Culture

‘The Office’s’ Jim on becoming ‘Jack Ryan’

Krasinski, left, and Pierce in a scene from “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.” Jan Thijs/Amazon via AP

LOS ANGELES: John Krasinski comes across in conversation as a disarming match to his screen image, the sort of easy-going, decent guy he played on TV’s “The Office.” That’s his former image. With “A Quiet Place,” in which he co-starred, he’s since fashioned himself as an acclaimed film director.

In the new Amazon Prime Video series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” he’s a muscular hero.

Who’d have predicted that gangly, deskbound Jim of “The Office” would be hunting Middle Eastern terrorists as fledgling CIA analyst Ryan, or that the latest iteration of Clancy’s work would arrive – cinematically intact – on the small screen?

Krasinski considered “The Office” “the best thing out there, movie or television.” “I felt so proud to be a part of it, and so my definition of television and film was always blended.

“I never saw it as film or television, but rather just the best project going, the best character I can play,” he said, something that’s easier than ever to find on TV with the explosion of “really great shows.”

The attraction of “Jack Ryan,” his first series since “The Office,” was both its form and content.

With the debut season’s eight episodes, it’s possible to reimagine and delve into the title role in ways not possible in a time-constrained movie, Krasinski said. Then there’s the character himself, something of a childhood obsession for the actor.

“It may sound hokey, but I think that Jack Ryan was always one of those characters that you actually thought you could be one day,” he said. It was plausible to imagine becoming Ryan, a man who “used his brain and his instincts and was able to do extraordinary things.”

For series creators and executive producers Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, casting the part was critical.

“Carlton told me, ‘We could write the best show either of us have ever written, but if don’t have the right guy playing Jack Ryan the show is just not going to work,’” Roland recalled. A winning “everyman quality” needed for Ryan came across in Krasinski’s work in “The Office,” they said, but it was his turn in “13 Hours” that cinched the deal.

The Amazon series rolls the videotape back to Ryan’s early days with the CIA in an original story by Cuse and Roland. Viewers meet him butting heads with new boss James Greer (Wendell Pierce), a vice admiral and top-ranking CIA official in the late Clancy’s works but in career-rebuilding mode here.

“Jack Ryan” also stars Abbie Cornish as Cathy Mueller, Ryan’s future wife but for now an epidemiologist who catches his eye at a party; Ali Suliman as Suleiman, a terrorist with a tragic family history, and Dina Shihabi as his wife, Hanin.

“It felt really novel in a weird way to come back to a classic hero,” Roland said, “a hero whose morality is his strength.”

The CIA also wears a white hat, unlike other dramas depicting the agency as what Roland called a “cabal” filled with back-stabbers.

“We had a great appreciation for the role that these people play in keeping us safe,” Cuse said, “and keeping the world safe and the importance of the United States as a beacon of democracy.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 31, 2018, on page 12.

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