Jack Reacher's Atypical Sense Of Humor Helped Draw Alan Ritchson To The Amazon Series

When you think of Jack Reacher, you don't necessarily think of his sense of humor. Author Lee Child envisioned the lead character of his wildly popular books as a bulky, taciturn hero who travels the US after leaving the Army and runs into his fair share of trouble along the way. Not exactly the perfect setup for comedy. But according to Alan Ritchson, star of Prime Video's equally popular "Reacher" series, there's plenty of levity to be found in the world of Jack Reacher.

Tom Cruise's portrayal of the character in two movies didn't quite match the 250-pound, 6-foot-5-inches bruiser of the novels — which in and of itself is kind of funny, but certainly didn't amuse fans of the books. Luckily, Amazon fixed all that when they cast the 6-foot-3-inches, 235-pound Alan Ritchson to lead their show based on Child's books. And it wasn't just the actor's considerable frame that hewed closer to the novels.

Showrunner Nick Santora made sure to capitalize on Child's expertise and involvement as executive producer, creating a run of eight episodes that not only broke Nielson's streaming records but resulted in a show that was generally much more familiar to fans of the Jack Reacher novels. And for Ritchson, part of doing justice to the fans was retaining Jack Reacher's sense of humor, which is an often overlooked aspect of the books.

The sardonic humor of Jack Reacher

After Amazon initially decided against casting Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher, then went back on that decision, the actor threw himself into research, reading all the novels, and hanging out with Lee Child, from whom he said he learned a lot. Specifically, the actor claimed to have seen a lot of Child in Reacher and vice versa, particularly in terms of his intellect. But there was also what Ritchson referred to as a "dry sardonic humor" to both Child and his books.

Child himself confirmed as much when he responded to a fan question about Reacher's sense of humor on GoodReads, saying, "Yes, I would say Reacher and I share a sense of humor. I remember laughing out loud when I wrote some lines in [the 19th Jack Reacher book] 'Personal' — usually when Reacher feels some kind of sardonic bewilderment about the craziness of whatever world he's up against." And that craziness certainly found its way into Amazon's series, as Reacher frequently finds himself up against absurd odds, often having to single-handedly battle entire gangs of enemies to get what he wants.

For Ritchson, retaining that "sardonic" sense of humor was not only important but a big part of what endeared him to the character. As he told The Hollywood Outsider podcast:

"Reacher's a smart guy, but when you pay attention and sort of read between the lines, there are laugh-out-loud moments in this. I think Reacher is a funny guy, and unexpectedly funny. You know, I sort of expected this one-hander action star that's a little like the guys we grew up with in the '80s and '90s, but I think he's unique in that way, where there's a sense of humor to this, and I really wanted to find that."

The absurdity of Reacher

"Reacher" certainly has its share of amusing moments right from the jump, with Alan Ritchson's former military policeman immediately proving too much for the small town of Margrave, Georgia, and its police department to handle — I'm thinking specifically of him being arrested then breaking the zip ties used to restrain him and asking, "Do you guys recycle?"

With Reacher" season 2 just around the corner, we can expect more of that kind of thing in the near future. This is good, in the sense the writers clearly paid enough attention to original novels to notice that Lee Child infused what could have been a fairly one-dimensional character with some of his own humor. Neither the books nor "Reacher" are laugh-out-loud funny, but there's a sense that both realize how ridiculous they are.

Jack Reacher is an absurd character. There's seemingly no enemy he can't thwart, no situation that's too much for him, and no gang of thugs he can't dispatch with ease. The amount of times trouble has befallen him over the course of 28 books and multiple short stories is similarly absurd. But Child knows that. And it seems that awareness has also made its way into Amazon's show — though, it often makes for a slightly uneven tone as we lurch from the wisecracks of the "do you guys recycle" type to horrific crime scene tableaus that depict naked murder victims nailed to walls and generally mutilated in some needlessly gratuitous way. In general, though, it seems the writers were, just like Child, cognizant of how far-fetched the whole thing is, and how crucial a sense of humor was to make it work.