April 4, 2024   JenAlan Ritchson Articles Interviews Press

Photoshoots > Outtakes > Set 024

Read a snippet of the article below. Head to our press archive or The Hollywood Reporter website to read the full article, which is featured in the April 10th issue of the magazine.

‘Reacher’ shot him into Hollywood’s top tier, but behind that success — the 41-year-old reveals in an unusually candid interview — was a harrowing struggle with bipolar disorder, sexual assault and a suicide attempt that he survived with a mix of faith, love and brute force.

Tattoos are a relatively new obsession for Alan Ritchson. His collection is growing and each piece is thoughtfully selected. There’s a lotus on his wrist to honor his wife of 17 years, Cat. “She’s the flower, I’m undoubtedly the mud,” he says. There are separate tattoos inspired by the couple’s three young boys — a peaceful dove for Calem, an abstract flame for Edan, and a crest with a shield and swords for Amory. There’s a massive skull with a crown on his bicep and another down the way inspired by a Richard Gere remake of the Japanese movie Hachiko about a faithful dog that is meant to symbolize loyalty and devotion.

But the newest one, finished during a 16-hour session in February in Toronto on a day off from filming Reacher, the Prime Video juggernaut that has made him one of Hollywood’s most in-demand leading men, is just for him. It serves as a permanent reminder of what happened during his darkest days and who he is now as a result of surviving a near-fatal incident. The tattoo features the two overlapping masks the ancient Greeks used to represent comedy and tragedy, joy mixed with pain. “Tattoos, I realized, are very much an opportunity for me to tell my story and the things that matter most to me: family, the story of my wife and our connection, what loyalty means to me, faith. But this right here,” he says, rubbing the skin on his forearm, “is as close as I’ll get to a personal identity. It has a dual meaning for me in the extremes — the happy, the sad, the ups and the downs — as somebody who lives with bipolar and ADHD on a daily basis. Being bipolar has wreaked havoc on my life many, many times. I would wish it away if I could, but it’s so much a part of who I am now that I should celebrate it a little or, at least, accept it.”

Ritchson started getting the majority of the ink only in the past couple of years, after the breakout success of Reacher and after the breakdown he refers to as his existential crisis. “Mental health is an everyday conversation for me,” he says. “I was just texting my psychiatrist on the way over here for my daily check-in, and she asked, ‘How are you?’ I was, like, ‘I’m great!’ That, to her, is not always a good sign. ‘Are you really? Too great?’”

Life has never been better for Alan Ritchson. He arrives at West Hollywood’s Blackwood Coffee Bar on an early morning in March at a time when there are billboards across Los Angeles featuring his work. Some are supersized to promote the second season of Reacher, the series that made him famous playing a muscular savant who kicks ass in spectacular fashion. Others promote a turn as a sensitive family man hell-bent on saving his daughter from a fatal disease in the faith-based tear-jerker Ordinary Angels, opposite two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank. By the time this is published, his face will be high up with two Henrys (Cavill and Golding) advertising a guns-blazing actioner from Guy Ritchie called The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, a film that finds him annihilating Nazis (with fists and feet but mostly bow and arrow).

Life looks good on him, too. Ritchson, 41, stands 6-foot-3 and is 240 pounds of muscle with model good looks. He settles into a seat on Blackwood’s back patio, removes a pair of black Celine sunglasses and rolls up the sleeves of a chambray shirt to reveal the mask tattoos, accessorized with a special-edition Rolex inspired by James Cameron’s record-setting deep sea dive (“a reminder that I can make a contribution to mankind that’s bigger than my career,” Ritchson says), a tennis bracelet with a string of diamonds measuring 1 carat each, and a killer white smile that could stop traffic. Once Ritchson starts answering questions during a conversation that will stretch past two hours, he transforms from larger-than-life action star into who he really is: an unfiltered, faith-driven family man who is unafraid to show his scars as a way to fulfill God’s wishes and live in service to others. He’s also very funny.