Lance Reddick: Professional dog watcher. It’s not a title the John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum actor expected to receive, but it’s one he’s earned regardless over the course of the films in the thrilling neo-noir series starring Keanu Reeves as a former assassin on a bloody rampage.
“I keep being the guy who people say, ‘Hey man, watch my dog while I go kill people,” Reddick joked during /Film’s interview with him at the New York press junket for John Wick: Chapter 3. But no longer. Reddick’s Charon, the phlegmatic concierge of the assassin-housing Continental Hotel gets to unleash his ruthless killer instinct in the third film of the sleek action franchise, fighting alongside Reeves’ titular John Wick. And while he doesn’t know kung fu, Reddick was delighted to finally get out from behind the reception desk and behind the gun.
Reddick talked to /Film all about his character’s evolution through the films, how he prepared for his big action sequence, and just what he thinks about a potential Charon spin-off.
When you first signed on for this film, did you think it would take off and your role would evolve as it did?
No I didn’t. Ian [McShane]’s fond of saying, “It’s this nice independent film, great budget, great characters to work with. Just come to New York and have fun for a couple of weeks.” For me it was, “Come in for a day,” because they shot all my stuff in one day. I was really intrigued by the script because it was so well-written. And it was the kind of role that I never get the chance to play, so I really wanted to do that. You do movies and you think they’re going to be great [but] I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I had no reason to think that the action would be so different than anything I’d ever seen before.
I wanted to ask, what was the decision for the accent?
Oh! You know it actually said in the script, “African.” So when I first read it, I didn’t notice it and then I kind of went back and realized it, and then I said something to my agent about it. She checked with the producers and they said, “You don’t have to do an African accent.” But you know, that could be really cool. So I thought about the two accents that I had resources to work up quickly, because it was less than a week from the time I got the offer to the time I came to shoot, so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. One was Kenyan and the other was South African, and I just thought Kenyan fit better.
As someone who has been frequently cast as the stoic character, what was it like working with a whole cast of stoic character actors?
I don’t know that all my characters have been stoic. Of the characters that I’ve played onscreen, [Charon] is probably the most stoic of all the characters I’ve played. The huge body of the cast seems to change from film to film, except for me and Keanu [Reeves] and Ian, and since the second one, Laurence [Fishburne]. He seems to be becoming a staple in the series. But I don’t know about the stoic-ness of all the characters. The thing I love, which I especially noted in the first film, there were so many great character actors who I’ve seen do so much great work but don’t usually star in movies. And that I really loved.
Because the backstories for all the characters are so vague in the film how do you approach the performance? Do you fill in the gaps yourself or was there more context in the script?
Ian and I were talking about this [in our interviews yesterday]. We both created backstories about our relationship, they’re not the same and we don’t really discuss it. But one thing we are sure of is that [our characters] have known each other at least 30 years. Part of my backstory is one of us saved the other’s life very early on, and I became kind of attached to him. Probably when he was doing some kind of wetwork back in the day for MI-6 or something in Kenya. The two things about Charon that I really tried to nail down are his unflappableness, just kind of the ultimate in highest class person in service, and that underneath it all, if push comes to shove, he can become a ruthless killer.
Speaking of ruthless killer, your character gets to see action for the first time in the series. How did you react when you heard you would get to engage in a big fight scene, and did you prepare at all?
Oh, I was thrilled. When I first got the offer to do the third film, before I saw a script I got a call asking me to schedule gun training. [Laughs] It was even before I had a conversation with [director Chad Stahelski] about where the character was going in this film. It’s the kind of thing where, I love doing action and it’s so funny because I’ve played so many cops, and I rarely get to shoot guns and fight people. Fringe, Bosch, The Wire…
Did you get to do any martial arts training, because it’s such a huge martial arts film?
No, I didn’t. I wrestled all throughout high school and I’m pretty good on a heavy bag, but most of it was working with stunt guys typically for the sequences that I was going to do. Some of which didn’t actually get in the movie.
In that big fight sequence, was there a most challenging part for you?
One of the two most challenging parts actually didn’t end up making it into the movie. That was a sequence after I come from behind cover where it ends in the film, there was a whole other sequence where I flip a guy and I get to shoot a guy from below and come back up to flip another guy. So that was a little challenging, I’m trying to navigate up and down, up and down with a shotgun. But believe it or not, the most challenging thing was learning how to load a shotgun. Loading a shotgun’s hard.
It really chews up your thumb. From looking at it, if you’ve never done it, it looks like you just slide it in, but it actually takes quite a bit of pressure to push it in. So by the end of the first day, my thumb was bleeding, I had to put a bandaid on.
And there was a whole montage where you and John Wick are just loading shotguns.
Well by then, I had spent hours practicing loading shotguns, so I was good at it by then.
Were there any parts of the film that were the most memorable for you?
Aside from the action scenes, probably the stuff in the vault with the three of us, where we get our weapons. That stuff was a lot of fun.
You also get a lot of scenes with the dog.
Do I? Well I guess in the sense of over the course of the films, the dog keeps coming to me.
Yeah, you get to watch the dog.
Yeah, I keep being the guy who people say, “Hey man, watch my dog while I go kill people.”
There have been reports of a TV spinoff about the ballet academy. How would you feel about a Charon spin-off series?
I’ve heard some talk about a Continental spin-off. But it depends, if the character keeps going in the films, I don’t know that I’d want to do a series as well especially given how well Bosch is going. If I’m going to do television, I’d like to explore some other character. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t. And it might depend on how much Ian would want to be involved.
So you and Ian are kind of a package duo?
In my mind — you’d have to talk to him, because he and I haven’t really talked about that. Now the thing that I would be interested in would be a Charon spin-off film.
Right, to find out his backstory.
Speaking of, do you know if you have any plans or hopes for involvement in a fourth John Wick?
[John Wick: Chapter 3] is left pretty ambiguous where it’s going to go. But if they want to make one, the gates are open.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum hits theaters on May 17, 2019.
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