretty amazing. We’d worked so hard on this, there was some stress, but it’s wonderful to report for work as normal — just a reminder of what a great business we have.”

“Tracker” is based on the bestsellin­g novel “The Never Game” (which was also the series’ original title) by “The Bone Collector” author Jeffery Deaver, and that name adapts Shaw’s credo that he uses to advise people he assists: “Never let panic take the wheel.” Indeed, the first episode starts with him assisting a fearful hiker who has been seriously injured, then follows him as he seeks a missing youngster. In both cases, he stays calm as he informs his new companions of their odds for survival under their respective circumstan­ces.

The opening story involving woodlands, rivers, high cliffs and the like suggests that much of “Tracker” will be set in visually rich locations, and Hartley reports that he’s an outdoorsy sort anyway. He also appreciate­s that Colter, who typically would rather just do something than explain it, “can be so intense. He doesn’t just let life happen to him, like Kevin did [on ‘This Is Us’].”

“With this guy, if there’s some kind of a problem, he’s the one who’s going to figure it out. And selfishly for me as an actor, it’s wonderful to take on a different role. I loved playing Kevin, but I’m having the time of my life. [‘Tracker’ is] cool, but it’s also believable. I like that Colter is not a superhero. If he gets shot, he bleeds. He doesn’t have an iron skin.”

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