The Continental Hotel, a safe haven for elite international assassins, is a linchpin to the distinct mythology behind “John Wick.” That operation is held together by concierge Charon, played by Lance Reddick. “I never get to play characters like this,” Reddick tells Variety. The actor talks about his against-typecast character, what makes the “John Wick” movies special, and the future of the franchise after “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” which began its global rollout May 15 and which Lionsgate-Summit open May 17 in the U.S.
Why is “John Wick” so popular and why has it endured five years later for a third film?
Mild-mannered man who is forced to go an a revenge spree and then you discover that he’s the baddest cat in the universe — that’s a trope we’ve seen many many times, but we’ve never seen it told this way — for a couple different reasons. One, the whole universe of a 5-star hotel that caters to the most elite assassins in the world is fascinating. And there are so many great characters in the first film. In some ways it almost felt like it went back and forth between being an action piece and a character-driven piece. And the other thing is, particularly in American films, it kind of reinvented action — even the term that [director Chad Stahelski] coined from the first film “Gun Fu” — you never see that. Maybe Steven Seagal was the first person to popularize grappling in martial arts films, but you’ve never seen grappling done like this in a film before and wedded to gun play. And because Keanu [Reeves] does like 95 to 99% of the stunts, they’re able to do all these long beautiful shots that makes it feel really real and exciting. I feel like all of those elements made it something that once people saw it would turn into a word-of-mouth thing.
How much backstory did you get to input for this role?
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All I got was the script and, based on the world that I saw created in the script and the fact that he has an African accent — they didn’t even specify the accent — so most of it I kind of had to make up. As the films have developed I have created more of a backstory, particularly given with my relationship with Ian McShane. Interestingly enough, the third film is the first time we actually have scenes together.
How is he different from the characters you usually play?
I never get to play characters like this. Even the comedy stuff I’ve done, I’ve played so many characters, since “The Wire” particularly, that are authority figures who talk a lot. To be this taciturn, quintessential warrior servant, it’s a very different from anything I’ve had to do in quite a while. The thing about Daniels [from “The Wire”] is you get to see more colors to his emotional life on screen. I don’t know if you’ve seen “Corporate,” but that guy is a maniac. He’s almost the polar opposite of Charon. With Charon everything is about being of service, excellence of the job, proper place, proper time, in its proper way. Loyalty is really important to him.
Will you return for a fourth John Wick?
Once you see how the third one ends its pretty clear that if they want to do a fourth one, there’s plenty impetus.