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Office star John Krasinski on taking on the role of action hero Jack Ryan

John Krasinski jumped at the chance to reinvent action hero Jack Ryan - a character he's been a fan of since he was a kid - for a new eight-part Amazon series. He tells Georgia Humphreys about the high-pressure role, how the show looks at terrorism, and balancing work with family life


John Krasinski as Jack Ryan

John Krasinski as Jack Ryan

John Krasinski as Jack Ryan

Hapless sitcom character, romcom star, horror film director ... John Krasinski has never been one to pigeonhole himself. Next up is his take on an action hero - none other than novelist Tom Clancy's legendary creation, Jack Ryan. And while the 38-year-old may be "nervous" about tackling a role previously played by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine, it's pretty much a dream come true.

"I know it sounds corny, but he doesn't have a cape, he doesn't fly, he's actually a real person - so I think probably as a kid, I even said the words, 'Maybe I could be Jack Ryan one day'," says the Massachusetts-born actor. "That was a really cool part of it for me."

In a new eight-part Amazon Prime series, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, the titular hero - a CIA analyst - is thrust into a dangerous field assignment for the first time. After uncovering a pattern in terrorist communication, he's launched into the middle of a dangerous gambit, with a new breed of terrorism on his hands.

Krasinski - perhaps best known for playing Jim Halpert in the US version of The Office - was attracted to the idea of long-form storytelling.

"The pitch to me from the show runners was that maybe a movie isn't the best medium for Jack," he explains. "The books are so rich with detail that slamming all that stuff into two hours is really difficult to do.

"If you do it over eight episodes, you can really delve into the details and the specifics of who Jack is and the world around him," he adds.

In the end, Krasinski felt at ease with portraying such an iconic character.

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"I felt like I got a free pass," he says, "because not only is my take going to be different, but the whole reinvention of the character and how we're telling the story is different."

Krasinski's co-stars include The Wire's Wendell Pierce, as deputy director of intelligence James Greer, while Three Billboards star Abbie Cornish plays Ryan's love interest, Cathy Mueller.

There are some stand-out up-and-coming actors in the cast, too. Ali Suliman portrays a charismatic Islamic activist whose life has taken a wrong turn, while Dina Shihabi is his wife, an independent Muslim willing to go to the ends of the earth to protect her children.

For Krasinski, it was important to explore the issue of terrorism in a different way.

"I think the whole 'white hat, black hat' way of storytelling is a bit boring, a little outdated - the idea of just a good guy and a bad guy," he elaborates. "In the real world, it's all very complicated, and that goes for Jack as well. Jack has always been a character who's extremely moral and in our show, one of the fun things you get to do is investigate how difficult it is to be moral and do the right thing in these situations."

The friendly star also points out that the series doesn't "humanise a terrorist". However, you do get to "see where he's coming from and what led to the decisions he makes. What we do really well is show the collateral damage of family, friends and communities that are affected by these people who make these decisions to do evil things," he continues.

"They had no part in it, and they're lumped into the same category unfairly. So I think showing this wife and this mother fight for her own family, is a really important part of the show."

Krasinski is married to British actress Emily Blunt, whose star credits include The Devil Wears Prada and The Girl On The Train. They have two daughters (Hazel, four, and two-year-old Violet) and Krasinski readily admits it was difficult balancing filming Jack Ryan with family life.

"Emily was away shooting Mary Poppins here in England, I was in Montreal a lot," he says. "I had to fly back to see the kids every week and that's non-negotiable - I do whatever it takes to be with them."

The couple recently worked together for the first time when they took on lead roles in near-silent thriller A Quiet Place, released earlier this year, and which Krasinski also directed. The movie became a critically acclaimed box-office hit.

"I don't think I've processed it yet - I don't know how you do process that!" Krasinski says of the project's success. "I wish I was one of those people who was like, 'Yeah, no problem, I knew it was going to be like that!' It was a really special and unique experience on every level, certainly doing it with my wife and having it be that personal to me," he recalls of making the film. "I don't think I've ever gone all-in on a movie like that before.

"It really makes us feel good that people are seeing what we saw - that idea of parenthood and what would you do for your kids, which seems to be a universal theme that everybody connected to."

It's hard to imagine Krasinski, whose easy-going, charming demeanour never slips throughout our chat, as anything but a good guy.

However, he'd happily give the opposite a go in the future: "I'd love to play a baddie, absolutely! And I love the word 'baddie'," he adds with a chuckle. "We don't say that enough in the States!"

For now, though, he's relishing every moment of bringing Jack Ryan to life.

"I hope everybody likes to know that there's a good guy represented out there, a guy who's very moral and trying to do the right thing," he says. "That's awesome, especially in today's world, to know that's the person who's on the front line for you.

"I think there's some comfort in that - at least there was for me."

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 31

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