When the John Wick series introduces a villain, they usually fall into one of two categories: They’re either a gun-toting badass like John Wick 2’s Cassian (Common) and Ares (Ruby Rose) or John Wick 3’s Zero (Mark Dacascos), or a spineless crime boss like the original’s Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) or 2’s Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum introduces one new antagonist who absolutely crushes this mold: The Adjudicator, played by Asia Kate Dillon.
The Adjudicator is a high level enforcer sent to New York by the High Table to exact punishment against those who aided John Wick in his defiance of the organization’s laws throughout John Wick 2. The character is also non-binary in gender, according to Dillon, and goes by “they”–a detail you might not pick up on in the film, but which informed how Dillon, who is non-binary in real life, approached playing them.
Throughout John Wick 3, the Adjudicator recruits Zero and his gang of sushi-carving ninjas, cuts the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) down to size, and delivers Winston an ultimatum to step down as the Continental’s manager or risk facing the consequences. And the Adjudicator manages to do it all without ever lifting a finger, raising their voice, or picking up a gun.
“I feel like there was a really clear vision that started from Keanu [Reeves], who had the idea for the character, and then [director Chad Stahelski] shared that vision,” Dillon told GameSpot. “We talked about the fact that they really wanted a character who could walk into a room and unsettle everyone, and intimidate everyone, with a quiet power and a quiet confidence. Because the vision was so clear, I felt really confident stepping into the role.”
“I love the idea of a character who doesn’t have to take up physical arms in order to be intimidating, and to be maybe the most intimidating person,” they continued.
That idea makes the Adjudicator unique in the High Table’s clandestine world of god-like assassins and crime bosses. The character’s authority stems partially from power itself; they speak for the High Table and carry out its will. But other powerful figures in John Wick’s world have picked up a gun and taken shots at John Wick when necessary, from John Wick 1’s Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) to Santino in John Wick 2. The Adjudicator never once personally threatens another character with physical violence, yet they command more authority just by virtue of their presence than any other villain in the series so far.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – Official Trailer
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Dillon said they played the character with quiet intimidation in mind. “I think it was really important for The Adjudicator to be really grounded physically, which for me involves a lot of stillness, and that their emotion isn’t lost in physical gestures–that it’s really coming through the articulation of their words, and the emotional intention of the scene–someone who has a quiet confidence, a quiet power, and is quietly intimidating,” the actor said. “I don’t see that person as someone who is sort of like, running around and bouncing off the walls physically. That is someone who, I think, is going to stand and deliver, so to speak.”
Dillon played the character like a “sheriff” to John Wick’s “cowboy”–a “force of justice,” or at least what the High Table views justice to be, in that world.
As for being non-binary, Dillon said that aspect wasn’t originally written into the character, but it was a natural fit.
“The character wasn’t written as non-binary, but through the discussions that I had with Keanu and Chad, and after reading the script, you know, it was just evident that this character didn’t need to be a cis person,” Dillon said. “It’s a credit to Chad and Keanu and everyone at Lionsgate that for them it was just, I mean, it wasn’t even something I had to convince them of. They just immediately said, like, ‘Yes, of course, no brainer.’
“The films have always been incredibly diverse, from the first one through this one,” they continued. “You have people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, ethnic backgrounds. There’s cultural diversity. I mean, there’s even diversity when it comes to the martial arts, you know–there’s Capoeira, and Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu. So adding gender diversity to the third film was just seamless.”
Like everything and everyone in these movies, the Adjudicator has a unique look. Dillon described it as “high femme, fashion foward.” The garments draped around the character’s shoulders, the gloves held in one outstretched hand–their clothes also contribute to the aura of authority, suggesting the Adjudicator never expects to be threatened physically or to need to defend themselves.
There’s one other aspect that makes the Adjudicator unique in the world of John Wick: Unlike almost every other character who challenges the assassin or stands against him, the Adjudicator actually makes it through John Wick 3 alive. There’s a good chance they’ll come back for the inevitable John Wick 4, although with the all-out war brewing between Wick and the High Table–judging by John Wick 3’s ending, at least–the Adjudicator might not make it through the next one.