Soon, Jim Halpert will come to all of our screens as a CIA spy, but this isn't any old Threat Level Midnight. John Krasinski takes up the post of legendary operative Jack Ryan in the new Amazon series of the same name, and after flexing his chops in 13 Hours and A Quiet Place, everyone knows he's not just a workplace comedy one trick pony. But how much material did he have to draw from? Is Jack Ryan based on a true story?
It's not, but as fans of the franchise will already know, it is based on a series of books. Jack Ryan is author Tom Clancy's longtime fictional protagonist — according to Mashable, the character first emerged back in the 1980s in the novel The Hunt For Red October, and went on to appear in more than 20 other books by Clancy.
While it might not be based on a true story in a literal sense, the showrunners definitely did their due diligence, so the experience viewers go through with Jack Ryan aims to be as authentic as possible. "We had a couple of consultants who had worked for the CIA. We relied most heavily on our consultant, David Chasteen, who had been with the CIA as recently as a year and a half [ago] when we first began working with him," co-showrunner Graham Roland told PCMag.com. "His experience is very emblematic of today's CIA, how it's been restructured, how the culture has changed post-9/11 and post Iraq and Afghanistan."
Roland also noted in the same piece that "several analysts and case officers whose names we cannot mention ... gave us and our two principal actors —John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce — insight into what it's like to work for the CIA and the 'culture of sacrifice' that has been fostered amongst those who work in intelligence." Fellow co-showrunner Carlton Cuse also told the outlet that Jack Ryan filmed on the CIA's actual campus, and that the agency asked to review scripts for the show ahead of giving that permission, though it never actually requested changes.
It's also not the first time Jack Ryan's been portrayed onscreen — there have been plenty of other famous faces who have settled into the role, so Krasinski has plenty of inspiration at his fingertips, even outside of the books and real-life info he's gleaned. Harrison Ford played Ryan in Patriot Games, Alec Baldwin took up his post in The Hunt For Red October's movie adaptation, and most recently, Chris Pine played the spy in 2014's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
Though Jack Ryan will draw story and character inspiration from Clancy's books, showrunners have made it clear that they're taking it in a whole new direction, and not necessarily sticking to the exact narratives outlined in the existing work. Initially, Cuse and Roland, who previously worked together on the final season of Lost, sought to adapt Clancy's book, "A Clear And Present Danger," for the show, according to Variety. But they hit roadblocks. "We came up against the problem that the book had been written 35 years ago, and the world had just changed so much," Roland told the outlet.
So they decided to take the essence of Jack Ryan, and create their own narrative. "One of Clancy’s staples that he did so well was write geopolitical thrillers that were of the moment," Roland said in the same piece. "And we realized that we had to take the thing that people loved about the character and about the franchise but find our own geopolitical thriller that felt relevant today. So that’s why we decided to craft our own stories."
With this arsenal of talent both onscreen and behind the scenes, plus the guidance of Clancy's work and CIA assistance, Jack Ryan could be poised to bring a new, authentic twist to a genre in which it can often be difficult to stand out.