Justin Hartley to lead “Tracker” on CBS! – WATCH UPDATE STATUS


CBS is 100-percent ready to play Tracker, having given a series order to Justin Hartley ‘s This Is Us follow-up. Tracker will kick off its freshman run on Sunday, Feb. 11 around 10/9c, following CBS’ coverage of Super Bowl 58 between the… ha, just seeing if you were paying attention. (Sources are unable to confirm at this time who will be playing.) The series will then settle into its regular time slot the following Sunday, Feb. 18 at 9 pm, hammocked between The Equalizer and CSI: Vegas.

“I am overjoyed to give the first new show order for next season to this thrilling new series led by the incredibly talented Justin Hartley,” Amy Reisenbach, the new president of CBS Entertainment, said in a statement. “Tracker is an excellent addition to our already successful drama lineup, and since our viewers love shows with action, intrigue, mystery and complex characters, they will love Tracker — it delivers on all fronts.”

CBS is getting a head start on boosting the profile of its new Justin Hartley drama, now named Tracker.

The series, which was previously known as The Never Game, is scheduled to air during the 2023-2024 broadcast season. But the network’s marketing department under President Mike Benson plans to kick off the drama’s promotional campaign during March Madness this Thursday. Watch a preview below.

“We’ve never had an opportunity like this where we picked up a show so soon so we can start promoting it this soon. There has never been more content, and we really want to make sure we are creating awareness and interest for it. When we have an opportunity to do that, like with March Madness that has an audience we think would be interested, we want to take advantage.”

This is Us’ Swan Song aired in May, and among the cast there’s already who’s thinking about the future.

The actor who plays Kevin Pearson has already chosen his next project. Justin Hartley will be protagonist of the new series The Never Game, TV adaptation of the 2019 novel by Jeffrey Deaver, premiering on CBS in the 2022/2023 TV season. The series chosen from CBS is produced by 20th Television with Justin Hartley and Ken Olin, one of This is us‘ directors and producers, through his companies, ChengUp Productions and Afterportsmiuth Productions.

CBS ordered “The Never Game” for a pilot

Cover of the novel The Never Game

The Never Game tells the story of Colter Shaw (Justin Hartley) a man who travels the country in his old camper van helping the police but also private citizens to solve crimes and find missing persons. At least until the last case changes everything, because this time it’s a personal matter. Shaw finds himself involved in a game of cat chasing the mouse, risking his life to save the victims. 

He’ll soon find out someone’s after him and he’ll have to hurry to save himself. Shaw is a man raised on the fringes of society, educated along with siblings by his own parents, former professors who left the city for safety and taught their children how to survive “The Never Game” as his father called it, at least until he was killed.

The Never Game is an action-adventure that “kicks serious butt.”

Justin Hartley broke the news on his Instagram profile with the post you see below!

Pretty exciting news! Been working on this one for a bit. This is gonna be fun.

Justin Hartley

Ken Olin expressed appreciation for the news through the tweet below:

Justin Hartley’s Statement

“I couldn’t be happier that The Never Game is coming to CBS, and that Colter Shaw will be brought to life on screen soon,” said Hartley when the project was announced. “When I read the book, I was immediately drawn to the character and the story; developing this project with Ken has been a true labor of love. Colter is going to kick some serious ass, and I can’t wait for audiences to meet him.”


“It’s about a mercenary, reward seeker kind of guy with an interesting backstory and how he kind of navigates his life based on how he was raised and his special set of skills. Although it’s not Liam Neeson, but it’s very much is that sort of mercenary kind of thing. It’s cool. It’s different.”Fingers crossed and we hope to see Justin Hartley in this new adventure with “The Never Game”!

‘Imagine Kevin Pearson As an Action Hero’ – Ken Olin

As the pilot started shooting today, Ken Olin, director/executive produce of the project, tweeted: “Imagine Kevin Pearson as an action hero. Yep. #NoTears.”


Mary McDonnell Joins Justin Hartley In CBS Drama Pilot ‘The Never Game’


Mary McDonnell has been tapped as a lead opposite Justin Hartley in CBS drama pilot The Never Game, an adaptation of Jeffery Deaver’s novel, from director Ken Olin and 20th Television.

