(Photo by © Summit Entertainment)
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. There’s going to be a streaming series set in the John Wick world too, and we’ve been tracking its developing since 2017.
The new series is called The Continental, named 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 Chapter 2 by killing the man who forced him back into the life, while Chapter 3 saw John on the run and New York Continental manager Winston Scott (Ian McShane) facing repercussions for letting him go.
Plans for The Continental have evolved since Starz first announced the series in 2018. A new announcement today gave us a lot of new information, including when we can finally see it. Here’s everything we know about The Continental so far.
[Updated August 15, 2021]
(Photo by Lionsgate)
Starz first announced The Continental at the January 2018 Television Critics Association press tour. There have been updates each year, but perhaps the biggest one comes now that the series has moved to Peacock from Starz. Lionsgate, the distributor of the John Wick films, bought Starz in 2016 so that made sense then.
But lots of new streaming options have cropped up since 2017, so now The Continental will stream on NBC Universal’s Peacock. (Note: Rotten Tomatoes is also a division of NBCUniversal.) Peacock often streams the John Wick films so look for your chance to catch up in each month’s new title offerings.
Last fall, Starz and Lionsgate announced Mel Gibson had joined the cast of The Continental. Today’s announcement says he’ll play a new character named Cormac. The full cast list includes Colin Woodell, Ayomide Adegun, Pulp Fiction/The Mask villain Peter Greene, Ben Robson, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Jessica Allain, Mishel Prada, and Nhung Kate.
Supergirl’s Lena Luthor actor Katie McGrath, Ray McKinnon, Mark Musashi, and Marina Mazepa were announced in February. Lionsgate confirmed to Rotten Tomatoes they will still appear but not as series regulars. McGrath plays an adjudicator, like Asia Kate Dillon in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.
(Photo by David Lee/Lionsgate)
Woodell plays the young Winston, previously announced as the lead of the show. Peacock confirms that Adegun plays Charon, the character played by Lance Reddick in the films. The Continental takes place in 1975, so Winston and Charon would be the ages of Adegun and Woodell, not Reddick and Ian McShane.
Early plans for The Continental would have introduced a new assassin in the world of the hotel. Stahelski originally told Rotten Tomatoes, “There’s a whole new cast coming aboard for that and that hasn’t been seen before.” That remains true, but two of them are now young incarnations of Winston and Charon . In an interview with Deadline, Lionsgate Television Chairman Kevin Beggs spoke about the studio’s plans, updating the John Wick TV series.
“What we’re exploring in The Continental is the young Winston and how it came to be that he and his team of confederates found their way into this hotel,” Beggs told Deadline. “[The Continental is] about a crumbling New York in the 1970s with a garbage strike that has piled up bags of garbage to the third floor of most brownstones, the mafia muscling in on that business which is why in The Sopranos he’s in the sanitation business. And other things that are really real as an interesting backdrop to explore the origins of The Continental.”
Greene dons the fedora of Uncle Charlie (based on the tight-lipped body disposal expert); Robson is Frankie; Point-Du Jour is Miles; Jessica is Lou; Prada is KD; and Kate is Yen.
(Photo by ©Summit Entertainment)
Back in 2018, Starz certainly anticipated having The Continental on the air within five years. The plan was always to run the series concurrent with the films, as they would not overlap or contradict each other. With this Peacock deal, the date is finally set. The Continental premieres in 2023.
Early plans were for an eight-episode season with hour-long episodes. Beggs changed that to three mini–event movies last year.
“How we’ve approached this first season is as three essentially 90-minute events which you could construe as a limited series or a limited event series,” Beggs said.
Albert Hughes is signed to direct nights 1 and 3. Charlotte Brandstrom will direct the middle. Stahelski had wanted to direct the pilot, but perhaps the extended development made that impossible. He’s still directing the movies, with John Wick: Chapter 4 due in 2023 and a Chapter 5 still in development.
As Reeves was previously listed as an executive producer of The Continental, in the beginning, Starz President of Programming Carmi Zlotnick teased possible appearances by John Wick himself. The period piece element of the new take rules that out.
“Because we’re way back in time, way back pre-John Wick and even pre-young John Wick, that character is not finding his way into the universe,” Beggs said. “We are in the John Wick universe, but it’s way back in time. Think about the Game of Thrones prequels before you know any of the players, but you do know the world.”
John Wick movie director Chad Stahelski is still an executive producer, though Reeves is no longer listed. Greg Coolidge and Kirk Ward are writing and show running The Continental in place of Chris Collins. Additional EPs include Hughes, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, co-director of the first film David Leitch, film writer Derek Kolstad, Shawn Simmons, Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese and Marshall Persinger. As of last year, Reeves was still somewhat involved, though focused on the films.
“Keanu and Chad have read every draft and been enthusiastic supporters of expanding this universe in a meaningful way,” Beggs said. “At this point he’s pretty busy making his movies which are very important to us.”
John Wick will generate at least five films. Early on, Stahelski was confident he and Leitch had 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.”
Hopefully, that still holds true for a “young Winston” series. Lionsgate and Peacock announced a multi-year deal for The Continental though still plan to stream all three episodes in 2023. But it seems they’re leaving the door open for more installments.
(Photo by David Lee/©Summit Entertainment)
While the creators 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.”