TV WEEK: Hey, John – how's London treating you?
John Krasinski: Thomas, hello there – how are you today? Tonight? What time is it there?
It's early evening, just on six. I'm good. It's raining here in Sydney.
Really? How weird. I always imagine it to be sunny and nice in Sydney – and everyone has a kangaroo and they're surfing. That's how I see it!
To most people, you're mild-mannered paper salesman Jim Halpert from The Office, one of the best TV characters of recent years. But you're about to star as former US Marine Jack Ryan. While it may seem like a leap, they're actually a little similar...
They both work at a desk, so that's something! [Laughs] But they're also similar in that Jack is sort of an everyman like Jim is. That's always something I find interesting. One of the things I love about Jack is that he's a regular guy: he doesn't have a cape, he's not a superhero and he can't fly. He gets by on his instincts and brain, which is kind of inspiring at a time like this, when we have so many superheroes. It's nice to be playing a regular guy.
Especially in a world that feels like it's dominated by Marvel men…
Jack is so far from that. I wanted him to be a fish out of water in the first season. He's a guy who works at the CIA, but at a desk; he has a low-drama gig. And he's brought into a world and a situation that's beyond him. The other thing I love is that during the first season there are genuine moments when he tries to back out – he knows it's too much. But he perseveres. I think people will connect to that, because here's a guy who chooses to be more, who chooses to go on. There's a little part in all of us that would want to take bigger risks.
This is your first long-form TV role since The Office. Had other roles come up that you turned down?
Not really. I certainly hadn't been trying to stay away from TV after The Office. Most of the best storytelling, writing and filmmaking is on TV. It was about the right role, and that's why I did the show. I've been a fan of Jack Ryan since I was a kid – I always liked the books and movies.
So John grew up wanting to be Jack?
Maybe a little, although I think Jack is very much a special kind of hero for this day and age. Anyone can be Jack Ryan. The whole production felt very finger-on-the-pulse. We went to the CIA during filming and met real agents. They were a much more diverse, apolitical and interesting group than I had imagined.
It does seem like a show for intelligent action fans. It's not just a "here are the bad guys, here are the good guys" deal.
Exactly – it's not a black hat, white hat situation. That kind of storytelling can be boring. The grey area of characters is the most fun. One of my favourite storylines revolves around Dina Shihabi, who plays Hanin, the wife of someone who has chosen to do evil acts. It humanises the experience, because we don't see much light shed on that.
Abbie Cornish plays your fiancée – always good to have an Aussie on set.
It's fantastic! I've been a big fan for a long time. I first saw her in Candy [the acclaimed 2006 Australian film]. The performances by her and Heath [Ledger] in it were unbelievable. She's immensely talented and we're lucky to have her. She's also a really fun person, which is important when you're on a shoot like this. I'm actually a really boring person, so it was funny to see how amazingly adventurous she was in Montreal [in Canada] when we shot there. I think the entire city was sad to see her go – she befriended every person at every place she went. Meanwhile, I'm in my room watching Netflix.
Did you know she also raps?
Yes, it blew my mind! She toured with Nas [the US rapper, record producer and actor]! I thought she was joking at first, then I did the obligatory Google search and it was true. MC Dusk's her name and she's really good. She's just too talented and cool; it's annoying how good she is.
The Office is one of those shows that's so enduring. Do you feel you've had a good time away from Jim?
Jim isn't a character I wanted to run away from. I'll always love him. In fact, by the end of my career, Jim is still going to be one of the things I'm best known for, and that's an honour. But because I was able to play Jim, and having been on such a successful TV show, I wanted to try new things. I wanted to jump into something new. It's what led me to doing things such as 13 Hours [the 2016 biographical war movie set in Libya] or writing and directing A Quiet Place [the 2018 hit horror film].
How often do the guys from The Office catch up? Is there a Dunder Mifflin WhatsApp group? Please say there is...
No, we don't have a Dunder Mifflin WhatsApp group, but that's a great idea – I'll start one today! We stay in touch and check in with each other. Everyone was really nice about A Quiet Place – I got calls and texts from the cast and crew. But it's like any family, you're often ships passing in the night. But anytime I'm in LA, I'll bump into someone. In Monte Carlo just recently, I was only a few streets away from Brian Baumgartner [who played the loveable Kevin Malone]. He was playing golf.
You're at the peak of your powers in a way – you've directed a hit film and have a great TV series in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. Do you feel your decisions about what to do work-wise are becoming easier or harder?
I try not to overthink what's next in my career – I try to go for what feels right for me. I know that sounds like a Hallmark card answer, but it's true. Early on in my career, I was guilty of overthinking things or thinking, "If this works, I can do this and if I do that, then it'll lead to that." But that's what you do when you're worried about your next job. Ultimately, it made me pretty anxious and stressed – whereas now, I'm fortunate enough to sit back, take a minute and find something I connect to.
You found massive commercial and critical success with A Quiet Place. Is it tempting to wander back into film alongside your wife [English actress Emily Blunt] again?
For sure. That was the most personal project I've ever done. It's probably what I'm most proud of, because I've never put myself out there in a big a way – writing, directing and acting – as well as being in a movie with my wife! That's huge, so what's next really comes down to what fits. I don't know if I'd look to try to recreate the magic of that, though. But I haven't decided what I'm going to do after Jack Ryan. I try to leave myself as open as possible, so when the next thing comes along, I'll genuinely know it's right.
Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
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