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Jack Ryan has landed. The upcoming Amazon series world premiered ahead of its August debut date with a splashy screening event at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival that brought out stars John Krasinski, Wendell Pierce and Dina Shihabi and showrunners Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland.
While Tom Clancy’s books are the spiritual source, the series is an all-original story developed by Cuse and Roland, following a fledgling Ryan from his desk-jockey job into the badass CIA field agent he becomes.
“I really loved the idea of playing a superhero whose only real superpower is using his brain, and his instincts,” said Krasinski, who added that Ryan is like a supercharged version of the actor’s former everyman character Jim Halpert on the sitcom The Office. “It’s very inspiring in the world of superheroes and capes and flying and shooting things out of your hands. It’s nice to focus on real people and real heroes.”
Added Krasinski: “We have not been telling their stories recently, people who believe in this country in a way that is apolitical, that’s about being proud of where you’re from, not which side of the aisle you stand on.” The actor said the role appealed to him after starring in Michael Bay’s Benghazi drama 13 Hours, another action film that claimed to be apolitical. (Bay also served as executive producer on Jack Ryan.)
Cuse called this Ryan a “classic hero,” and sees the series as an escape from the cynicism of Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer and the latest incarnation of James Bond, with Krasinski as the kind of amiable (and super-fit) good guy one might hope is out there saving the world. This results in a series opener that boasts lots of gunfire and explosions, with a dash of naivete and idealism.
It’s a take that seems to be both a creative decision and a business-minded one. Amazon has already greenlighted the series for a second season, which is set to start shooting in July in Colombia.
“Big tentpole movies are about wish fulfillment,” Cuse told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think that there is an audience that wants to see a more morally centered heroic character, which was proven by American Sniper, a movie that did huge business — outsized and surprising business.”
Though it seems an obvious play to American exceptionalism, the cast and crew of Jack Ryan were careful to emphasize that this is an apolitical story, though told with perspective and nuance.
“The movies kind of focused on Jack Ryan in that this guy’s good, this guy’s bad and that’s it. We get to be a little more sophisticated and a little bit more real,” said Roland.
The nuanced portrayal of the enemy was important to Shahibi, who grew up in Dubai. “[Jack Ryan‘s creators] took a story about a terrorist and they — for lack of a better term — humanized the people living those lives [and explained] the reasons they have chosen to go down those paths,” she said to THR.
The show’s cast and crew spent time with current and retired CIA agents.
“There’s a kind of earnest professionalism, commitment and devotion to the job that is under-portrayed,” Pierce told THR. “The easier and more cliched version these days is to make them all seem evil and corrupt, whereas the reality is these institutions are mostly filled with really smart, well-meaning people. Part of why they’re doing those jobs is that they have a moral sense that they have a greater responsibility to the country and to the world.”
With intelligence agencies currently under fire in the U.S., the cast said that spending time with the CIA and working with agents gave them a new perspective on those that dedicate their lives to that work and commit to doing their jobs neutrally. And as for the existence of the so-called “deep state”?
“Absolutely not,” said Cuse of the possiblity that the conspiracy theory could find its way into the show. “I hope the show will serve as a refreshing alternative to the incredible bashing that has gone on against institutions like the CIA and the FBI and this notion that there is some sort of ‘deep state’ that is corrupt and evil and a driving force in our country. It’s ridiculous. I think our country is better than that, and this show embraces a notion of professionalism and competence and rational thinking that might be a little absent in the world right now.”
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