When Chris Pratt is your leading man, you can expect some belly laughs. Whether he’s playing Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, dinosaur handler Owen Grady in Jurassic World, or the inch-tall Emmet in The Lego Movie, Pratt has become a reliable source of unusually funny thrill-rides.
But lately, the one-time Parks & Recreation favorite has been changing his tune.
Pratt’s transformation into a serious Hollywood actor first started in 2016, when he starred with Jennifer Lawrence in the heavily scrutinized science-fiction romance Passengers, a box-office bomb. In the Morten Tyldum-directed feature, Pratt played a space-faring mechanic who faces an unenviable dilemma: Live and die alone in space, or wake up a beautiful fellow passenger from her sleep pod to keep him company.
Franchise sequels like Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom kept Pratt busy recently, but he’s again stepping into the role of a leading man in a major-studio sci-fi tentpole with the futuristic military drama The Tomorrow War, streaming on Amazon Prime Video starting Friday, July 2.
Once again, Pratt puts his best dramatic foot forward as father and war veteran Dan Forester, recruited by time-travelers to fight a war against aliens 30 years in the future.
“Dan has a special set of circumstances that only parents can find themselves in,” Pratt tells Inverse about his new leading role. “You don’t make decisions just for the benefit of your own good, but for your progeny, your offspring, and what it’s going to mean for them. Dan has always looked at this war as a way to save his family and his daughter, and [to find] a new way of looking at his life.”
The Tomorrow War is pretty serious business, at least in contrast to Pratt’s most famous TV role: that of goofball Andy Dwyer, who stumbled and bumbled his way through the small-town bureaucracies of fictional Pawnee, Indiana, in the NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation.
“There was a moment in my life where people thought I could never do anything but play Andy from Parks & Recreation,” Pratt explains. “I think my greatest thrill has been surprising them, and myself, with the various choices that I could make. And I’d like to continue to do that.”
Pratt cites his next Amazon project — The Terminal List, an adaptation of author Jack Carr’s 2018 novel of the same name — as an example of the serious tonal direction he hopes to steer his career in. A conspiracy-thriller series, it finds Pratt playing a Navy SEAL who returns home after a covert mission to find himself ensnared in a dangerous web of lies.
“That’s not comedy at all,” Pratt says of the series, currently filming with director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) at the helm. “I consider deeply what would surprise people when making the choices in what I want to do as an actor.”
But that doesn’t mean audiences are done watching Pratt have a grand old time at the movies. Next year, the actor will return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Thor: Love and Thunder, set to arrive in May of 2022, with an even bigger role following in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 the year after. In between, he’ll return to his other cash-cow franchise for Jurassic World: Dominion, due out next June.
But once his superhero and dinosaur days are over, Pratt tells Inverse he’s keen to challenge expectations of him as only an action star or superhero actor. “I want to continue to expand and explore,” he says. “I’d like to do comedy, but I’m not limiting myself to any one genre or box.”
The Tomorrow War is streaming July 2 on Amazon Prime Video.