Actor’s tall order: Proving that he’s ‘the right guy’ to play Jack Reacher

At 6-foot-2, Alan Ritchson says he has the height and the humor necessary to inhabit the Army vet from Lee Child’s novels in Amazon series.

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Alan Ritchson plays the title role on the new “Reacher” series.

Amazon Studios

Adaptations of books to film and television often take liberties or stray from the original text. Tom Cruise played Jack Reacher twice on film but didn’t match the physical description of the character described by author Lee Child.

Child’s Reacher is 6 foot, 5 inches tall. Cruise is under 6 feet.

A new Amazon Originals series “Reacher,” has found an actor closer to the author’s profile of the former U.S. Army officer who travels the country without a plan, but finds trouble wherever he goes.

Alan Ritchson (“Titans,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), who stars as Reacher in the series, is 6 foot, 2 inches tall. In the series, his Reacher towers over just about everyone he meets and draws attention for his size wherever he goes. This Reacher is referred to regularly out loud by adjectives about his height, such as “giant” and “stretch.”

Ritchson says he can relate to that and deals with “size-ism often” in his own life, describing his height and girth.

“I took my son to a trampoline park with his friend recently and my son told me his friend said, ‘Your dad has gotten fat,’ ” laughed Ritchson in a Zoom interview.

Where the TV Reacher strays from the books is with dialogue. “Reacher said nothing” is a common phrases in the book, but Ritchson’s Reacher, while an observer, speaks his mind.

“Lee Child in the books had the luxury of explaining what’s going on inside Reacher’s head,” said Ritchson. “But that’s a little tougher to adapt to the screen without literally having a narrator. So I think [showrunner] Nick Santora did an incredible job of demonstrating how his mind works.”

One of the actor’s favorite parts of portraying Reacher is bringing to life how funny the character can be in the books, where the humor “is sometimes hidden between the lines, or you see it in the way that characters in the book sort of react uncomfortably to him, and he’s comfortable in that space. I would laugh out loud reading the books. .. I wanted to make sure this show didn’t take itself so seriously that we miss that sense of humor.”

The debut season of “Reacher,” which premiered Friday, is based on “Killing Floor,” the first book in the series.

“He’s a minimalist,” says Ritchson of the character. “The kind of guy that walks around with nothing but a toothbrush and a passport, but trouble finds him wherever he goes. So he just happens to stumble into circumstances. He arrives off a bus in a small town in Georgia and is immediately arrested for murder when he shows up, and he basically has to solve his own case.”

Ritchson says he’s well-aware that the role comes with a responsibility to please the fans.

“There are a lot of people that were right for this and wanted to do this,” Ritchson said. “There’s a chip on my shoulder to prove every day I show up to work that I am the right guy, and they made the right choice.”

To prepare, he made a point to read all the Jack Reacher books and soon became a devotee. (There are 26 books in Child’s series.)

“As I read each book, I couldn’t wait to get to the next one. I think I’m on par with the super fans out there. I really wanted to get every detail right, and I want to honor this character.”

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