April 15, 2024   JenAlan Ritchson Articles Interviews Press

Read the full article in our press archive or go to the British GQ website.

After almost 20 years on screen, with landmark roles in Reacher and a Guy Ritchie movie, the actor isn’t playing the nice guy. He is the nice guy

Seated across from me at a restaurant in Midtown, New York, Alan Ritchson is nearly twice my size. The lower half of the actor’s 6ft 3in, 108kg frame is hidden from view, but his upper half is basically the same diameter as the table. So our waiter could be forgiven for thinking that a heaping pile of cured meats is his order alone, and not for us to share. Still, Ritchson feels singled out when it lands in front of him. “Oh yeah, put all the pepperoni in front of me,” he smirks. “For the big guy!” the waiter laughs nervously before running out of the room.

This is Ritchson’s calling card: he’s the big guy. He’s best known as the star of Amazon’s Reacher, the show based on the popular book series by writer Lee Child. In the novels, it is well-established that protagonist Jack Reacher, an ex-military police officer, is 6ft 5in and 114kg, with fists “the size of a supermarket chicken.” Over the course of the first book alone, Reacher breaks two necks and four fingers, drowns a man, kicks one throat and slits another, headbutts, pops an eyeball with his finger, and stabs someone in the face, all in the name of justice. So, the person playing him had to look like a guy who could pull off all of the above. Tom Cruise, who at 5ft 7in was cast as Reacher in the 2012 film adaptation, much to fans’ dismay, didn’t exactly fit the bill.

“Casting Reacher was obviously make or break,” says Child. “What made Alan perfect was his first two seconds of screen-test time – before he even did anything. He just owned the screen and commanded the scene, which was what we needed: an implacable and invulnerable presence, thinking ahead, seeing things the audience didn’t. Then it got even better; his dialogue was great, and his huge physicality hit the spot.”

Once he landed the role, Ritchson was asked to gain an additional 14kg in eight months to get to the size producers wanted – a feat he says he achieved naturally by increasing his calorie intake and working out for two hours a day “like [his] life depended on it” in a home gym he built himself. His body, which he likes to cover entirely in Dove Men+Care deodorant, suffered under the strain. “By the time I showed up to set, I was beyond fatigued,” he says. He would experience cramps that could last as long as five minutes at a time, just from picking up his phone, and his testosterone levels were “wrecked.”

Now, at the age of 41, Ritchson is trying testosterone replacement therapy at the suggestion of his doctors, and taking Trace Minerals (liquid micronutrients) to help with the cramps. He’s also had to replace his entire wardrobe twice, after going from a size large to an extra-large to an extra- extra-large. But his hard work has paid off. Following the premiere weekend of Reacher’s second season in December, it became Prime Video’s most-watched title of the year.

Ritchson wasn’t always the big guy. Growing up in Niceville, a small city in the Florida panhandle, near the Eglin Air Force Base where his father worked, he was “wiry and very athletic.” Baseball was his sport; his teammates called him the “vacuum cleaner” because nothing could get by him. (“I have good hands,” he explains.)

Ritchson thought he might play baseball professionally, but after enrolling in an acting class in high school because of a girl, he also got into singing and a form of competitive acting called forensics, which he even won a state championship ring for. “I remember football players shoving me into lockers and being like, ‘You know it ain’t a real sport, motherfucker,’” he says.