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This Is Us alum Justin Hartley goes solo in new thriller Tracker

Steadily and surely, the stars of This Is Us have been moving on to other projects.

Milo Ventimiglia was first with the ABC series The Company You Keep, which had a midseason run last year. His former television “wife,” Mandy Moore, made her series comeback recently with the second season of Showcase’s Dr. Death. Sterling K. Brown appears in the current movie American Fiction, and his ex-spouse from This Is UsSusan Kelechi Watson — has been working on a Netflix series titled The Residence, which also involved Andre Braugher before his recent death. Chrissy Metz, meanwhile, starred in the holiday horror movie A Creature Was Stirring and has been advancing her singing career.

Tracker, airing on CTV and CBS. Pictured: Justin Hartley as Colter Shaw.

Now, it’s Justin Hartley’s turn. Formerly the commitment-phobic and trouble-prone Kevin Pearson in This Is Us, he plays someone much more in command on Tracker, a drama series that gets a post-Super Bowl premiere slot.

The series will stay on Sundays thereafter, with Hartley (also an executive producer of the show) playing Colter Shaw, a survivalist who crosses the country, using his specialized skills to help people — both police and private citizens — with searches. He then collects rewards for the missions when they’re completed. His complicated family history has given him demons he tries to exorcise in the course of doing his work.

Also featuring Abby McEnany (Work in Progress) and Robin Weigert (Deadwood) as the managers of Colter’s business affairs, Tracker is one of the first new series to debut after last year’s strikes by writers and actors. Hartley admi ts he was “a little nervous” as those protests continued, but he marvels that “we were somehow able to save our premiere date and get back into production in enough time to let us keep going like it never happened . . . which is pretty amazing. We’d worked so hard on this, there was some stress, but it’s wonderful to report for work as normal — just a reminder of what a great business we have.”

Tracker, airing on CTV and CBS. Pictured: Fiona Rene is attorney Reenie Green, who’s taken on Colter Shaw as a client — against her better judgment.

Tracker is based on the bestselling novel The Never Game (which was also the series’ original title) by The Bone Collector author Jeffery Deaver, and that name adapts Shaw’s credo that he uses to advise people he assists: “Never let panic take the wheel.” Indeed, the first episode starts with Shaw helping a fearful hiker who has been seriously injured, then follows him as he seeks a missing youngster. In both cases, he stays calm as he informs his new companions of their odds for survival under their respective circumstances.

The opening story involving woodlands, rivers, high cliffs and the like suggests that much of Tracker will be set in visually rich locations, and Hartley reports that he’s an outdoorsy sort anyway. He also appreciates that Colter, who typically would rather just do something than explain it, “can be so intense. He doesn’t just let life happen to him, like Kevin did” on This Is Us.

“With this guy, if there’s some kind of a problem, he’s the one who’s going to figure it out. And selfishly for me as an actor, it’s wonderful to take on a different role. I loved playing Kevin, but I’m having the time of my life. [Tracker is] cool, but it’s also believable. I like that Colter is not a superhero. If he gets shot, he bleeds. He doesn’t have an iron skin.”

Tracker, airing on CTV and CBS. Pictured: Prestyn Bates plays young Colter Shaw in flashback sequences that add insight into his past.

As he starts Tracker, Hartley has a major element of This Is Us still with him: director and fellow executive producer Ken Olin, also known as an actor from such series as thirtysomething.

“He’s like family,” Hartley says of Olin. “He’s become one of my best friends in the world. I would do just about anything for that guy, and it’s just nice to see a familiar face.”

That said, Hartley noted that he remains in touch regularly with his former This Is Us co-stars, “every single one of them. We’re all great friends, and the thing is that we’re all so different. If I read a quote from one of them, I would be able to tell you in half a second who said it. I’ll always be in touch with them. They’re just wonderful people.”

Tracker, airing on CTV and CBS. Pictured: Abby McEnany as Velma Bruin and Robin Weigert as Teddi Bruin, who oversee Colter Shaw’s business operations.

The husband of actress Sofia Pernas (Blood & Treasure), Hartley embraces the opportunity to potentially have so many eyes on the premiere of Tracker in its debut immediately following the Super Bowl, traditionally one of the most-watched television events of any year.

“I want to play in the majors,” he reasons. “I’m a competitor, and I love all that stuff. You give it your all. We’re going to put our best product out there and do exactly what we set out to do. I know the show is good, and we have everything going for us. I understand about the pressure, but if you have this opportunity, let’s do it and see what happens.”

The series premiere of Tracker airs Sunday, February 11 at, 7 p.m., CTV & CBS

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