Director Albert Hughes Felt Liberated Working on ‘The Continental: From the World of John Wick’

John Nguyen

The John Wick film series has been a hit thanks to the charm of Keanu Reeves and the expertly crafted, brutal action sequences. John Wick: Chapter 4 was released this year and grossed over $432 million at the worldwide box office, making it the second highest-grossing R-rated film after Oppenheimer this year. Fans wanting more from the John Wick universe are getting two spinoff series, Ballerina and The Continental: From the World of John Wick, with the latter currently streaming on Peacock.

The Continental: From the World of John Wick is a 3-episode miniseries that follows a young Winston, played by Colin Woodell, as he is sucked into the dangerous world of assassins in 1970s New York City. He’ll discover the special assassin haven at the Continental Hotel and will have to face its manager and crime lord, Cormac O’Connor (Mel Gibson). Albert Hughes is a director of the series whose credits include Menace II Society, The Book of Eli, and Dead Presidents. The ’70s setting was one of the reasons that got him excited about the project.

“You had me at ’70s,” Hughes tells Nerd Reactor. “You know, the music, the style, the fashion, the architecture, the TV commercials from my childhood, the songs from my mother and father. That’s an easy sell.”

“I think anybody would kind of raise an eyebrow and say, ‘Well, okay, what can I do without Keanu?’ I’m like, ‘Okay, well, I can explore music and make that a character,'” Hughes said. “If you use pop songs or B-sides, that’s very familiar to the audience. It makes them feel nostalgic. It puts them in a time in place. It can be whimsical, it can be ironic, it can be contrast to a scene, and it takes on a life of its own. And it’s basically another character. So there are little tricks you can use as a filmmaker that keep the audience involved. And that was one of them that was I very excited about.”

Hughes felt liberated in The Continental since the series isn’t meant to be taken seriously compared to his other films.

“I would say it was a liberating feeling for me on this because my other films were dealing with real life, social issues, inner-city violence, gun violence, generational trauma, slavery,” Hughes explained. “And when you kind of move all at the table, you have space in your brain to create this almost parallel universe of the subculture of assassins. Sure, the common theme is there’s violence in both, but one is not meant to be taken so seriously. The other is a reflection of real life. And again, that’s what’s liberating. It’s like, ‘Oh, God, I don’t have to make sure that this shootout is so realistic. Do the audience buy it?’ To make this shootout entertaining and fun is my only mandate. It doesn’t have to be like, ‘What are the chances you’re going to shoot 50 guys and come out of a room alive?’ That’s not going to happen in real life.”

The Continental: The World of John Wick has brutal action sequences, and Larnell Stovall was brought on board to help choreograph those scenes. His credits include Titans, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and more.

“I will say this, it felt like we were three films back to back,” Stovall said. “I can’t believe that in nine months, we basically filmed three films as to where some films take nine months for one film. So we try not to think about the time, the scope, just the quality. That’s the main thing. If we’re going to ask 90 minutes of your time as the audience, what’s the best payoff? Trying to make some memorable moments and also competing with ourselves. Once you get one film done, you move on to the next one. You don’t have time to pat yourself on the back about what you accomplished and all the challenges you overcame. It’s like, ‘Okay, here’s the newest challenge. How do we make this film better? How do we make episode two just as good as episode one, and yet not have a lot of action? It’s got a lot of story, but the little action that people are going to remember from episode two, it has to be great.”

Night 1 of The Continental: From the World of John Wick is currently streaming on Peacock. Night 2 will air on September 29th and Night 3 on October 6th.