Behind the Storytelling of The Continental, the Highly-Anticipated John Wick Prequel Series
John Wick wouldn’t be the same without Winston Scott, the mysterious owner of the New York Continental whose history is as murky as his intentions. Throughout the John Wick film series, Winston—played by Ian McShane—kept us on our toes and tied to our seats almost as much as John Wick did. So it’s only right that the enigmatic force of nature finally gets the spin-off he deserved.
Before there was Winston Scott, the indomitable hotel owner, there was Winston Scott, the ambitious young man eager to make a name for himself. For much of the film series, Scott’s history was shrouded in secrecy—until now. What better way to launch the expanded John Wick cinematic universe than with a prequel focused entirely on the fan-favorite owner of the Continental? In a world full of assassins and underground empires, the story of Winston Scott is the one we want to be told.
Dropping exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the Philippines on September 22, The Continental promises to deliver just as much action and grit as the film series, with the addition of a few bell bottoms and a funky soundtrack. Set in the ‘70s, decades before the events of the first John Wick film, The Continental takes us back to Winston Scott’s youth—and exactly how he got his keys to the Continental.
In exclusive interviews with the storytellers behind The Continental, we got to pick their brains about the show and the expansion of the John Wick Universe.
“We decided it wouldn’t be a good idea just to do a TV show that was clearly the John Wick tone. The John Wick film tones are very individualized, so we wanted to do our own,” shared executive producer Basil Iwanyk of the John Wick franchise. “How do we create a world that that the John Wick fans find familiar and find comforting, but at the same time, give them a different look and feel and energy so they're not just watching six hours of John Wick movies?”
To be perfectly honest, we wouldn’t be too upset with six more hours of John Wick, but the longtime executive producer of the franchise has a point, which is how The Continental ended up carving a distinct identity and branding for itself that set it apart from John Wick. The three-part miniseries, which feels very much like a movie trilogy, has all the hallmarks of the action franchise, but with a tone and feel unique to the series. For one, it’s set in the ‘70s, and unlike John Wick, the main characters in this franchise still have something to prove to themselves.
“The intentions were to have the spirit of the universe, the John Wick universe, which is a fun wild ride with interesting characters, interesting locations, interesting sounds. And then there's a deeper stuff that goes on, and it has to do with influences,” said Albert Hughes, who directed the first and third episodes. “Chad Stahelski, the director of the film series, has these incredible influences from Asian cinema and also from musicals. He loves like the Bob Fosse movies, so when he talked to me, he [asked], 'What do you love? What are your influences?’”
The John Wick movies have gained a reputation for having a very stylized look and feel, which set itself apart from other blockbusters and saved it from being dubbed as just another action movie. The Continental followed the same route to establish a tone that would appeal to the palate of current fans.
For Hughes, that meant giving him a chance to experiment: “I get to go and reverse engineer what he's [Stahelski] done and take it into the ‘70s and include the things I love, like 1970s music, the commercials and TV series of the time, and the fashion of the time.”
The result was "a more impressionistic, surreal feel of New York.” They call it, “Disco Noir.” “Disco is fun. Disco is nightlife. Disco is free. Disco is a wild, entertaining night. It's mysterious,” described Hughes.
The ‘70s is a huge part of the heart of The Continental, a sentiment that Charlotte Brandstrom, director of the second episode, agrees with: “The fact that it’s set in New York in the ‘70s helped a lot. It gave it a specific flavor. It became very grounded."
Although the ‘70s disco noir vibe will be entirely new to fans, there’s still plenty of familiar material to look forward to. “New York itself is also a character the way The Continental is a character,” shared Brandstrom. “[Fans] will find all the stylized action they love… because that's what is really carried on from the universe.”
Aside from Keanu Reeves’ broodiness and all the wonderful pups, John Wick made a name for itself through its action. When balancing the action and character development in The Continental, director Hughes had an interesting analogy for his philosophy: “It’s like if you’ve had a great Kobe streak. There’s marbleized fat that goes through that steak… and the fat content is the action in the series.”
Now, that’s one way to put it. To get more technical, Hughes explained how he and showrunner Kirk Ward went into the series with a “Joel Silver attitude.” For those who don’t know, legendary action producer Joel Silver (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) developed an action movie metric called the “Wham-O Chart,” which suggests that you should have an action beat every 10 minutes, whether it’s a full action scene or a sharp one-liner. Coupled with three long episodes that gave the director enough time for character development, this approach to action scenes might just help The Continental live up to the John Wick legacy.
John Wick himself might be missing from this franchise, but the ensemble cast of The Continental more than makes up for it. Starring newcomer Colin Woodell as young Winston Scott and veteran actor Mel Gibson as Cormac, The Continental has enough familiar and novel faces to intrigue new and old fans alike.
Catch The Continental exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on September 22.