McDonnell will play Mary Dove Shaw, Colter’s (Hartley) solid, strong, and uncompromising mother. She raised her three children on the remote California compound where her husband took them before his mysterious death. She still lives there, self-reliant and upright, the emotional center of Colter’s restless life—and the key to the secrets of his past.

Robin Weigert, Abby McEnany & Eric Graise Join Justin Hartley In ‘The Never Game’ CBS Drama Pilot


Robin Weigert (Deadwood), Abby McEnany (Work In Progress) and Eric Graise (Step Up: High Water) are set as leads opposite Justin Hartley in CBS drama pilot The Never Game, an adaptation of Jeffery Deaver’s novel. The quartet, as well as recently announced Mary McDonnell, comprise the core cast of the project from director Ken Olin and 20th Television.

Finished Shooting of Pilot Episode

On October 30, Director and Executive Producer Ken Olin announce the end of production of the pilot episode with a post on his Instagram profile.

Hilary Weisman Graham Tapped As Co-Showrunner

Social Distance creator Hilary Weisman Graham has been brought in as executive producer and co-showrunner of new CBS drama series The Never Game, starring and executive produced by Justin Hartley. Graham will share showrunning duties with executive producer Ben H. Winters, who wrote the pilot based on the bestselling novel by Jeffery Deaver.

Justin Hartley compares Tracker vs. his hit show This is us

“I will always take pieces of Kevin Pearson with me everywhere I go,” Hartley explained. “It’s exhausting work diving into another character, because you you do have to start over.”

While it doesn’t appear that any of his This Is Us co-stars will be popping up on the new series just yet, Hartley seemed to like the idea, exclaiming, “That’d be fun! I’m always thinking about ways to get back together with those guys,” Hartley shared. “[But] it’d have to be something really special.”

Hartley jokingly suggested the possibility of a very meta crossover episode.

“Maybe we could find out [my character’s] such a good tracker, maybe he finds Jack [Pearson],” Hartley quipped, referring to the This Is Us character played by by Milo Ventimiglia. “Like [maybe] he never died, something like that?”

Justin Hartley on the show

“It’s a show that I just haven’t seen before,” Hartley explained of his attraction to the project — on which he also serves as an executive producer. “[We] got the rights to the book… and in reading that book, I fell in love with that character.” “This lone wolf survivalist, the idea of this guy who is raised in a certain way where his father took him off the grid, taught him how to be a survivalist, and then you have him as an adult using all of those skills to help other people roaming around the country. He lives in an Airstream,” Hartley shared. “I just love the idea of that the guy is so free.”

Colter is “searching for the answer to [the] question” of what he’s looking for, Hartley told us. “He’s a restless guy, and we’ll unpeel it throughout the season, what his childhood was. We’ll get into more detail about the relationship with his mother, his father, his brother, all that stuff.”

“Imagine knowing that your mother is a liar. Imagine not being able to trust your mother. These are big things,” Hartley says.

So while Colter is “helping people and it’s great,” he’s also “running away from things he doesn’t want to face,” Hartley says. “It’s a very interesting thing to see somebody that’s so capable in certain regards and then so unfulfilled and broken. He’s unable to figure out the puzzle of his family, and it’s something I hope we get time to figure out.”

WATCH this Video interview

“It wasn’t necessarily an action show I was looking for, or a movie, comedy, theater, writing a book. It was whatever might maintain that feeling I had when I was on This Is Us. Where you’re just so proud of what you’re doing. It was about starting something that I thought from inception would be great.”

“I’m excited about it. It’s been a long time coming. Ken Olin and I built this show from the group up years ago, before This Is Us even finished filming our final season. We’ve been at this for years, through a pandemic, and a strike, and on and on. [Now it’s] just a couple days away. This is pretty exciting,” he told ET of Tracker. “… We poured our hearts and souls into this thing and started working on this what seems likes forever [ago]. It’s a labor of love for sure… I’m really proud of it and just happy to finally get a chance for people to see it.”

Sofia Pernas plays a woman who did Colter ‘dirty’ in the past

“She’s a love interest from his past,” Hartley told ET. “They worked together as well and she’s got a similar set of skills and a similar lifestyle, although hers is more tech.” As for why things didn’t work out between the characters the first time around, Hartley said, “She did him dirty in the past, so they separated.”

