By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD-CBS’ new action drama “Tracker,” based on the best-selling novel The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver, will premiere after the Super Bowl on February 11th, 2024, before it airs on during its permanent time slot on Sundays nights at 9-10 p.m. ET/PT.
Justin Hartley, perhaps best known for his role as Kevin Pearson in the phenomenally successful family drama, “This Is Us,” stars as Colter Shaw, a lone wolf survivalist, who uses his tracking skills to help private citizens and the police solve mysteries, while dealing with his own fractured family. Hartley is an Executive Producer on the show, along with Executive Producer/Director Ken Olin, whom he worked closely with on “This Is Us.”
Q: How did this series come about?
Justin Hartley: Ken and I had this really great experience together on “This Is Us,” and developed such a tight friendship, like a family, that we looked at each other and we said, “We gotta keep doing this. We wanna do another show.” And so we were on the lookout for something really great to do together, and we found this book and luckily we were able to get our hands on it and develop it.
Q: How different is the character in the series from the novels?
Justin Hartley: Ken and I worked on this character together. Obviously Jeffrey wrote it. But then how do you adapt it to the screen? There are certain things in the book where this character does a lot of calculations and talking to himself in his head. You just can’t do that on screen. It would be very hard to watch. So you have to figure out a way to show this guy and what’s going on in his head without just him talking to himself all the time, which is not the character. He’s not a weirdo. How do you get all of that stuff that we love about the character in the book translated to the screen without losing it, but also without making it look like something it’s not?
Q: The character may not be as silent as he is in the book, but he still doesn’t talk much. What’s that like to play?
Justin Hartley: In some sense it’s a daunting task when you’re on camera and you’re still and you’re not talking. You’re telling the story through your look, and what’s going on with your body. It’s a bit scary, in a way, because you’re sitting there going, ‘Ok, I’ve been still and silent for a good solid 40 [seconds]. Is that boring? The writing is good, and the storytelling is great, and if Colter’s listening to something, I firmly believe that if you’re emotionally doing what you say that you’re doing that’s very hard to deny or to say that’s not true or honest. So I think it’s really cool.
Q: I know you have talked about how you’ve changed things from the book. But at the end of the day you still have that book as a source material. Do you like that idea, or do you prefer, when you’re creating a character, to create your own Bible, to create your own backstory?
Justin Hartley: I like both. I think there are fun aspects of both. It’s great to have that source material though, because week to week as we get these new episodes, new stories, that source material is there to give you comfort. You always have that in the back of your head. How would Colter react in this situation given the source material?
Q: What do you feel drives Colter?
Justin Hartley: There’s an element, I think, to most if not all of the jobs that he takes and his ability to solve, to find these people and to get these positive outcomes, and that comes from the way that he was raised. The way that he was raised is not necessarily always easy on the palate. He had a rough, really unique, strange childhood. His father was very, very difficult. But all of those things that he went through when he was younger are things that he was taught and that he uses in his current life.
Q: How difficult is this workload compared to “This Is Us?”
Justin Hartley: The workload is great. Look, here’s the thing. I’ve always wanted this, and it’s not work. It’s a labor of love. I’ve got this amazing support group around me. It’s a team effort for sure. And whether you’re on stage or out in the middle of the forest in the middle of the night, on a Saturday morning in 4 degrees by yourself, it’s the story that matters. And when you watch the finished product it all becomes worth it.
Q: Ken Olin has said your character is underestimated. I think actors are always underestimated at some point. Can you think of a point in your life when you were underestimated?
Justin Hartley: Can I think of a point when I wasn’t? I like being underestimated. I think it’s a good place to be. To be in a place where people expect perfection and then you don’t deliver is a worse place to be than if you’re underestimated. I don’t mind being underestimated. I like low expectations.
Q: Any final words about the series?
Justin Hartley: I’m really proud of the show that we put together. The culture that I found on “This Is Us,” with Dan Fogelman and with Ken Olin, and the whole cast; I have these lifelong friendships that I’ve developed with Chrissy (Metz) and Sterling (K. Brown), Mandy (Moore) and Milo (Ventimiglia.) That was a special time in my life, and I thought, I’m going to savor every flavor because you never get that back.
And I feel like somehow I was able to get a second shot at it. I’m so happy to be with [this cast and crew.] I think we have something really special. We pour our hearts into it, and blood, sweat and tears. And we do have guns and fighting, so it’s a fun one!