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John Wick’s Shamier Anderson Wants a Tracker Spinoff With Meryl Streep

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Shamier Anderson was never intimidated by John Wick — the famed killing machine or the blockbuster franchise.

“I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever read a script,” the 31-year-old Canadian actor says of John Wick: Chapter 4. “I called the director, Chad Stahelski, and said, ‘I love it, let’s do it,’” and he said, “Great — get on a plane in 48 hours because we’ve got to get to work.’ People ask me, was I scared, was I anxious? For me, it was exciting and thrilling because, to be honest, I believe I was built for something like this. There are some roles that are daunting and you’ve got to transform into things that you’ve never done before, but to be physical, to do martial arts, to be in an action movie, this was fertile ground for me to show my stuff and spread my wings.”

The Wynonna Earp alum caught the attention of Stahelski thanks to his performance in Netflix’s MMA drama Bruised. So when the stuntman turned filmmaker needed someone to play a character known simply as “the Tracker,” Anderson was his guy. The Tracker lives up to his mysterious reputation, introducing himself as “nobody” and repeatedly managing to find the elusive John Wick (Keanu Reeves), no matter where he is on the globe. While the Tracker is a man of few words, his sidekick is both bark and bite as, in true John Wick fashion, the Tracker is always accompanied by his trusty — and deadly — dog.

Between his dedication to his canine and his late-film rescue of Wick, the Tracker has already become a fan favorite, which has Anderson dreaming of his own Wick spinoff. With the fourth (and final, for now) installment killing it at the box office, we spoke with the breakout star about building his character’s backstory, being in awe of his co-star Donnie Yen, and wanting to face off with Meryl Streep.

We’re talking on release day, so how are you feeling?
John Wick day! Dude, it’s surreal. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and I feel like a rookie and the vet. The résumé is getting longer, but I still get butterflies with this. And to be on a day like today, waking up knowing that I’m a part of a Herculean franchise like John Wick, starring opposite some incredible legends, I want to go to the movies and watch it too. I’m probably going to show up at a theater with my hat low, then go get some jerk chicken at my favorite Jamaican spot in Toronto.

At my screening, it was a packed house and people were losing their minds. What was your first experience like watching this film with an audience?
I have a nonprofit called the Black Academy, and I teamed up with Lionsgate to host a screening in my home city of Toronto, and I surprised everybody with Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski. Every time I came onscreen, it was like I had a fan club screaming my name and hooting and hollering. Clearly, my family members were a little bit too excited. So that probably spoiled me because if I don’t get that same reaction when I watch it tonight, then it’ll be like, Oh, crap.

What was your initial reaction when you heard John Wick 4 was a possibility?
When you’re campaigning for opportunities, there’s no blueprint. This was purely based off a previous opportunity I was a part of that Chad was also a part of. He had met me on this set, and a year and a half later, he remembered me and said, “That guy Shamier Anderson, he did really great work — what’s he up to?” So my agent called me and said, “Hey, Chad wants to meet you,” and I’m like, “I’m at the gym right now. What are we going to do?” So he Zooms me while I’m doing some boxing and muay thai, and Chad’s like, “Did you plan this?” I said, “No, this is my everyday; this is what I do.” And he said, “Listen, I got this script called John Wick 4, I’m looking for my guy, and if you’re into it, it’s yours.” And I was just like, “Listen, you had me at John Wick 4.”

Halle Berry’s Bruised is the project Chad knew you from, but it’s a bit ironic because you played that film’s promoter, Immaculate, who does all the talking and no fighting, the exact opposite of the Tracker.
I know, right? Hey, it’s a testament to the filmmaker. I don’t know what Chad saw in Immaculate in Bruised, where there was no physicality, there was no fighting, it was just me being a hulking figure and he’s like, “That guy’s going to be Tracker!” I consider myself a very versatile performer, and I love that he was able to see the nuances in my performance and to take the risk and cast me in something like this.

Once you could start digging into the script and into who Tracker is, what was it about him that you really grabbed on to?
Even though we’re in such a fantastical world, this guy’s the most relatable person to the audience. He doesn’t follow the rules of the High Table and the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) and the Continental. He’s very much a normal guy. And I said, How do I layer that? What are his motivations? All the things you ask yourself when building a character. For me, even though he has a vicious animal that rips a guy’s nuts off, I think we love the Tracker because there’s something in him and we can feel it. There’s a reason he’s doing this, and that’s what makes him so interesting and why you keep hearing, “We want a spinoff. We want more of the Tracker.” And the ultimate thing that I talk about is, What if the motivation is his mom? What does his family look like? Where does this guy come from? Is he related to the Halle Berry character from the previous film? When I was working with Chad, those were all the things I was asking him about and building out to really round and sculpt him.

While almost zero backstory is revealed in the film, did you feel the need to fully flesh one out even if it was just for yourself?
I looked at the Joker and studied a lot of what Heath Ledger did, how exciting that character was; you just knew that guy had a robust past. Like, Why did he get those scars? And, for me, Why do I have this canine? Why do I have this knapsack? Why am I dressed like this? This guy’s transient. He has pockets because he travels so much; he doesn’t really change. That notebook you see in the film, I took that home and wrote a lot in there. That knapsack that he had on, I had a lot of personal items, like dog toys, dog treats, lighters engraved with my name. I just had to put my DNA on this. And I think it’s translating as people are infatuated with the Tracker.