“We have to address that. When it happens, it will be very meaningful… [but] you won’t see her early in Season 1. I can tell you that.” – Justin Harley

We also asked Hartley why Mary thinks it’s for the best that Colter continue to dodge Russell’s calls. Are her intentions pure, or is there something bigger — perhaps even sinister — at play that Colter doesn’t know about?

“I mean, sometimes you protect people from themselves,” Hartley ruminates. “[Mary] knows who Colter is, and she knows that when he’s on a trail, he’s not leaving that trail.” He’s going to stay the course until he finds the answers he needs, and Mary is “desperate enough to lie to her own son” if that’s what it takes to keep him out of harm’s way.

Watch Justin Hartley Tracker Season 1 Episode 1 Premiere on CBS and Paramount Plus
Photo by Ed Araquel/CBS

All of this got us wondering: Just how much of each episode will focus on Colter’s day job as a rewardist… and how much will focus on building out the series’ mythology. “It would depend on the episode,” Hartley answers. “We have episodes where it’s 60-40, shifted towards the backstory, some that are 50-50, and some where it’s 70-30, shifted towards the case. There are some episodes where the backstory is peppered in a little bit more, and some where it’s not peppered in so much at all. I will say, though, that every episode has a little bit of Colter’s backstory.”

DEADLINE: I heard you were involved with the pitch of the show. How did you get involved with that?

JUSTIN HARTLEY: [Ken] Olin and I worked together This Is Us. We had been talking about doing something together. We wanted to keep working together when the show was over. So the year before we shot the last season, or right before we shot the last season, of This Is Us, we ended up getting this book and loving this character and bringing it to 20th, which is my studio where my production company is. We pitched them the idea of me playing Colter Shaw and Ken directing and producing with me, and they loved the idea. So they said, ‘Okay, let’s go forward with it.’ We brought it to CBS, and they loved the idea that Ken and I kind of sold that to them on the phone…It’s like, be careful what you wish for, because then all of a sudden we’re like, ‘Okay, now we have to deliver.’ But I feel like here we are. We’re almost done with the sixth episode of the first season. I think we’ve got something really unique and great and entertaining, and I think it’s got a lot of heart, and it’s got a lot of places. It’s got a backstory, and it’s just something I’m really really proud of. I think it’s special.

DEADLINE: What attracted you to playing the role, in addition to producing?

HARTLEY: Well, I just love acting. I loved This Is Us, and I loved working all the time. I’ve loved every acting job I’ve ever had, I think. So I knew that I wanted to continue acting. The show allowed me the opportunity to not only do that, but wear another hat as executive producer and have that creative input and control. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds. I always like to learn new things. What better way to do it than to learn from the best? I mean, I’m taking class from Ken, and it’s pretty cool.

DEADLINE: Tracker certainly has some familial drama elements that are similar to This Is Us, but Colter is a very different character than Kevin. What have you enjoyed about this character so far?

HARTLEY: It’s been absolutely wonderful. I mean, I enjoyed every second, every frame I saw on This Is Us. It was wonderful. What a journey. That character went from, if you think about where we found him and where we left him — talked about a full circle. From a man-child to a full-grown adult, responsible man. It was just a really wonderful journey with this character. First of all, just selfishly, it’s just awesome to be able to play a different character. As much as I love Kevin…I just think it’s so neat as an actor to be able to take on a role that is just so utterly different. I mean, you’re stripping away so many things that you’re used to and you’re putting on so many things that you’re not used to having on. I don’t even think those two would be friends. You know what I mean? They’re so different. But lucky for me, I got to play both of them. So it’s just been wonderful. Not to say that I wouldn’t want to play a character that was very similar to Kevin ever again in the future, but certainly right after coming off of that show, it really is an actor’s dream to take on a role that’s so different.

DEADLINE: How much will the series follow the events of the book it’s based on?

