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Alan Ritchson: Jack Reacher is a 'mysterious stranger who cares about justice'

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Alan Ritchson: Jack Reacher is a 'mysterious stranger who cares about justice'
Alan Ritchson can now be seen in the action-drama, "Reacher." Photo courtesy of Amazon

NEW YORK Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Actor Alan Ritchson and novelist Lee Child say they think the TV version of Jack Reacher -- a brilliant, hulking, charismatic character who lives off the grid and is suspicious of authority -- will resonate with viewers in 21st-century America.

"He's somebody we all want to see in our lives to some degree," Ritchson told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"He's this mysterious stranger who cares about justice and is capable of handling that for us, and then he drifts onto the next adventure," the actor added. "It's a lot of fun, and it's connected with a lot of people, so being able to bring a character like that to life is a gift."

Ritchson plays the titular hero in Reacher, a new Amazon Prime Video action-drama based on Child's book, Killing Floor.

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Set in Georgia, the eight-episode first season debuts Friday and co-stars Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald and Harvey Guillen.

Like the protagonist of the books, the screen Reacher is a former military police officer who has spent the recent past traveling across the United States by bus and reluctantly helping whomever he crosses paths with in each town he visits.

He has no home or car and carries nothing but a passport, toothbrush and cash. He appears in 26 of Lee's novels, which have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide.

"More and more, there is an awareness of how important it is to be detached [from] the material world," Ritchson said of Reacher's allure.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we had the ability or the discipline to detach from social media, to not use electronics, to travel without a suitcase? There's some part of us that kind of pines for that, but then also realizes it is almost impossible. But Reacher does that. He finds a way."

The actor described his character as a minimalist with his own code of honor, who is exploring the world on his own terms.

The TV series introduces Reacher as he arrives in a rural town just as a dead body is discovered.

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After he is arrested, he then clears his name for the slaying and he sticks around to help the local authorities catch the real killer.

Given the treasure trove of source material it has, the show theoretically could run for years, using one book a season.

"Reacher fighting with a walker is something I look forward to, for sure," Ritchson joked.

Since Reacher always is on the move, every season would have a different setting and stars, which would be a mixed blessing for Ritchson.

"The anthology feel that this series has is exciting to me," he said. "It is also heartbreaking when, like I experienced on this first season, you fall in love with your co-stars. Willa Fitzgerald and Malcolm Goodwin are some of the finest actresses and actors that I've ever worked with."

Ritchson admitted it has been a bit daunting to play such a well-known and loved literary character.

Tom Cruise portrayed Reacher in two movies, which did well at the box office, but did not charm the many fans of the books.

"Everybody has their own idea as to who this character is and how he would be portrayed if [someone else] were playing this," Ritchson explained. "You can't please everybody. Everybody is going to have some aspect of him that is more important than others."

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Child, for one, said the TV show is better than he imagined it could be, largely because Ritchson's performance perfectly captures the spirit of his most famous creation.

"The thing about Reacher is he steps on the screen and he makes an instant impression," Child said in a separate Zoom call.

"He's a little menacing, a little scary, a little reassuring in some ways. Is he going to be your friend? Is he going to be your enemy? He will make that decision, not you. All of that has to be communicated in two seconds," the author added. "Alan had that immediately."

Child also praised the ensemble supporting Ritchson, and acknowledged that it might be difficult for viewers to let go of characters they've come to love as Reacher hops on his next bus.

"That is exactly what I felt when I was writing that book," Child said.

"I'd made the decision that Reacher is a loner, and he's obviously going to move on to a new context each time, which meant, at the end of that book, I was saying goodbye to those characters, and I was in tears about it. I loved them. Viewers are going to be sad not to see those people again."

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Aside from the stellar performances, Child also expects 2022 audiences will be drawn to Reacher's unique brand of self-reliance.

"The basic appeal of that character increases all the time, which is possibly bad for the world, but good for the first season," Child laughed.

He went on to note that many people nowadays resent powerful entities they believe have too much influence on their lives.

"We all hate the big guy - the guys who think they can get away with things and Reacher has been on that for 25 years," Child added.

"Reacher helps the little guy, but that's kind of a secondary effect simply because he is so annoyed by the big bullies. That's how I've always felt. If I see some bullying situation going on, of course I feel compassion for the victim, but more I feel annoyed at the bully. I think that's a subtle distinction, but it gives Reacher a sort of authenticity."

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