Considering that Halle starred in John Wick: Chapter 3, were you able to chat at all with her about the Wick universe?
She just told me that Chad’s awesome. It happened so quickly there wasn’t really time for that. I finished working on John Wick when Bruised premiered, so I saw Halle at the red carpet and we talked about it briefly. I think if I’m ever so blessed to be able to portray Tracker again, then we definitely have a lot of real estate to explore the Halle Berry character and a bit of the relationship there.

I know you have a pretty extensive background in fighting and martial arts, but knowing the scale of this film and the action legacy of this franchise, what’s your mindset coming in? Any nerves?
Obviously, this is one of the tentpoles in the history of moviemaking when it comes to action, and I think most people would be nervous. I’d be lying to you if I told you I was intimidated — because I wasn’t. To me, it was a master class to be able to go learn from the best of the best. I yearn for things like this. To paint the picture, it was a soundstage they turned into a huge dojo, in Germany, in Paris, everywhere we went around the world, and you’d enter this space and there’d be like, no joke, 50 guys and girls who are ninjas. Literal ninjas! You have one corner where people are doing gymnastics, one corner where people are doing hand-to-hand combat, the other corner people are lifting weights, and then another corner there’s just weapons. And the little boy in me who loves action movies is like, Oh my gosh, I get to go do this for nine hours a day, every day. I got better, faster, and leaner. And then when we wrapped, I ate a lot of cheeseburgers and pizza.

What’s it like watching Donnie Yen do his thing? It’s almost like the equivalent of being on the court with Kobe Bryant as he has his 81-point game.
I was working with LeBron, Kobe, and Jordan, all in the same movie. Dude, I got to see Donnie Yen work up close and personal! That epic scene of Keanu and Donnie fighting in the first act of the movie with the nunchucks, I actually witnessed that in real time. Actors like to play it cool and say, “Act like you’ve been there before,” but it’s all bullshit, man. I love what I do, and I give people their flowers while they’re here, and I hope I don’t lose that. These guys are trailblazers and pioneers in this space, and I got to have conversations with Donnie about Wing Chun kung fu, which is the same lineage that I practice. Outside of martial arts and the movie stuff, he’s just a good man, and I want to really commend him for his grace and always being a soundboard and giving me a bunch of knowledge. I really appreciate him.

There’s the physical training, but how did you go about training and bonding with your canine sidekicks?
The Belgian Malinois is a very highly trained breed of dog, and I had to work with about five of them because each had its own specific skill set. Some can jump really high, some can chase, some can drag, some can bite, and so I had to learn all the different personalities. And I was the only one on set that got to actually spend time with them because if you weren’t in their orbit, or you didn’t do the probationary period, you had to stay far away.

I played the Toy Story soundtrack and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” every time I was walking with that dog. I make little videos to document a lot of the work that I do off-screen when building characters, and this was the first time where it felt so alive because I was working with somebody — an animal that just was being an animal. You work with actors, directors, the crew, and everyone knows they have a job to do: make a movie. When working with an animal, they don’t know what the fuck’s going on. They’re just doing their thing, living life, and I think it’s freeing to see that. But then you also respect them because, by a snap of a finger, they can become vicious.

We have to talk about the incredible final fight sequence on the stairs. Was that as insane to make as it would appear?
Well, I appreciate that you appreciate it because I feel like that sequence delayed our shoot. It didn’t take days; it took weeks. It was raining, it was cold. It was a very ambitious, ambitious piece. I was a part of the tail end, so I didn’t have to go through the brutalness that the stunt team had to go through by flying down those stairs, take after take, day after day, week after week. And I commend the stunt guys that had to endure Chad’s relentless pursuit of perfection. But it’s pretty awesome to watch it now, and I genuinely had a chuckle at the moment when John makes it to the top and then gets kicked all the way back down.

The Tracker acts as the audience surrogate throughout the movie, but that’s taken to the next level when he’s sitting on a bench watching the duel between John and Caine (Yen). How did you approach playing that fun bit, and what insight do you think it gave into who Tracker is?
A lot of that was improv. The line “That was pretty good,” which people laughed at and really was the button on Tracker’s journey, that just kind of came off the top, and I was like, “That was pretty fucking good, man.” That was one of the takes that Chad gravitated toward and that made the final edit. In this section of the film, I really appreciate that we get to see him in his most raw, honest state. There’s no bravado, his guard is down; he’s sitting on a bench, he’s very disarming, and he’s very endearing. And I think that goes to show that this guy has a heart, and it speaks to where we could see Tracker going past this fourth film.

Is John Wick dead?
I don’t think John Wick’s dead — but maybe he is dead. I don’t know; that’s a loaded question. What I do know is that Tracker is alive. Everything else is up for discussion.

You haven’t been shy in sharing your hopes for a spinoff, which seems like a slam dunk for many reasons, especially since The Tracker is just a great title for an action movie.
I definitely agree. And from your mouth, to your pen, to the press, let’s make it happen!

I saw you mention that Liam Neeson visited the Wick set, and now I can’t get the idea of him as the Tracker big bad out of my head.
Wow, that would be epic! Liam Neeson would be a great antagonist. I think Denzel Washington would be a crazy antagonist. It would be really interesting to see a female villain; Meryl Streep would be something different. So those are my top three choices: Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, and Meryl Streep.

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Shamier Anderson Wants a John Wick Spinoff With Meryl Streep