HARTLEY: Well, we do our own our own stories. We really don’t tell the story of the book. We’re mainly taking the character. And then you have to adapt the character…you have to add and subtract a little bit from that character that is in the book. Like for instance, in the book, Colter does a lot of talking to himself in his brain. He does have a lot of percentages in his brain. And it’s like, okay, you have to figure out a way just logistically how that’s gonna look on camera. I mean, do you want people watching Colter think? Then do you want the inner dialogue to be a voiceover? Or do you want it to be typed out on the screen? Or do you want it to be assumed? Or do you want to see it in his eyes? How do you want to do that creatively? But he still has the same backstory, and he still has the same sensibilities. [He] goes about his business the same way, but you just have to…augment in other ways to make it suitable for television. So that’s what we’ve done.

DEADLINE: The percentage thing is interesting. How did you land on the way he’d discuss it out loud to the people around him?

HARTLEY: I think that, if you do it in a way where he’s sort of rattling off these numbers to himself, we’re asking the audience to believe that when Colter asks, ‘Just trust me on this one,’ that person is actually going to trust him. Rattling off numbers in your head…that kind of seems a little serial killer-ish. I’m not gonna trust that guy. That’s guy’s a whack job. No one’s trusting you, dude. You look weird just talking to yourself. You’re running through numbers, you’re doing percentages. What is going on here? It’s so much easier for us to just say, ‘Okay, look, here you go.’ And he’s giving this person information. He’s trying to help them. It makes it easier for me as a viewer to believe that that [person] would trust that guy who’s spending so much time explaining to him how he can help him or where the danger is, where the perilous things. So to me, that just that sold me on the way that we would deliver all that information.

DEADLINE: We learn in the premiere episode that Colter’s brother is trying to contact him, but we don’t know why. Can you talk about what we might get to see play out this season with that relationship?

HARTLEY: Well, I can tell you that there are a lot of questions that Colter has about his childhood, about his family. And there are a lot of assumptions that he’s made that, throughout the season, we realize might not necessarily be true. The questions that he has might change based on new information that he either stumbles upon or figures out. Things that just don’t add up anymore. This is a really this is gonna be a really interesting place to be. If you’re wondering if your own mother is lying to you about certain things. I’m sure my mother has never lied to me about anything [laughs]. But it’s bad. His brother’s responsible for the dad’s death. That’s terrible, right? It doesn’t get much worse than that. You have the brother reaching out and it’s like, ‘Well, why now?’ So we answer all those questions for you. There is a payoff to all that. It’s a slow burn, but it makes a lot of sense. And it’s definitely very, very rewarding.

DEADLINE: Do you have a roadmap for where the series could go after Season 1?

HARTLEY: I think it would be fun to see him uncover something that is a little more than he bargained for. I would like to see Colter in a situation where, as an audience member, you’re fearing for him because he might be in over his head. If you can imagine what that might be. With that, I think it’d be fun to see/ And then, he’s got to get some answers and some peace with his past and peace with his family. We have a lot to unpack. If people enjoy watching it, we definitely have stories to tell for years.

DEADLINE: The series is premiering after the Super Bowl, which is a pretty coveted spot. How did you feel finding that out?

HARTLEY: I’m just really, really proud, because it’s been years in the making. We went through a pandemic with the show. We went through a writers strike with the show and an actors strike with this show. We’ve gone through a lot with the show. It’s lived through all of that and thrived through all of that. Now we are not only premiering, but right after the Super Bowl. It’s all so worth it. It’s a really wonderful feeling. It’s my second Super Bowl. So, you know, I get it.

Since This Is Us, you’ve been busy doing some films, a well-received Spotify podcast as Batman in Harley Quinn and The Joker: Sound Mind, and have been involved in multiple charities that support animal rescue. What made this the right time for the Tracker project?

Well, we were wrapping up This Is Us, coming into our last season, and Ken Olin and I became pretty close over the six years that we were working together. We met on the show and then six years later we’re like: This is the last year and maybe we should find something to do together. So we set out on the journey to find something. And it wasn’t genre specific that I was looking for; he might have been, you’d have to ask him. But I wanted something good, and something entertaining.

I think a lot of times, it’s all about the message or this political topic. Sometimes, it gets lost in the shuffle that we are entertainers. I want people to watch something and to be entertained. And after that, it’s all icing and butter — and whatever you want to call it, cotton candy and rainbows. But if I can entertain people, if we can entertain people, our crew and everybody on the show who is working in post-production and pre-production and writers, then we’ve done our job. And, that is an exhilarating feeling!

