The creators of John Wick never expected to have a franchise. The first film was designed to be the directorial debut of stunt and second unit directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. But audiences loved Keanu Reeves’ smooth assassin character and the world he inhabits. So not only is John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum, in theaters this May, but Starz is developing a whole TV series set in the John Wick world too.
The new series is called The Continental, after the hotel for assassins featured in the films. Rules at The Continental stipulate that no “work” can be done on Continental grounds (no killing!). John Wick (Reeves) broke that rule in John Wick: Chapter 2 by killing the man who forced him back into the life. John Wick: Chapter 3 will see Wick on the run and New York Continental manager Winston (Ian McShane) facing repercussions for letting him go.
All that is going on in parallel to the proposed Continental TV series. To find out more about the upcoming project, Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Stahelski about his plans for the series.
Here’s everything we know so far about The Continental.
Carmi Zlotnick, president of programming for Starz, told Rotten Tomatoes last summer that he’s seen a script for the first episode as well as a bible, which is industry lingo for the rules of the show that will guide the series.
“I’d like to be in production sometime in 2019,” Zlotnick confirmed at the time.
The John Wick films are full of colorful assassins who check in and out of The Continental, and Zlotnick said last year that the star of The Continental will be someone we’ve never met before in the films. Stahelski confirmed that “several” characters from the movie would feature in the series, but would not say whom. “There’s a whole new cast coming aboard for that and that hasn’t been seen before,” Stahelski said.
Previously, Zlotnick had said The Continental will be the origin story of how this guest becomes an assassin.
John Wick: Chapter 3 sees Wick visit international branches of The Continental. Home base is still New York. The Cocoa Exchange plays the New York Continental branch, and Stahelski said The Continental series could visit other cities.
“They have different ideas what to do with The Continental about where to base it and how many different cities would be achievable on a production schedule to go and visit,” Stahelski said. “I think the Cocoa Exchange down by Wall Street where we shoot the New York Continental, they’re not going anywhere. I think we’re good.”
The Continental has been in development for more than a year now, during which time the creative team knew John Wick 3 was coming. May’s grosses may decide whether there is a John Wick 4, but The Continental is now in a position to be the next entry in the franchise, with Stahelski directing the pilot.
“The way they’re developing and they’re trying to do it very, very quickly,” Stahelski said. “Depending on that production schedule, yes, I’d very much like to do it.”
Last year, Zlotnick said Stahelski had “a lot of great ideas about how to do action on a TV budget. We hope to live up to the mark that the movies have set for what people expect from the John Wick universe.”
Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht set high expectations for Continental action.
“The Continental promises to include the thunderous fight sequences and intensely staged shootouts between professional assassins and their targets that fans have come to expect in the John Wick movie franchise,” Albrecht said. “As well as introducing some new, darkly compelling characters who inhabit this underground world.”
Reeves is an executive producer on The Continental. In 2018, Zlotnick said the plan was for Reeves’ Wick to show up at least once in the series.
“I think you can expect to see him at some point in the series,” Zlotnick said. “That is part of the ongoing conversation.”
Zlotnick also told /Film at the time that he’d also like to have Ian McShane reprise his role of Continental owner Winston. McShane stars on Starz’s American Gods, so they already have an in. But McShane told Rotten Tomatoes a few months ago that he will not appear on the series.
It’s still too early to know whether hotel manager Charon (Lance Reddick) would appear, and a network spokesperson told Rotten Tomatoes in 2018 that it was too early to say with certainty whether any specific characters or actors from the films would appear in the series.
John Wick has already generated three films and counting, and Stahelski is confident he and Leitch have ideas for multiple seasons on Starz too.
“I think we haven’t even touched on The Continental,” Stahelski said. “That would be my comment on that. I think we have at least three seasons of TV.”
If a fourth John Wick movie does indeed happen, it wouldn’t conflict with the series.
“The show and the movies exist side by side. There will be no conflict,” Albrecht said in 2018.
The creators of assumed they were focused on making movies for a while. After the success of John Wick: Chapter 2, Lionsgate and Starz presented the possibility to expand the franchise into the television realm as well.
“The studio approached us after the second movie did fairly well that they said they were interested in pursuing something like that, which we were happy to oblige,” Stahelski confirmed.
The world of The Continental seems so deep, you’d think they had a rich history mapped out before going into the films. It actually didn’t even start to ramp up until the sequel.
“When we finished the first one, we thought we’d never work again,” Stahelski said. “We were looking for day jobs. Then when we were asked to do the second one, that’s when we put the thinking caps on. We did what we wanted to and what we had in mind for the first movie. It wasn’t until developing the second film that all the thought really went into it.”
Lionsgate paid $4.4 billion for the cable network in a sale completed in December 2016. A series based on the Lionsgate film franchise is an example of synergy between the companies, and Starz couldn’t be happier.
“I think it’s important to note that that comes through our relationship with Lionsgate,” Zlotnick said in 2018. “It continues a franchise that has already generated two hit films which have grossed nearly $300 million at the worldwide box office.”
Chris Collins will write and run The Continental series for Starz, but he is backed up by executive producers from the John Wick films. The films’ producer Basil Iwanyk, director Stahelski, screenwriter Derek Kolstad, co-director Leitch, and Reeves are all executive producers.
Zlotnick had said that he he prefers eight episodes in a first season of a series.
“Usually trying to do more can be a bridge too far,” he told /Film.