Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ Proves It’s Time Again for an All-American Hero

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Photo Source: Jan Thijs

Stepping into the titular role of Amazon’s new series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” John Krasinski embodies the CIA analyst who goes from a desk job to active field duty, a similar career trajectory to the actor’s own rise from Jim Halpert to bona fide movie star.

“We obviously knew him well from ‘The Office,’ but we had also seen him in ‘13 Hours,’ ” Graham Roland (“Fringe”) tells Backstage. (Roland co-created the series with veteran TV writer and producer Carlton Cuse of “Lost” and “Bates Motel” fame.) “His journey seemed to parallel exactly the journey John was making as an actor, so it would be very comfortable for the audience to watch a guy they were familiar with in a cubicle, to go along with him as he moved into the field.”

Krasinski now joins a long line of men who’ve played Tom Clancy’s iconic character—Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford, and Chris Pine among them. But when it came to reimagining Ryan for the small screen, the creators say Krasinski, who had a huge hit on his hands earlier this year with “A Quiet Place,” was their first choice from the start. “When you write a part, it goes out there in the ether, and somehow, almost through magnetic attraction, it brings back the right person,” Cuse says. “If you do your job as a writer and really deliver what you want on the page, then the right person will emerge with some adaptations and hard work.”

READ: John Krasinski on ‘A Quiet Place’ + ‘Power of Performances Without Words’

While filling out the rest of the cast, Cuse and Roland found many actors had a personal connection to the material, citing friends or family who worked in the military or in another public service capacity. “Wendell Pierce, who plays Greer, he never read but just came in and met with us,” Roland says. “We learned his father was a veteran, and he had a lot of uncles in the military, so he had this deep connection to it. Originally, we had envisioned our version of Greer being younger. But his enthusiasm and passion for the role caused us to change course.”

“Jack Ryan” doesn’t debut until Aug. 31, but it’s already been renewed for Season 2, which is currently in production, with new cast members like Noomi Rapace. The experience working with Amazon marks new territory for Cuse, who comes from a network background. “It used to be that television was constrained by time and money, and there was also a profound limit on casting,” he says. “Now, almost any actor will do a project that’s sort of under the television label because the opportunities are so great. The quality of the material and the storytelling is so high. And it’s really exciting to be able to do long-form storytelling with actors who might, a few years ago, only have been available to people making movies.”

And the world of TV seemed an especially fitting home for “Jack Ryan” due to the bevy of Tom Clancy material available to adapt. “If you have read a Clancy book, they’re 1,000-page, single-spaced, small-prose books that are densely packed in a world populated with a lot of characters that in a movie you don’t get to see,” Roland says. “In eight hours, we felt like we had a big opportunity to tell a mosaic story.” As such, their series isn’t an adaptation of one particular novel, as the films are. Instead, the entire catalog served as a jumping-off point to explore the world of Ryan.

At a moment of peak antiheroes on TV, Cuse and Roland take pride in bringing a great American hero to the small screen. “This was a chance for us to tell a story about a classic hero whose mortality is his strength or his biggest obstacle in a sometimes immoral world. We both gravitated toward that because now, in a weird way, it feels subversive to have this classic hero.”

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