So, Ken found the book The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver, brought it to me and I fell in love with the character. I thought, especially coming out of a pandemic, what an amazing idea of a life where you live in an Airstream, you’re self-sustaining, go wherever you want to go and help people. You’re not an antihero, you’re just a good guy, a good man. And I thought about that. And I guess it made me think about how rare that is. I remember sitting there thinking he’s just a good guy. Colter Shaw is not gender-driven necessarily. He’s a businessman. He takes the money, that’s how he makes his living. He’s not politically driven. He’s driven by doing the right thing. And, where does that come from? Well, that comes from his childhood, and we unpack that in the series.

And so you start to see all the layers of this guy, peeled back little by little as to why he’s doing what he’s doing. And why he’s going about his business the way he does, and why it means so much to him. And I wondered why there is not more of this. He is not a superhero; he’s living a very dangerous life. If he gets shot, he bleeds, he will die. I think it’s a throwback series, sort of like the Rockford Files. We just don’t have that anymore and I get nostalgic about that kind of television. And I’m thinking, what if we had an old-school show with a modern edge to it? And I think the character is awesome. I love working with Ken. We have a great crew and a great studio/network behind us; so, for me, it’s just been a dream. It’s a lot of hours, I’m not going to lie to you (laughs). Because it’s not an ensemble like This Is Us, this is a different animal. It’s a labor of love.

You probably get this question a lot when coming from a character you are so connected to like Kevin Pearson from This Is Us: how different is Colter Shaw from Kevin, and also, from Justin Hartley? Is there a process used in separating pieces of you from the character?

Well, it’s a good question. Everybody has their own way of getting into a character, things they need to do to be able to embody a certain character. And sometimes it’s different, depending on who you’re playing. But for me, fundamentally, what I’ll do every single time, and I did this with Kevin Pearson, I will write down a list of things that I have in common with the character that I’m about ready to play. And then, in a separate column I’ll write down dissimilarities. Like, he might be a night owl and I just sleep at night or whatever — which actually is not true, I am a night owl. Then I weave in what’s similar and what’s different, and I can kind of take that character away and say, “Okay, this is who he is.”

It was important for me not to bring Kevin Pearson into this world, because it’s just so opposite. I’m not going to share [what I wrote], because it’s something that I use as a tool, but there are similarities that I didn’t know were there until I wrote them down. And I thought, so now I have three people, one real person and two characters that I’m kind of comparing and contrasting, and I just got into sort of a mind fuck a little bit, and I kind of stepped away from it.

But it really helped me hone in who this guy was, and very simply. Ken and I talked about this extensively: Life happened to Kevin Pearson, right? Life happened to him in a big way. In every way you can imagine: addiction, divorce, twins, his father dying, cancer, dementia, career stuff, fame, fortune, mistrust — everything you can imagine happened to him. Colter happens to people. That’s the difference. He effects. He walks into a room, and everyone feels it. He’s not getting injured by it. He is the tornado!

Justin Hartley in ‘Tracker’ Michael Courtney/CBS

What is Colter’s background? What makes him tick? What life experiences shaped the protagonist we see in this series?

Colter’s background and the way he goes about his business is shaped by his childhood. His father was this hero to him, and then he became this paranoid person who moved the entire family out of the house, grabbed everybody and said, “They’re coming to get us. The government is against us, they’re coming to get us!” When you’re a kid, that’s very traumatic. You just go, “Oh my God, let’s move the family to safety!” You don’t question your father. Your father is right.

And so, he moves them off the grid, they become survivalists. And then it becomes obvious, as they get a little older, that maybe something is wrong with dad. He’s got all that pain and all those questions. He’s got a lot of family stuff going on that he’s oddly enough living in an RV that is on wheels; he is easily able to start the truck and move on and. let’s not unpack that as soon as it starts to get a little bit too close to home. And for a guy who is so brave and willing to face all these dangerous things head on. And slowly but surely, he starts to realize, “Is mom lying to me? Was dad paranoid, or was he kind of right about things? Wait a minute, what’s going on here? Maybe he wasn’t paranoid?” That would drive you crazy, right?

