In the first three days hours after its launch, Reacher reportedly ranked among the streamer’s Top 5 most-watched series ever in the U.S. and globally, with many viewers finishing all eight episodes during the first 24 hours of release. TVLine readers, meanwhile, gave the Alan Ritchson-led adaptation of Lee Child’s first Jack Reacher novel, The Killing Floor, an average grade of “A” (read finale recap).
Speaking with TVLine in December, Vernon Sanders, Amazon Studios’ Head of Global TV, acknowledged that “adaptations are really challenging,” but avowed that series lead Ritchson “knocked it out of the park” in what was a highly scrutinized casting. “I think Reacher fans will be very excited by the show.”
Showrunner Nick Santora (Scorpion, Prison Break), who adapted the novel for TV, told TVLine on Friday evening that the clearly positive response to the series “makes us all incredibly happy,” while the atypically quick-for-a-streamer renewal came as “a wonderful surprise.”
“I don’t think that anyone suspected — I know I didnt — for us to get a second season so quickly,” he added. “And I’m not to question it, that’s for for sure! It means I get to work with our writers and start cranking out more scripts.”
Here is a sampling of what else Santora had to share about Reacher‘s undeniable bingeability, the casting of the lead role, and the one change from Lee Child’s dozens of Jack Reacher novels that simply had to happen.
TVLINE | Why do you think this adaptation was so well received and proved to be so bingeable?
I think the show was received well because Lee Child created an incredible character. Jack Reacher is beyond unique. He’s very different from any other literary character that’s out there, and hopefully now people think that he’s different from other characters on television.
TVLINE | Has Amazon shared any sort of data points with you, illustrating how many people watched and how quickly?
I haven’t learned anything yet, but the term “spreading like wildfire’ was used. I don’t know how to qualify “wildfire,” but… the show is just doing incredibly well.
TVLINE | Alan Ritchson shared on a podcast this week that he kinda biffed his first audition, by channeling some Waterworld character.
[Laughs] I never heard that! Listen, Alan can be very funny and self-deprecating, but the truth is that he and many other talented actors worked really hard to try and get this role. Alan did not get this role without incredibly hard work, and I think he is showing everybody how talented he is. I’m glad that people around the world are seeing that.
TVLINE | As much as Alan would come to greatly manifest Reacher, what changes to the character did you need to make for TV?
I wouldn’t call it “changing,” but we had to adjust one major thing: Reacher does a lot of thinking, and in the books that is not expressed outwardly through dialogue. Lee Child was able to describe what the character was thinking at any given moment, but if we do that on TV, we have an hour of watching a guy, trying to guess what he is thinking at that moment. [Laughs] So we had to make Reacher a touch more verbal, but we tried to be very concise with our language and verbiage, and we tried to have Reacher only speak when necessary. You’ll see that he only really explains things to people he respects. So, he’ll explain stuff to Roscoe (played by Willa Fitzgerald) or to Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin), but to some jerk that he doesn’t like, he’ll just go and do what he does without a word.
It’s funny, because after living in this Reacher world for over three-and-a-half years [since Santora first met with Skydance], I can’t tell you, looking at the episodes, what came from the book and what came from the writers room. I’m well aware that Lee created this world and this character, but we did have to — and always with Lee’s permission — pull things from other books and expand the story to fill eight episodes. But as long as it feels like Reacher and as long as Lee Child is happy, it doesn’t matter. And Lee Child is happy. He likes the show, and that makes me happy beyond words.
TVLINE | Along those lines, talk about your decision to introduce the character of Neagley (Swamp Thing‘s Maria Sten) earlier than the books did.
We know how much the fans of the books love Neagley, so we wanted to give them something they loved sooner. [As a member of Reacher’s old MP investigation team] she is a big part of Reacher’s life, so we figured the sooner the better. Also, if I’m being completely honest, sometimes you take a book and break out it — any book, not even a Reacher book — and you’ll be like, “We have five episodes [of material] here… and we need eight!” You have to start looking for other story, and bringing Neagley in opens up a whole new world and gave us a great story. You never want it to be filler, you want it to be exciting, and Neagley is exciting.
TVLINE | As a veteran of serialized TV, what was it like for you building up richly realized, supporting characters like Finlay and Roscoe, knowing that at the end of the season/this “book” you would need to let go of them?
It’s difficult, because if you create characters that people really, really like, even if the understanding amongst all the viewers and the readers is that that character is not going to be around forever — because that is not the world Lee Child created; he created the world of a drifter, a hobo — you can sometimes be a victim of your success. Because people fall in love with those characters, and then when they don’t seem them right away in the next season, they go, “Oh, man, it stinks that they’re not here.”
But if we are doing our job properly as writers, we are creating [for Season 2] new characters that are also interesting in their own way, and the viewers will want to see what those characters do and how they develop — and they’ll hopefully fall in love with those characters.
TVLINE | Did any of your actors beg you at the end of the shoot to come back for a possible Season 2? “Come on, this was so much fun….”?
[Laughs] No, none of the actors begged to stay on; they all understood the nature of the Reacher world. And the truth is, they already all have a million jobs to do, series and movies, because they’re insanely talented actors.