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John Wick 4 director remembers the ‘magic’ of Lance Reddick on set: ‘literally infectious’

‘He always had to fight, he always had to really work it from every end to get to where he was.’

Lance Reddick, as the concierge Charon, stands solemnly in the lobby of the Continental Hotel in a dramatically orange-lit poster image for John Wick: Chapter 4 Image: Lionsgate
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

The sudden death of actor Lance Reddick at age 60 was a shock for his fans and friends alike. But it was particularly startling for his fellow cast members and crew on John Wick: Chapter 4, who got the news while still gearing up for the film’s imminent release. In an interview with Polygon, Chad Stahelski, who directed Reddick in all four of the John Wick movies, describes the impact of hearing the news while on tour to promote the new movie.

“We’re all on the red carpet to get in [at the L.A. premiere],” Stahelski said. “You want to high-five everyone, going ‘Thank you so much for giving up a year in your life!” And then we find out that Lance had passed. It just crushes you.”

Asked for a particularly memorable moment on the set with Reddick, Stahelski laughed. “How do you pick one moment after 10 years with a guy that has his DNA all over the franchise you built from the ground up?” he asked. “He’s part of the heart of the Wick. You walk into that hotel and see Lance at that front desk — what’s more iconic for John Wick?”

Lance Reddick as concierge Charon, in a dapper brown suit, greets Keanu Reeves as John Wick at the check-in desk of the Continental hotel in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Image: Lionsgate

Stahelski remembers Reddick as a particularly upbeat presence on the John Wick sets. “Lance had this persona that was literally infectious,” he said. “Like, you could hear Lance laugh across a sound stage. He was just a super-positive guy. I don’t know everything about Lance’s career, but I do know he always had to fight, he always had to really work it from every end to get to where he was. I think that’s most of the John Wick cast — they all come from really humble upbringings of ‘We work for a living.’ And to be so positive about it, and to be so ultimately happy to be doing what you love — that’s Lance in a nutshell. That guy comes on set and he’s here to work, and he’s awesome. He couldn’t be happier. Like, he’s one of the happiest guys, and that’s infectious.”

As Charon, the unbudgeably chill concierge at the assassins’ hotel The Continental in the John Wick movies, Reddick represented the luxury, competence, and coldness of Stahelski’s world. It was a typically authoritative role for Reddick, who tended to embody powerful figures, from principled police lieutenant Cedric Daniels on The Wire to Commander Zavala in Destiny 2 to the terrifying dragon Thordak in the Critical Role animated series The Legend of Vox Machina. But Charon was one of his most visible and signature roles, and Stahelski says working with him on the John Wick movies was an education.

“I wish you could turn the camera around for half the scenes on John Wick 4 and see Lance and Ian McShane talking before the takes,” Stahelski said. “It’s magic. You just get hooked on it. You can’t help but want to go over there and hang out. I was a first-time director [on John Wick], no matter how many second units I’d done. It’s a big deal to do your first movie, and you think you know everything. You have that confidence of arrogance. But then you realize you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re like ‘I need a little help.’”

Lance Reddick signs autographs for fans outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles at a screening of 2019’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Photo: Rob Latour/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images

Stahelski says part of that help came from Reddick’s confident choices about Charon — Reddick chose the character’s accent, persona, and body language, telling Stahelski he wanted to play him as “very Zen,” with a posture “like the Oscar statue.”

“I was in a unique position where I got to be mentored by the people I was working with,” Stahelski said. “If you can imagine your head going from a scene with Keanu Reeves to going into a scene with Lance Reddick to going into a scene with Ian McShane to going into a scene with Willem Dafoe — I mean, come on. That’s like going to film school as I’m directing, at the same time.”