Colter wants to trust people, but he holds them at an arm’s length. So, everyone you’ll see — Teddy (Robin Weigert) and Velma (Abby McEnany) and Bobby (Eric Graise) and Reenie (Fiona Rene) — he has built this makeshift family, because it’s something he’s always yearned for. But he has done it over the phone, over FaceTime. He has decided this is a safe distance. He’s dictating the pace and depths of his relationships, and I think that’s so interesting. You don’t do that with your family, right? They come over and eat your food. They sleep in your bed and stay too long. Then they leave, and you go, “Thank God they’re gone.” But you love them. Colter is the opposite. He’s figured out a way to say, “This is the compartment where I’m going to allow you to be, and when I’m not, I’m going to hang up on you and I’m done. And I’m going to be cordial as much as I can, but also efficient, respectful and, get out of my way until I get this thing done.” He also slips up and catches himself talking too much sometimes, which I really like about him; and he’s finding a sense of humor.

Are you doing your own stunts?

I do whatever production will allow me to do. There are certain things that I’m just not allowed to do, which I understand— it’s insurance. I have a brilliant stunt man, his name is Jordan, he’s incredible! We have a great stunt coordinator. Typically they design the stunts in a way so that I can do them. So, I’m doing most of it, mostly because they’re doing such a great job making them safe so that I can actually do them, which I think is so much better for the audience. You want to see to see the face of the person. You wake up a little more sore than you’d like sometimes when you throw yourself into walls a few more times than you’d like, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s a sore back for a couple of days, it’s no big deal.

Will your wife be appearing be appearing in the series too?

Yes, Sofia [Pernas] is coming in episode six. She is a blast from the past. Colter had a relationship with her, and they were kind of in the reward business together. And then she sold him down the river. It wasn’t great. And so, they had a schism that happened in their relationship, and she comes back into his life for a certain reason and they’re forced to work together in a way to get to a common goal. By the time you get to episode six, you will see this is outside of Colter’s comfort zone. There is obviously an attraction there, but something that happened that is very sad.

Are you going to direct any episodes like you did with This Is Us?

I’d love to. I directed some of This Is Us; I’ve directed Smallville back in the day. I’d love to jump back into it. But it would have to be like the premiere of season two, because I don’t have time to prep. I’m in every frame, so it would have to be the first episode of the of the season.

Other than you and Ken Olin, is there anyone else from This Is Us participating on the production side or acting in the show?

I don’t know which episode it is, maybe episode nine, Jon Huertas who played Miguel is going to direct that episode. So that’ll be fun. And all those times that Kevin was kind of a dick to him on This Is Us, I just have a feeling he’s going to come and just be telling me what to do for 10 minutes. (Laughs.) I love him and so it will be fun to work with him again.

The invitation is open. It has to be the right part. Something really special. These people who I worked with on This Is Us, all of them, they can do anything. But if I’m lucky enough to get them on my show, I would want to utilize them in the best possible way — which means a big juicy, nice, great big role that is going to occupy a bunch of screen time. Because if you get a star like that, you want to use them as much as you can. I love them. I would work with them for the rest of my life.

Once you completed the final season of This is Us, how did you personally decompress from such an emotionally charged show so that it would easier to go into a show like Tracker or some of the different movie roles you’ve done?

We were very lucky in that we got to finish our show. A lot of times, I’ve been on these shows before where they get canceled and the show is not over, it’s just canceled. And you have to wrap things up in a manner in which you weren’t planning on, and it’s like they pulled the plug and you’re done for whatever reason. With This Is Us, we got the great great gift of being able to finish our show. We were never canceled. The show was over. We shot the entire series, they let us do the whole thing. And so, that was that was sort of the way you decompress. We savored every single moment. You have five years left, you have four years left, you have three years left. Oh my gosh, we have two years left and then, this is the final year. And because we knew so far in advance when it was ending, we were able to sit with it for a while, which is a beautiful thing.

We constantly talk on text exchanges and stuff. These people are my lifelong friends. It was just such a wonderful experience; I think I spoke to a couple of them today, even. Almost every day I’m speaking to one of them about something; little things, like a nomination for an Oscar — little things that don’t matter (laughs). We’re always in contact with each other. And then the promise that we can work together again. I’ve got a little show over here that I wouldn’t mind having them on.

