During this year’s IGN Fan Fest, Tracker Executive Producer and star Justin Hartley sat down with IGN’s Daemon Hatfield for an exclusive interview to talk about his new show, why its portrayal of a lone wolf survivor is unique, and how he prepared for the role. You can watch Tracker on CBS tomorrow directly after the Super Bowl as well as Paramount +.
Based on the novel “The Never Game” written by Jeffery Deaver, Tracker follows the adventures of survivalist Colter Shaw, who travels around America seeking rewards and helping people in need with the use of his expert tracking skills.
IGN: So first of all, tell us what is Tracker all about?
Justin Hartley: It’s (a) show I’m really excited about. (The story starts off with) him being a kid and his parents are professors at Berkeley. His dad becomes increasingly more and more paranoid (with) government conspiracies, people are trying to kill us, we got to get the hell out of here. So he takes the whole family off the grid and they become survivalists. He teaches them all these skills: hunting, shooting, tracking, all kinds of stuff. Cut to later, he’s an adult and he uses all of those skills, lives in an Airstream, tours around the country seeking rewards. They’ll get a reward, like $30,000 for a missing whatever, and Colter will go and use those skills to help find the missing person.
IGN: So he’s self-employed. He’s not working for the government?
JH: No, no. He’s self-employed. He’s a free guy.
IGN: Tracker is based on Jeffery Deaver’s Colter Shaw stories starting with The Never Game. How closely or not will the show stick to the books?
JH: Character-wise, there are a lot of similarities. Story-wise, we have our own stories going on. We have sort of a case of the week kind of thing, and then laced in there are a bunch of clues as to what might’ve happened to Colter’s family. He’s trying to sort through that and figure out who might’ve been involved. Maybe family was involved. Maybe the dad wasn’t crazy, maybe he was onto something. So you get a little bit of that peppered through as well.
IGN: You’re not just starring in Tracker, you’re also executive producing. What was it that attracted you to the project?
JH: I’ve never seen a show like this, but I read the book. (Executive Producer) Ken Olin gave me the book, and we looked at each other and said, “we have to do this. We have to figure this out.” It’s an actor’s dream really to play a unique character.
“It’s an actor’s dream really, to play a unique character.”
IGN: How did you prepare for this role? Did you do any sort of real-life survival skill training or… This says bounty hunting classes. I don’t know that you can take bounty hunting classes.
JH: Can you take bounty hunting classes?
IGN: At the junior college?
JH: I play hide-and-go-seek with my neighbors. I tell everybody to hide. I go find them. Gosh, I did this one thing. It just sort of helped get my mind right – I stopped using GPS for a while. A Thomas guide thing, you know, that lets you see landmarks and this and that. I don’t know if you can take bounty hunting classes. I would take that class though…
IGN: That would be a useful skill to have.
IGN: So what do you think you spend the most time trying to track down in real life? Your car keys? The TV remote? I know I have to be the tracker in my house. My wife is always misplacing her phone.
JH: Let’s see, sunglasses, keys, wallet, anything. I’m always looking for something. Always, constantly.
IGN: What advice do you think Colter Shaw would give someone who’s trying to find something?
JH: Retrace your steps. And if you retrace your steps a couple of times and you can’t find it and you need to figure a way to let go of that thing.
IGN: And if it comes back to you, it was meant to be.
JH: It’s meant to be.
You can watch Tracker on CBS and Paramount+ starting February 11th, and make sure to tune into IGN for all of our other Fan Fest reveals!
This interview has been edited for clarity.