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Jack Ryan’s life is about to change. In a matter of days, the CIA analyst has gone from crunching numbers behind a desk to boarding a last-minute flight to Yemen, where he’s expected to help catch an international terrorist. It’s a good thing he’s an action hero…even if he doesn’t realize it yet.
Created by author Tom Clancy in 1984, the character Jack Ryan has appeared in 20 books and five film adaptations starring the likes of Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, and most recently Chris Pine as the Marine–turned–Wall Street stockbroker–turned–CIA analyst–turned–operative (–turned–president, depending on how far you’ve read). “What?! There’s other people who’ve done this role? That’s unacceptable, I quit,” jokes John Krasinski, 38, the star of Amazon’s new series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (premiering Aug. 31). Amazon clearly believes in the series, giving it a season 2 renewal before season 1 has even debuted. Coming off the streaming service’s success with the Golden Globe-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jack Ryan will serve as a cornerstone of Amazon’s next round of original series, which also includes the Julia Roberts-led Homecoming.
Sitting in downtown Manhattan in early July, Krasinski — best known for playing Jim Halpert, the king of the reaction shot, on NBC’s The Office — is coming off one of the best years of his career. The Boston native directed and starred in the critically acclaimed box office hit A Quiet Place, which also starred his wife, Emily Blunt. And now, he is about to step into the role of almost action hero. (He won’t accept the title just yet.) “Let’s be honest, I know I can’t be Superman and I know I can’t be Iron Man,” Krasinski says. “So Jack Ryan sort of becomes the guy that maybe, if you work hard and dedicate yourself, you could be.”
That everyman quality is one of the things that attracted showrunners Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Graham Roland (Fringe) to both the character and Krasinski. “There’s a relatability about Jack Ryan that you don’t find in the Jason Bournes or the James Bonds,” Roland says. Unlike other well-known heroes, Jack Ryan doesn’t wear a cape or carry a hammer forged in the heart of a dying star. He’s not going to kill five men with his bare hands and then order a martini. Rather, Jack is a guy whose biggest weapon is his brain…and who also happens to know how to shoot a gun. At the time of casting, Krasinski had just finished playing a former soldier in the Michael Bay film 13 Hours, for which he underwent the biggest physical transformation of his career thus far. “We wanted to start our story with this guy who was just an office worker who was being pulled into something that he had never done before, and that was a journey that John was making in his career, going from a guy working on a sitcom based in an office to more of an action hero,” Roland says. “It felt like he was the perfect guy.”
And when Jack Ryan premieres, fans will meet a young Jack, less than four years into his work in the CIA and earlier in his career than most of Clancy’s books portrayed him. “We tried to adapt Clear and Present Danger,” Roland says. “About a month into it, we realized the reason the Clancy books worked so well was because they were relevant for the time that they were written. So we had to take the spirit of what he did and create our own original story.” The result is a prequel of sorts, with the very green analyst seemingly stumbling his way into the field when he flags some questionable financial transactions that lead directly to a man who could very well be the next Osama bin Laden. “Imagine if you were in your desk job and you got called to come outside the building, and then were picked up in a black car and flown to all these crazy places in the world that you didn’t think you were going,” Krasinski says. “That’s basically what Jack experiences in this show.” In other words, even Jack Ryan is hoping he can become the action hero people need him to be.