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Amazon's Reacher Shoot Took A Massive Toll On Alan Ritchson

Many moviegoers were introduced to Lee Child's Jack Reacher through Tom Cruise's 2012 and 2016 films, "Jack Reacher" and "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back." However, Amazon's television series from 2022, "Reacher," is considered to be a bit truer to the original book series in many ways. Even author Child was a bit critical of Cruise's involvement in the films, saying the actor— while a talented performer and considerate person— was too old to be an action hero.

Given that the 28 books in the series have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, it only made sense to create a more book-accurate version of Reacher, who is meant to be 6 feet 5 inches with an intimidating presence. So, plenty of fans were happy to see another version of the hero on screen, played by Alan Ritchson — so much so, that Amazon announced a 2nd season for "Reacher" within three days of its release. The second season wrapped filming in late February.

Ritchson has said that shooting the first season was a major ordeal. "I don't want to complain, but it was the most challenging shoot I've ever had to endure and it just about killed me," he told the Inside of You podcast. He worked a grueling schedule, to start with, which may have led to his being injured on the set. He also had to take powerful pain medications to work through those injuries.

Precautions were taken to safeguard the actor's mental health

Alan Ritchson, who has long been open about the deep depression and bipolar struggles he experienced in his 30s, told the podcast that he didn't actually make it through the first round of auditions for "Reacher." Months later, though, they contacted him after they started reimagining the casting process, and he went through seven or eight other auditions to get the role. The process, which took place during the pandemic, even involved having the actor measure himself on film so executives could see he suited the role physically. 

When asked about the mental toll the role took on him, Ritchson noted that in general, bringing his issues to light and talking about it has been helpful. He also said he had an assistant who understood his history with mental health and was there to take note of any changes in his demeanor that would affect production: "Help me pay attention, because it's hard for me to see those changes in myself," he explained. "And she's like, if you need to slow down like let's just slow down at any time. Of course I never said I needed to."

And that was a major issue on the set, apparently. The producers wanted Ritchson to work seven days a week because they had been given a deadline after which the money would run out. While they eventually agreed to lower that to six, he still needed time to learn the script, rehearse fight scenes, and sleep and eat. 

He didn't sleep, got injured, and experienced side effects from NSAIDs

Alan Ritchson described a never-ending schedule that had him shooting unexpected multiple scenes a day, training for fights between in set parking lots, and causing consternation to makeup artists who wondered why he always came to them sweaty when they needed him to look like he had in the previous scene. He started to hit a wall, he said, when he began getting injured.

"I started to vocalize about halfway through, I think this is too much, even for me, who I can push myself through, like I only need like two more months of this but I'm falling apart — like I can't do it," he explained. "My body was whacked." He was sleeping three hours a night, even on nights when he had extra time. He would do night shoots until 6 a.m. on Saturdays, then have to be back on set at 5 a.m. Monday. 

In an interview with Variety, Ritchson said he broke an AC joint in his shoulder. It was bad enough that it required surgery after Season 1 wrapped. He also tore an oblique in a fight on set. Doctors gave him NSAIDs to get him through the rest of the shoot.

The NSAIDs lowered his testosterone, which reduced the amount of hemoglobin being made in his body. This meant his lungs weren't getting oxygen to his cell tissue, which is why his tissues were tearing so easily. "I literally was suffocating to death because of all the powerful pain meds that were helping me get through those fights," Ritchson said. In one scene in the first episode when he's in prison eating a sandwich, he claims you can see he's breathless — possibly showing symptoms of anemia.

Ritchson says the shoot was so intense it left him close to death

"I was dying. You can hear it in some of the scenes. It was crazy," Alan Ritchson told Inside of You. "People don't know the kind of drain ... what you put your body through to survive that kind of stuff, but this was intense."

When you add this to his gaining about 30 pounds to bulk up for the role, the actor definitely went through some things to make the first season of Reacher. "Reacher's a heavy yoke to wear, he left me a little wounded," Ritchson told Variety. "Hopefully, we can do many more. I'll put those scars behind me."

Presumably, the success of "Reacher" has given the show a bit more breathing room to make the second season filming a bit easier on its titular star. The first season was filmed in Toronto in 2021 between April 15 and July 31, a period of about three and a half months. Production started on the second season in September 2022, according to Amazon Prime Video, and didn't wrap up until late February, which means it filmed for five months. Hopefully, it was a bit less of an ordeal for the show's lead star.

However, that's unclear. In his wrap message, Ritchson appears with fake blood on his face and says, "As you can see, things got a little crazy. We promised things would be back bigger and better than ever. And we did not lie."