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'Tracker': Justin Hartley works through a complicated childhood in Vancouver-filmed drama series

"Justin wanted to carry a gun and get in fights," director/producer Ken Olin said

After six seasons of This Is Us, actor Justin Hartley and director/producer Ken Olin join forces once again for the show Tracker.

Where to watch Tracker: Watch on CBS and stream on Paramount+ in the U.S., watch on CTV and the CTV app in Canada
Tracker release date: Premiered Feb. 11, with episodes weekly on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
Cast: Justin Hartley, Abby McEnany, Robin Weigert, Fiona Rene, Eric Graise, Paniz Zade
Number of episodes: 8
Where was Tracker filmed: Vancouver

"I think both Justin and I, after six years of of babies and dogs, ... we wanted to do something that would be fun for us to do," Olin told reporters. "Probably we were looking for something that was a little more story driven, plot driven."

"Justin wanted to carry a gun and get in fights. So I was in the mood to try to find something that maybe harkens back to the old P.I. shows that I grew up with. ... Shows like The Rockford Files and Mannix, and things like that. But I didn't want to reboot a show. I wanted to find something that was based on a character who had a more contemporary psychological background."

Justin Hartley as Colter Shaw in Tracker, premiering Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and CBS app and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada (Michael Courtney/CBS)
Justin Hartley as Colter Shaw in Tracker, premiering Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and CBS app and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada (Michael Courtney/CBS)

What is 'Tracker' about

Based on the novel The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver, Hartley plays Colter Shaw who's made a career from being a "rewardist." That means Colter travels with an Airstream trailer to follow rewards being offered to find a missing person, including children.

Coordinating his next moves are Velma (Abby McEnany) and Teddi (Robin Weigert), who are also responsible for solving problems when Colter gets into trouble, like ending up on the wrong side of law enforcement. That includes working with lawyer Reenie (Fiona Rene), who has some personal history with Colter, but ultimately is a no-nonsense, impressive lawyer.

Abby McEnany as Velma Bruin and Robin Weigert as Teddi Bruin in Tracker, premiering Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and CBS app and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada (Michael Courtney/CBS)
Abby McEnany as Velma Bruin and Robin Weigert as Teddi Bruin in Tracker, premiering Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and CBS app and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada (Michael Courtney/CBS)

Of course, Colter also has a tech genius to help him get the information he needs to track down these missing people, courtesy of Eric Graise's character Bob.

In the first episode, we get a sense of how Colter's upbringing, with an aggressive, survivalist father, impacted his life, including giving Colter skills to do this job. But there's a particularly interesting twist, related to Colter's brother, that creates an interesting personal arc for Colter as well.

Justin Hartley as Colter Shaw in Tracker, premiering Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and CBS app and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada (Michael Courtney/CBS)
Justin Hartley as Colter Shaw in Tracker, premiering Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and CBS app and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada (Michael Courtney/CBS)

'It's a bit scary'

Hartley, who also serves as an executive producer of the show, revealed that he was able to have quite a bit of input into the Colter we see the show, which does differ from the book.

"There are certain things in the book where this character, he does a lot of calculations and sort of talking to himself in his head. You just can't do that on on screen," Hartley said. "It would be very hard to watch."

"So you have to figure out a way to show this guy and what's going on in his head, without just him talking to himself all the time, which is not the character."

Olin added that the biggest adjustment for the show was to use Hartley's "humour."

"He's so good with humour," Olin highlighted. "The character in the book ... isn't the same that way."

"He's a much more silent kind of character. ... I think it translates well, in television, it's something that's really appealing and it's very appealing about Justin."

Unlike This Is Us and Kevin Pearson, Colter leans a bit more into the strong silent type, which, as Hartley highlighted, has its challenges from an acting perspective.

"In some sense it's a relief and in some sense it's a daunting task," Hartley said. "You're on camera, and you're still and you're not talking, you're telling the story through your look and what's going on with your body. It's a bit scary, in a way."

Ultimately, throughout Tracker, each case Colter takes on has a link back to his childhood.

"There's an element I think to most, if not all of the jobs that he takes, ... and his ability to solve, to find these people and to get these positive outcomes that comes from the way that he was raised, and the way that he was raised is not necessarily always easy to on the palate," Hartley said. "His father was very, very difficult. He had a rough childhood, really unique, strange kind of childhood."

"But all of those things that he went through when he was younger are things that he was taught, and that he uses in his current life. I think a lot of the things, a lot of the stories that we tell, ... I feel like they open up Colter a little bit, in a sense that he then can reflect on his childhood. And oftentimes, I think the way that you remember things might not be actually the way they actually happened, right. I think Colter's kind of figuring that out as well."