Chris Pratt has perfected the art of the comedic wisecrack amid blockbuster movie action, whether avoiding dinosaur demise in the “Jurassic World” franchise or during Quad Blaster fire in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
That ends with “The Terminal List.,” Where Pratt’s customary frivolity is the first casualty on the register for the eight-episode Amazon series (streaming Friday).
Pratt, 43, goes full military as Navy SEAL James Reece in the first adaptation of a 2020 novel by best-selling author (and former SEAL platoon commander) Jack Carr.
“Audiences will have a set of expectations around what they’ll get with something I’m in, with jokes and goofing around. But there’s none of that” here, says Pratt, in a joint video interview with Carr. (Both are executive producers of the project.) “I couldn’t rely on the comedic instrument I’ve brought to most jobs. That was a challenge.”
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It was a challenge that ironically began with lovable and goofy Andy Dwyer, Pratt’s breakout role on NBC’s 2009-15 comedy “Parks and Recreation.” Carr was a fan. Then, after seeing Pratt transform to a SEAL Team Six operator in one of his first movie roles, the Oscar-winning 2012 drama “Zero Dark Thirty,” the budding author used Pratt as the inspiration for Reece, his main character.
“(Pratt) made that transformation and yet was inherently likable, someone who you wanted to have a beer with,” says Carr. “That’s so important when asking people to spend time in your book pages or to watch it onscreen. Life’s much better if they’re spending time with someone who’s positive and inspiring.”
Five Reece-centered books later, the now megastar Pratt was instrumental in bringing the character to the screen after being introduced to “Terminal List” by his longtime friend and former SEAL Jared Shaw.
Pratt, who has known Shaw since shadowing him to prepare for “Zero Dark Thirty,” hired his good friend to handle full-scale training as well as play Ernest “Boozer” Vickers – the only other survivor from a sabotaged covert mission that sends Reece into a quest for lethal revenge, one double-crosser at a time.
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The training continued even through Pratt’s role in “Jurassic World: Dominion,” and Shaw traveled with Pratt to Australia to shoot “Thor: Love and Thunder,” working on “tactics, workouts and running me through the weapons work,” says Pratt. (Both films are out this summer.)
Work like “clearing” an entered room of potential enemies was dead serious. But there were times Pratt would display a more playful practice approach after returning home to his Los Angeles home with wife Katherine Schwarzenegger and three children – Jack, 9 (his son with Anna Faris), Lyla, 1, and newborn Eloise.
“Even to this day, when I walk through a door, say if I have my golf club in my hand, I’m walking through and clearing,” says Pratt. “I’m walking into the bathroom and clearing it. But it’s the constant repetition that makes me look like I know what I’m doing onscreen.”
In the series, Reece hooks up with his former SEAL friend Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch) and a sympathetic investigative journalist (Constance Wu) who helps reveal the growing list of people behind the failed mission.
Pratt also brought another family member along for the “Terminal” ride, telling brother-in-law Patrick Schwarzenegger, 28, to “really get after it in the gym” before playing Donny Mitchell, the youngest member of Reece’s doomed SEAL unit.
In an early platoon scene, Pratt and Schwarzenegger – the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver – are the only actors with no military experience. But they fit right into the group.
“Patrick’s really got the right look, the right vibe; he’s tough. It was the perfect fit, and he crushed it,” says Pratt. “And he’s such a young kid to me, so he can represent stolen youth. I imagined having him, my own brother-in-law, taken from me. It helped me throughout the whole series.”
It’s real all around. Carr insists the “Terminal” tactical scenes are so effective that “a veteran operator sitting down to watch this is going to know we really put in the time to get this right.” But he was most impressed watching Pratt realistically handle the complicated rush of emotions coming back to his wife (Riley Keough) and young daughter after his harrowing deployment.
“The way Chris portrayed reintegrating with the family coming home, that was spot on,” says Carr. “I’m getting emotional right now just thinking about it, because that’s how it happens.”
If “Terminal List” is a hit with Amazon Prime viewers, more deployments may follow: Carr is finishing his sixth Reece novel, leaving plenty of room for more stories. While Amazon has not signed up for more, Pratt already has a new training boost from May newborn Eloise, who has strengthened his family bond and reintroduced him to “sleep deprivation.”
“That first week after a baby comes home is hell week,” says Pratt. “One thing I learned from these guys is that you’re much tougher and you can be pushed much further than you realize. Children will try to push you to your breaking point. As a parent, you learn that you can take a lot, You’re devoted to them, so might you think you’re gonna tap out, but you’re not. You’re never gonna ring that bell. “