James Bond. Jason Bourne. Jack Bauer. Don’t lump Jack Ryan in with all these other dudes with J-names, even if they share a history of espionage and action. If Amazon and producers Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland have their way.
“Jack is a classic American hero,” Cuse said at New York Comic Con. “The thing that was really exciting for Graham and me was that we could do it for Amazon and do an eight-hour version.”
This is the era of reinvention: Beloved properties and characters are being revamped, rebooted, resurrected and forced into sequels in every direction, but the opportunity to experiment with television, particularly with streaming, was irresistible to the producers.
“When you try to take that and make it into a two-hour movie, it’s really challenging, but across eight hours you can do what the books do which is this really deep, mosaic-type storytelling,” Cuse added. “It really is like a movie.”
Cuse repeatedly stressed that Jack Ryan will look like a movie, but in 2017 we seem to prefer our movies as TV shows. Especially for a story that started as a novel, the episodic format makes more sense than anything.
“The streaming format is very novelistic,” Roland said at the show’s NYCC panel. “Each episode is like a chapter. Rather than being contained to Jack’s story as you are in the movies, you get a chance to see some other characters, which is more like the book. You get a chance to spend time with the bad guy, you get a chance to see the systemic issues in his world that that are causing him to do what he does, and I think that’s one of the things that really separates our show.”
“I think there have been 72 people who played this role – lucky 73!”
Judging by the fan questions at NYCC, star John Krasinski will have a tough time shaking his tenure at Dunder Mifflin, but he takes it in stride. “I drew a lot from my paper salesman days for this,” he deadpanned. What he drew more from were his family’s military past (11 aunts, uncles, and cousins who have served at some point), 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, and the production actually visiting the C.I.A. (there’s a Starbucks there where you don’t have to give a name).
“I’m a huge nerd for all that stuff,” said Krasinski (he graduated undergrad from Brown University). But the C.I.A. is “completely open and honest, and you see that it’s avery apolitical place,” he added. “It’s literally a place of making sure that our freedoms are protected and that’s it.”
This Jack Ryan is certainly part of the Tom Clancy world, heavily inspired by Harrison Ford’s Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, but Cuse and Roland’s story is original. They shared the first seven minutes of the series at New York Comic Con, disclaiming that it’s not final (some of the effects are rough).
We start out in Lebanon, with two young boys listening to Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.” They step outside their house and see a series of fighter planes speeding by their city; moments later, explosions detonate in quick succession, getting closer and closer until they presumably wipe out the boys and their entire family.
We then catch up with John Patrick Ryan (Krasinski), rowing the Charles River in a Boston College t-shirt before biking to work at a local C.I.A. bureau (one recalls the Office episode where Jim quickly abandons biking to work because it makes him too sweaty. One dismisses this thought).
According to Cuse, Krasinski’s comedy chops haven’t hindered his portrayal of the beloved action hero; on the contrary, he’s injected Ryan with an appropriate measure of humor and charisma that make him less unapproachable than Ford’s iteration (no surprises there). At the end of the seven-minute clip aired at NYCC, Ryan meets his new superior James Greer (Wendell Pierce), who he happened to almost crash into on his morning commute.
“Shit,” says Ryan.
Krasinksi himself is a huge Jack Ryan fan who grew up with the books and films. He’s well aware of the character’s dense history (“I think there have been 72 people who played this role”) but humbled to fill the shoes of a character who is, for all intents and purposes, a superhero — without the extra flare.
Another significant shift from the previous films is the role of Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish), who gets to do a lot more than be the damsel or the wife. Cornish, who spent almost 12 years acting only in films, revealed that Cathy’s work with infectious diseases will come into play over the course of the series, and we get to spend more time with her and Jack as the relationship begins and evolves.
Cuse also stressed that in answer to America’s deep-seated Islamophobia, the show will portray more than extremists. Fans can expect “a variety of Muslim characters across the spectrum and sort of heroic characters,” a reflection of the production’s positive experiences filming in Morocco.
“At this moment in time, in the world, I was very drawn to making a show about a guy who is sort of selfless and anonymous, who has these kind of core heroic beliefs…who doesn’t exist to do this for the glory or the fame or the recognition, but just sees himself as having a purpose and a sense of responsibility that goes beyond himself to society and the world at large,” Cuse said. “That felt like a kind of story that right now I really wanted to be part of.”
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan will stream on Amazon in summer 2018.