So, you’re in Las Vegas preparing for Super Bowl Sunday. Who do you have for the win, although I hear you are a Chicago Bears fan?

I’ve been here in Vegas at the Super bowl and everyone is talking about the Bears and everyone has an opinion about the quarterback [Justin Fields]. And in my opinion, it’s like, how are you supposed to judge the guy? You can’t give a man one-and-half seconds to throw a football down the field. Come on, give me a break! I don’t know the man, but I feel like I’ve been defending him over and over and over. He’s pretty incredible, if you keep his feet clean. But, I digress.

I don’t really have anyone for the Super Bowl. I am a Bears fan, and I am an [L.A.] Dodgers [baseball] fan. I really don’t have a lot of other teams, although I’ve become a Vancouver Canucks [hockey] fan and I’m and I’m a [Chicago] Blackhawks [hockey] fan, and a [Sacramento] Kings [basketball] fan, for sure. But I’m rooting for the players more than the game. I don’t have a team necessarily that I hate. I got hate out of my heart a long time ago; so, I don’t even hate the San Francisco Giants anymore, I really don’t. But I’m sort of hoping for a really good, close game, and I’m rooting for players.

So, you don’t hate the Packers (the Bears’ archenemy)?

No, no. I respect the Packers. I hate their colors, though! Mustard and green, what are you doing? (laughs). But, you got to respect the Packers. They are just perennially good. And even when they are bad, they are surprisingly good, sometimes.

I haven’t seen a road show for a long time. There’s a reason for it that we’re just discovering now. It’s a lot of location work. It’s physically demanding. But we both loved the rootlessness of this character,” Olin said. “This is very much a single character [show], which is also fairly rare nowadays. [Justin] was like, ‘Yeah, no, I love that.’ So, we both went, ‘Okay, this is what we want to do.'”

“There were adjustments when I brought Ben Winters on to write the pilot,” Olin explained. “There were certain things that are different than the book, and [those changes] were made from a combination of things that would speak to us and also just adjusting for how we wanted to tell the story. With Justin, we wanted to bring a kind of verbal dexterity that he’s so good at and a little of how he uses his humor. But [Colter’s] backstory psychologically is very much the same.”

The lone-wolf survivalist is certainly a protagonist we’ve heard about before — perhaps in a more negative context. What do you think sets this show apart from maybe past versions of this kind of character? How are you hoping he will connect with a larger audience?

Olin: I think Justin is a lot of it. I think people just connect with him. There’s nothing grim about Justin. And we didn’t want to do a dark show. My feeling is that there is definitely subject matter that is contemporary, but I think Justin is really accessible. It was never our intention that there be any political aspect to [the show]. It’s [simply] about someone that was raised by a troubled parent who suffers from mental illness — probably paranoia — but also deeply values individualism and [has] a skill set that is not required for the majority of people in the world right now where there’s so much technological support. I think there’s something appealing about it, especially when it’s Justin. Justin doesn’t carry a chip on his shoulder. He’s not a dark and brooding person.

One of the things we wanted to do was also celebrate some of the physical beauty of North America. After two years of being shoved inside and all the other stuff that seems to be troubling our country right now, all of that division, sometimes I think it may connect with an audience to go, “Maybe it’s time to appreciate some of the beauty that is also a big part of our country.” And this is a character who does. I do think some of that rootlessness or restlessness is part of the American character; there is an individualism and a self-reliance. I think those are values that people still at least respect and appreciate.

We first meet Colter in the pilot saving this woman with a badly injured leg in Black Rock Desert. It speaks to his character that he would want to help a distressed civilian in the first place, but we learn that he has pursued this line of work, in part, for the monetary reward. That poses the question: Is he a rewardist or a mercenary? How would you describe and justify his actions and motivations?

Olin: I think one of the things that makes him interesting is that he contains that duality. He’s not a mercenary. He takes jobs that I think he feels are of value on the humanistic level. At the same time, for a couple of reasons, he honors and holds on to the notion that it’s a job, and one of the values that he celebrates is that people deserve to be paid for a job well done. That’s the contract. One of the things that he doesn’t talk about, that is part of his character, is also one of the things that allows him to constantly disconnect.

