Alan Ritchson says “Reacher” is the American James Bond

"I think it's a cool way to go about doing it where it's a little less purposefully cool," Ritchson says. "He's not in on how slick he is."

Alan Ritchson doesn't want a license to kill as the next James Bond — because he's already got one on Reacher.

The action star has no desire to take on the iconic spy role (recently rumored to be Aaron Taylor-Johnson next as Daniel Craig's replacement) in the future despite its lauded legacy because he considers his titular character on the Prime Video series Reacher to be his own version of Bond — and, in fact, even better.

"It's funny, I kind of feel like Reacher is the American James Bond," Ritchson tells Entertainment Weekly. "And I've never had more fun playing a character. I love those larger-than-life, over-the-top action thrillers and spy movies and the heists that are smart and ahead of the audience. That's really great, but I feel like Bond, to me personally — people are going to hate me for saying this — I love Bond, but I feel like it's all a little misogynistic and predictable at this point."

Ritchson adds that he'll always love the way Bond "can play 4D chess and stay ahead of us and save the world," but he views the character as a bit outdated now. "Reacher, to me, is like the American Bond, and I think it's a cool way to go about doing it where it's a little less purposefully cool," he says. "He's not in on how slick he is. I don't feel like we can have characters these days that are in on the joke. Either they know that they're funny, they know that they're smart, they know that they're very cool or capable or invincible — I feel like it reduces the stakes of stories, and we've seen too many movies, we're too savvy as an audience to be entertained by that."

<p>Brooke Palmer/Prime Video</p>

Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

The actor, who will be seen next in Guy Ritchie's comedic action film The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, would rather see characters more relatable and flawed than the ultimate perfect spy. "What we want is, when there's life and death stakes, characters who are not so sure that they're going to make it, but they just maybe by the skin of their teeth figure it out," Ritchson explains. "And that feels more human to me. That's more my story. We're all just figuring it out, and we want to escape somewhere where we trust that somebody will. And maybe it can even be done in sort of a superhero fashion, but we still want to know that there's a humanity to the people that we escape to."

He laughs as he adds, "That's me, personally, at least. A lot of people can disagree with that and will."

His new film, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, also starring Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alex Pettyfer, Henry Golding, and Cary Elwes, is a fun piece of escapism that is also grounded in real life. The historical events the movie is based on were recently unearthed in declassified British War Department files. The documents revealed the story behind the creation of the first-ever special forces organization in World War II. The espionage group, which had a major impact on the Allies' eventual victory over the Nazis, included the author of the James Bond books, Ian Fleming, which is why many believe Cavill's character — team leader Gus March-Phillipps — is the real-life inspiration for Bond. But despite that connection, Ritchson never felt like they were making a Bond movie.

"It definitely felt like there was a slickness to what we were making — you realize as Guy's piecing this thing together, it has a really bold style and a coolness," he says. "But it was really hard to get a sense of the scope of the whole piece because we were really just seeing one square of the quilt. There's this whole other story that takes place on land with the spies and in Spain; there's this other saga with Winston Churchill and what he's enduring in order to keep this ruse going. And we were not privy to any of that. So I guess I could see it now, but I couldn't see it then."

In fact, Ritchson didn't get the full picture of the movie and his role until much later than usual — but he was totally fine going along for the ride. "I was filming Reacher season 2 when I got a call that Guy Ritchie wanted to have a conversation about a movie, and they sent me a script, and I didn't have any details about it," he says with a laugh. "I didn't know who he was interested in having me play or what they wanted my involvement to look like. But when I read the script, there was this one character, Anders Lassen, who I was in love with and was secretly hoping that's who he was wanting to have a conversation about."

<p>Daniel Smith/Lionsgate</p>

Daniel Smith/Lionsgate

Ritchson loved the juxtaposition of the real-life Danish soldier's seemingly lighthearted disposition with the raw animal rage and violence simmering below the surface. But after a 45-minute Zoom call with Ritchie, he still had no idea what role he was being considered for. "It was just him and I chatting and getting to know each other, and talking about barbecue, hanging out at his place, and how great it would be to get to know each other," Ritchson remembers. "It was a lovely call, but there was no talk about the role, the character, whether I could do an accent, just nothing. And then, at the very end, he was like, 'So, do you want to make a movie with me? I want to make a movie with you,' and I was like, 'Sure.'"

It wasn't for another few weeks that Ritchson finally learned he would play Lassen. "I was over the moon when I found out that I was going to be able to work with a genius like Guy to play this larger-than-life character that I feel really honored to have been able to portray," he says. "It was a real dream come true moment."

It also gave Ritchson the opportunity to do something completely different than what he's been doing on Reacher — even though it may seem as if the two extremely bloody action roles have a lot in common. "Guy has got such a unique style that's irreverent and has swagger, so coming from something like Reacher, which is purposely stripped down aesthetically and stylistically and purposefully rather plain, to be able to have a conversation with somebody who's famous for having style, it was an immediate yes for me," he explains.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare opens in theaters April 19.

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