After working with retired Navy SEALs on the set of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, John Hoogenakker will never think of “chicken wings” the same way.
“When you’re moving into a room and you’ve got your elbows out and you’re holding a rifle in a dangerous situation,” explains Hoogenakker, “that could get your elbows shot off.”
Each time they’d do a take, the military advisers would yell “Chicken wings!” and make him do it again.
“It’s a good thing, too, because when a show like Jack Ryan drops, there will be people with a military background watching it. The last thing you want to do is miss the mark when you’re portraying these people.”
Matice on Jack Ryan
Hoogenakker, who has an extensive background in drama series like Chicago Fire and USA Network’s Colony, plays black ops tough-guy Matice on the Amazon reboot, starring John Krasinski as Jack Ryan. Everyone knows the name of Tom Clancy’s most famous character, but Matice changes his name for every new operation he finds himself involved in.
“He doesn’t really need to be on a first-name basis with anybody that he’s not on the same nucleic team with. He’s not somebody that wants people to look twice at him. He has a mischievous vibe about him, which I really kind of love.”
His character also makes lots of quips during intense moments, something that Hoogenakker drew on from his time spent off-set with the Navy SEALs.
“These SEALs never stop nipping at each other. They live and they work in such intense situations, that that’s their norm, that level of intensity. They’re constantly trying to take the temperature down a notch. Wherever the writers and producers would allow it, I was always pushing for that. Luckily, we had military supervisors there who were always joking around, literally demonstrating how those people would behave in everyday life.”
Prepping for the Part
Hoogenakker only learned a few phrases in Arabic for his part as Matice, but they’re beaten into his brain, as he’s able to recite them without hesitation. To learn the phrases, he worked with the show’s dialect coach Chadi Alhelou (who also has a role on the show).
“Chadi is Syrian, but he lives and works in Montreal, and he’s traveled and worked all over the Arabic-speaking world. Arabic is such a huge language. When he’d travel from country to country, there’d be different dialects in different countries, and sometimes multiple dialects within the same country, all within this huge language of Arabic. When we were filming in Morocco, Moroccans pride themselves on how their version of Arabic is very hard for other Arabic speakers to understand. They have a lot of their own idiomatic phraseology. Chadi was able to distill it all and be very specific with actors who grew up speaking Arabic. As a Palestinian, you’d say it this way, but as a Yemeni, you’d say it this way. It was very cool to have that input right there with us and feedback on set all the time.”
When Hoogenakker was in high school, he even thought about going into the military himself, as a member of the Navy Junior ROTC.
“When I read Matice on the page, he sounded like I did when I was a kid. Like a lot of people I grew up with, like my family. He seemed kind of close to me from the beginning.”
Of all the things Hoogenakker did to prepare for the part, when it came down to it, just talking to the SEALs proved to be the most beneficial.
“Getting to hang out with them and listening to their stories was really constructive for me as an actor, figuring out how to pitch the role of Matice from a standpoint of naturalism and not from the standpoint of ‘What would be a cool face to make right here?’ or ‘What would be a cool way to say this line?’ These are real living, breathing human beings that I’m hanging out with and their work and actions informed to a greater extent the work I was trying to do. It really grounded me.”
Working with Krasinski and Pierce
Krasinski fills Jack Ryan’s shoes on the series—something actors like Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, and Harrison Ford have played before him—and he and Hoogenakker are joined by TV veteran Wendell Pierce, who plays Ryan’s boss.
“It’s such a cool experience being an actor when you get to work scenes with people whom you’ve known and admired from a distance. I felt that way about both of those guys. Just sort of showing up they were immediately warm and inviting, nothing standoffish about either of them. They’re both very kindhearted human beings.”
So kindhearted that they threw Hoogenakker a surprise birthday party when he was working on his 40th birthday.
“We were shooting this scene on a private jet, and we came back for lunch, and like maybe an hour and a half had past since I’d told Wendell it was my birthday, and John goes, ‘Hey, Hoogs. Come here.’ And he had a bottle of Basil Hayden, really nice American bourbon, and he and Wendell both signed it, and they gave me a birthday cake, sang to me, and made what could be a tough day a very special day. And that night we went out and had a bit of a party. Those guys, when you’re working together on these jobs, they do become like a surrogate family. And it has been nothing but a joy and honor.”
It’s surprising that on-set jokester Krasinski didn’t get Hoogenakker some Bud Light, since “Hoogs” is also known as the “Dilly Dilly” guy from those infamous commercials.
“That campaign is a blessing because it’s character driven, with a little improv. It could not be more polar opposite of Jack Ryan,” he laughs. “I don’t get tired of people saying ‘Dilly Dilly.’ I love that I’m involved with it.”
Surprisingly, Hoogenakker admits that he doesn’t get recognized that much for the ad.
“If I wore the crown around, believe me I would if my wife would let me, people would probably put it together. We [he and Bud Light] did one thing last year where we went to a bar on the North Side of Chicago for Loyola when Loyola was in the Sweet 16. I was going into the bar, in costume and total regalia, people were like, ‘Oh he looks familiar. Like the guy in the Bud Light commercial.’”
Season 1 of Jack Ryan drops on Amazon Friday, August 31.