He lives a rootless life because I think at the center of his character, there is a hole because of the way he was brought up, of distrust, of not being able to be sure of when his father would or would not be there. His father had a lot of paranoia and suspicion that was brought into their life, so it’s an interesting thing, because when he takes the check, he can constantly remind himself that this isn’t because he’s such a bleeding heart and he’s so soft. It’s like, “Okay, now I can move on,” and that’s what he does. I think it’s a little bracing, probably, because we’re so used to sentimentalizing those things.

But in fact, this is a character who does both. He cares about these people, but he also is paid because it’s a job well done. At the very root of who he is, he needs to be able to move on. Because if he doesn’t, there’s a lot of pain there in his childhood. There’s such a thing in our world about being realistic, being realists, and this is constantly a reminder, “Oh, he’s a realist. He didn’t do this just out of the goodness of his heart — or did he?” I mean, he would tell himself that he’s a rewardist. When he finds these things, he gets paid.

But there will be a time or a case where he is more emotional. In fact, there is some of that in the fourth episode where you go, “Is this job affecting him on a level where he’s losing perspective?” You don’t really see that in the first couple [episodes]. He clearly cares about people, and yet you don’t ever see, “Oh, wait, he’s losing perspective, he’s losing professional distance.” I think there will be times where that happens.

How would you say the death of Colter’s father has affected him as a person, and how would you describe the relationships that he now has in the present-day with his mother and his siblings? We saw his mother at the end of the pilot and know that his estranged brother is trying to get in touch with him, so how much of them will we see between all of these cases of the week?

Olin: We’re definitely going to explore it. Right now, Elwood Reid and I are really discussing, “Do we solve this mystery at the end of the season or carry it on?” To some extent, we’re going to solve the mystery of “Did his brother kill him? Is that what happened? Did he fall? Was he murdered?” That will be explored. From the time he was really young, his father was unreliable, very emotional. He was emotionally unstable, so that creates a kind of instability, like, “Where are you safe?” You have a character who is being taught to survive on his own, and a young kid who’s not feeling that safe at the same time. I think what you’re gonna begin to see — and you see it at the end of the pilot — is, can he even trust his mother? He doesn’t have the full story, and I think he chose to move on in his life like that. If that’s what you grew up with, and your skill set is how to survive on your own, you go out on your own [and don’t look back]. We see his mom again in the fourth episode, and by the end of the season, we’ll know a lot more about his family, and we’ll know more about his brother.

Although this is very much a one-man show, Colter also has a few characters in his orbit who assist with his cases: tech whiz Bobby (Eric Graise), old flame and attorney Reenie (Fiona Rene), and Teddi (Robin Weigert) and Velma (Abby McEnany), who give him potential cases.

Olin: There are upcoming episodes where he interacts with all of them in person, and we’ll begin to learn more about that. I think the biggest thing is that you go, “Oh, okay, Bobby is a little brother. Is Reenie a friend? Is there a romantic thing there? Is there a sexual thing?” There’s something about them that just crackles, but they’re not sure what it is. And then there’s sort of a more familial or maternal relationship with Teddi and Velma, so he fills out a kind of chosen family. He has surrogates for those things, but they’re also a little bit at a distance. He doesn’t live with any of them, which suits him.

But listen, there is a procedural drive to the show. It’s great that it’s not formulaic. Early on, [CBS Entertainment executive] Amy Reisenbach wrote to me and said, “I don’t want this to be formulaic.” Maybe it’s a risk, but he doesn’t have to adhere to the same laws that most procedurals have to adhere to. If you’re law enforcement or a lawyer or a doctor, there’s certain parameters. He doesn’t have the same parameters in his life. So it will still be driven by his jobs, but there will be more and more opportunities to see the way that he relates to these people illuminate his character and his need to move on and his restlessness. We will get to that, but in a show like this, a little bit goes a long way, and we’re never going to put Colter on the couch. It’s not who he is. That’s not what we want to do. But those relationships definitely inform who he is, and we’ll see that.


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Source: Deadline / TV Line

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