Reacher Showrunner Nick Santora On Casting Alan Ritchson, Staging Action, And His Favorite Moment [Interview]

The streaming TV series "Reacher" — the show based on the popular mystery thriller books by Lee Child — is punching its way onto Prime Video in a few days and promises to give viewers a lot of mystery, a lot of unique fight scenes, and a Jack Reacher who, well, better fills out the role than the movie versions with Tom Cruise.

Showrunner Nick Santora talked with /Film about putting the series together, including working with author Lee Child and how Reacher actor Alan Ritchson stood out from the crowd during the casting process.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

"It's a rebirth of Reacher on television."

I'd love to hear a little bit more about the process of getting "Reacher" made. Did you approach author Lee Child to get him on board for the series?

By the time the studio came to me, Lee was already on board. He wanted to make this as a series. So they were just looking for a writer/showrunner to come on board and take those reins.

Like every job I've ever landed in this business, you go and you tap dance for the studio and then the various buyers and networks, and you hope they like your vision or version of the product. Though, in this case, to be honest, the entire time I said, "My version of what I want to do of this is whatever Lee Child says works." I wasn't going to all of a sudden change who Jack Reacher was by any means.

Adaptations can take many forms and be as close to the original material or be completely different. And from what I can tell, the first season skews pretty closely to the first book. And I heard that the intent is to do a book per season for any potential future seasons. Can you talk a little bit about the thought process behind that and how you decided on that structure for the show?

Like everything with "Reacher," it's always a group decision and a group discussion. And I mean that in a positive way, because we have a wonderful studio, and we have great producers, and we have Lee Child. So everyone just talks and says, "What would be the best way to go forward with this?"

And when you have basically a library's worth of books, you can pick any one-off and probably turn it into a great season of television. So we felt it made sense to start at the beginning because it's a rebirth of "Reacher" on television. So why don't we start at the front?

We did pull some stuff, not a ton, but some stuff from other books. There's a major "Reacher" character in season 1 that's not in the first book of "Reacher", that's not in "Killing Floor." But we felt that the character would help, and we think did. And we found a wonderful actor to play that character [the character is Neagley, played by Maria Sten]. It's just always just discussing, going through pros and cons and then figuring out what do we want to do next.

"What I loved about what Alan did was that Reacher has a way to exude intelligence without saying anything."

You've said before that when you're casting for a role, you want to find someone who brings what you hope an actor brings to it, but also something that surprises you. When you were casting for Jack Reacher specifically, obviously, it's a very important character to cast. What was it about Alan Ritchson that really sealed the deal for you for having him play the role?

Again, like all other decisions on this show, it was a great group decision. What I loved about what Alan did was that Reacher has a way to exude intelligence without saying anything. And he does it with a look, or he does it with a glance and a slow observation, a turn of the head, something like that. And Alan just does it, because Alan is an intelligent guy. Alan will think things through. He's a very sharp dude, and that came through in his auditions.

Was it a long audition process? I imagine you probably saw a lot of folks for the role.

It sure was. We saw a lot of really insanely talented people, and every one of them brought incredible things to the table. Alan really had to earn this job, and he did through talent and hard work and determination. And at the end of the day, everyone just felt that all the pieces that were needed to make up Reacher were embodied in this one person.

"Reacher fights in a very different style than Rocky Balboa."

As the series goes on, it definitely escalates in terms of the amount of action and the amount of fighting that Reacher has to do specifically. Was there any scene or sequence that you remember as being the one you had to prepare for the most?

The one that probably got the most discussion, and again, I don't want to give too much away, but the scene that probably got the most discussion was when Reacher was being chased by a car. And Reacher was on foot and something had to make the car stop. And that has to be done in a very safe way, so no one gets hurt.

That one moment was tricky to pull off stunt wise, but you saw the final product. And I think it was pulled off quite well and safely. And that was a point of big discussion.

Absolutely. What input did you have for specific fighting scenes of Reacher's? Because some of the ways he frankly kills people is pretty creative. How the process for making those scenes go?

The process for the fighting is pretty simple. We start with the tones of fight scenes that have been given to us by Lee Child. And we, the writer's room, we read them, we study them and we learned how Reacher fights, and he fights differently than other people. Reacher fights in a very different style than Rocky Balboa. Then we try to write something that's pure to that fighting style. Very often, trying to keep most of everything, if not everything that's on the page.

Then we give it to the stunt team. The stunt team and the stunt coordinators are so darn talented, that they then put their own spin on it. We then get rehearsals with Alan on film. We watch those rehearsals — they're called pre-visualization of these fights. We watch them, producers watch them, studio watches them, the streamer watches them. And then we also have Lee watch them. And we just all discuss it. And we have little notes and thoughts, and we'll do another pass, but all the credit goes to the stunt team, the choreographers and Alan.

Alan's the one who has to actually do this crazy stuff. And he takes it very seriously and you can see it comes out great, because he puts the work in. Alan Ritchson is the least lazy person I've ever met in my life.

"The final arbiter of every decision we make is, 'What will people like?'"

The question I want to ask you, which I know you can't answer for probably many reasons is, if there's future seasons, what books you would want to do. So I know you can't answer that. So the question I'm going to ask is, based on all the "Reacher" books you've read, which is your favorite and why?

I don't know, it's like trying to pick your favorite movie. I honestly don't have a favorite. I can tell you one that's very near and dear to my heart is "Killing Floor" because it gave me my opportunity to do this season of television. But I don't think I can have a favorite.

I think each book has special scenes and special moments in them that stand out. So to say, "Oh, that one's definitely not my favorite," then you're discarding that wonderful moment that you like so much. It's like trying to pick a favorite grandparent. You can't, you love all your grandparents. So I guess that's kind of my, non-answer. Sorry.

No worries. Is there anything you can say to the question I didn't ask, just in terms of potential future for the series?

Yeah, I could answer that to some extent. I mean, for future seasons, it's going to go through the same process everything on "Reacher" goes through — we're going to pull everybody together, Amazon Prime and Skydance and the producers and Lee. And we're just going to discuss, "What do we think would be fun for the audience?"

The bottom line is we're supposed to entertain. So what's entertaining to people? It can't be, "Well, my favorite book is this." And you're like, "Yeah, that's great. But that's a little similar to something we just did. So maybe we need to put a few seasons in between them."

We have to make it so that people like it, people enjoy it and people watch it. If people don't want to watch it, we're not doing our job. The final arbiter of every decision we make is, "What will people like?"

"That's quintessential Reacher."

One of the things I loved was Reacher's one-liners. I imagine a lot of them are from the book, but do you have a favorite line that he does that just tickles you?

Am I allowed to curse?


My favorite line, and I don't want to give away the moment, but when he walks out of a prison, and he says to somebody, "I don't give a s***," because that wasn't in the book. And it was something I put in there, and I had to at first fight for it. Because people were like, "Oh, that makes Reacher seem mean." I'm like, "No, no, no." I go, "That's quintessential Reacher." And Lee Child loves it. And if Lee Child loves something, then I know it's quintessential Reacher. And I found it to be hysterical. Because people being openly blunt to me, is the funniest thing in the world, because no one's honest and blunt anymore.

Your neighbor could put up the gaudiest tree or bushes or whatever, and be like, "Hey, how do you like the new stuff we planted?" And you have to look at it and go, "Oh, it looks great," even though you know it looks terrible. I just love when people are straightforward and honest.

The "Reacher" series premieres on Prime Video on February 4, 2022.