Jack Bauer lives! The 24 television series has been off the air now for 4 years. The show premiered on FOX 13 years ago and went for 8 seasons and a tv movie. It also won Best Drama Series in both the Golden Globes and the Emmys. Kiefer Sutherland plays the main character, Jack Bauer. Each episode of the show covered an hour of Jack Bauer’s life as a Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) agent. It was very fast paced and the fans have been clamoring for more. There had been talks of a feature film for a couple years, but they could never make that come together. But, last May, they announced that there would be a 12 episode mini-series event. 24: Live Another Day has it’s two hour premiere tonight, Monday, May 5, at 8PM ET on FOX. Then next week it falls into it’s regular Monday night at 9PM ET time-slot.
I was able to participate in a conference call with Kiefer recently and learned a lot of interesting things, including his thoughts on why 24 is so popular and how he feels about playing Jack Bauer again. Please enjoy!
TwoCentsTV: Can you talk a little bit about over the years how many times fans asked you anywhere when is 24 coming back? Were you ever in some odd places where you couldn’t believe it was just all about Jack Bauer? And what kind of response to it have you had coming back?
Kiefer Sutherland: Well, I get it a lot. And it wasn’t just a question of whether or not 24 was coming back, I think it was more specific towards when is it, because I think people were anticipating a movie. And then with regards to where, that’s always amazed me. Even in the context of the promotion of another television show I did called Touch where I would be in Russia, you know, I had gone to a lot of different places, been to South Africa, I was always amazed how successful the show was and that it somehow managed to transcend culture, language, politics, religion, etc. I’ve never had another project that I’ve been a part of that has had that kind of international success, where arguably through Europe, Asia, and even parts of Africa, that was equally successful as it was in America, which I think is a really rare thing for an American television show. So, I’ve always been surprised by that. It’s also something I’m quite proud of. And then with regards to people kind of coming up, it was either one of two things. They would either say, oh, man, I really miss 24. And if they were going to say when is it coming back it was usually directed towards that of a film, meaning that the last thing I thought we were going to do is kind of another season. And I think fans were kind of surprised by that as well, and I hope in a good way.
TCTV: What is it about this character do you think that thrills people so much?
KS: I think he’s hugely relatable. Obviously, the circumstances are massively exaggerated, but I think all of us on some level feel a connection to a character like Jack Bauer because this is a guy who’s facing insurmountable odds and yet he goes into the fight regardless. And I think life kind of makes us feel like that too. Life is tricky. And I think the fact that he doesn’t always win. In the context of the first season, he managed to save the president, he managed to get his daughter back, but he lost his wife. A guy goes and gets a promotion at work and he’s very happy for a few minutes, but then realizes he doesn’t have time to take his son to football practice anymore. And I think there’s a kind of reality in that not winning that makes Jack Bauer incredibly relatable. And this is also a character that is—I’m so sorry—after 9-11 I think there was a real feeling of helplessness, and I think Jack Bauer, as a character, was kind of dogmatic and regardless of the circumstances was going to push forward. And I certainly found that comforting, and I certainly felt very helpless after 9-11 and there was kind of a great refuge for me in that character.
TCTV: If this is popular, and I expect it to be, people are so hugely excited about it coming back even in a limited way like this, and these 12 to 15 episode seasons are becoming more and more popular, is this something you would consider doing again? Would you consider having a second 12 episode season?
KS: I would never say no, because it’s just too easy for something to happen. But it is not something that I’m thinking about and it’s not something that I think Howard or anybody else is thinking about. I think once we realized we were going to do this and we actually started the process of obviously the writers with the scripts, Jon Cassar and myself doing our pre-production, we became so focused on trying to make these the best 12 episodes of 24, period, and we have four episodes left to do. I feel very, very strong about the first eight episodes that we have completed. Now, we just need to really bring it home. And then we’ll see where we’re at. I would never want to say, “No, I absolutely will not do that,” because I don’t know.
TCTV: How has the Jack Bauer we meet in 24: Live Another Day has changed from the guy that we knew in 24 and how is he the same?
KS: Well, I think there’s a very strong moral compass with Jack Bauer. Whether he is right or wrong he is going to do what he thinks is the right thing, and he’s going to do everything to the risk of his own life, that he’s going to do that to try and prevent whatever situation the day brings from happening. Having said that, there are two things that are very different structurally from this season to any other, and one of them is that Jack Bauer usually started off every season working within the infrastructure of whatever government agency he’s a part of, or in line with the president of the United States. And then that might shift, but he certainly always starts there. This season not only is he not working within the context of that infrastructure, that he’s actually working on his own, but the people that he’s trying to help are actually hunting him and they’re trying to either kill him or arrest him. And so that’s a really interesting dynamic. On a much more kind of intimate character level, Jack Bauer is just, he’s harder and I think angrier than he’s ever been. He’s had to hide in Eastern Europe for four years, he’s been estranged from his daughter and his grandchildren, he has not been able to go back to the country that he feels he served, and that kind of isolation has made him really hard. And that is something that you’ll see very early on in the first episode in the dramatically dynamic shift between the relationship between he and Chloe, and that’s explained very early on.
TCTV: Based on that and what we know about what Jack has been through, what is his motivation? Why does he still try and protect these people?
KS: Because, and I’m going to use a line and I’m going to ask you to just kind of use it judiciously in your interview, but it’s the only way I know how to explain it. The opening threat is he has uncovered a plot to kill and assassinate the president of the United States on British soil. And the fear of doing that, even if it’s an ally, but the fear of doing that on foreign soil could be tantamount to a world war. And he thinks that the ramifications, or the outcome of this event, if it were in fact to take place, would be global. He has a daughter and he has grandchildren who are alive, and those are some of the reasons that make him come out of hiding. He also has a profound respect for President Heller, and obviously Audrey, his daughter, is kind of the great love of his life. And those things all become addressed in the first two, if not four episodes. But, again, he believes that the threat that he’s uncovered is so egregious that it could start a world conflict, and that is his initial desire to become involved.
TCTV: In 20 years what do you want the legacy of 24 to be?
KS: In 20 years I would like it to still be watchable. I would like to have it, at least from a technical perspective, not be dated. In 20 years I would also like it to go back to what it was originally designed to do, which was be a piece of entertainment, as opposed to something that was reflective of something terrible that had happened. So, in 20 years I hope that we as a planet are back to that place. And then I hope from a technical level and from a creative level that we’ve done it in a way that it is something you’ll still want to watch. When I take a look at a movie like To Kill a Mockingbird, I can watch that movie, it being black and white doesn’t throw me, its performances are outstanding, the story is really important and special, and it has not dated itself at all to me. I would like 24 to kind of be the same thing. And please know that I’m not comparing 24 to To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m just saying in the sense of it not dating itself I would like that very much.
TCTV: If you were as skilled as your character, Jack, in real life and you had a similar event take place where you were fighting a terrorist, would you fight or take flight?
KS: Well, you know, I’ve thought about that in trying to understand and develop the character, and because I’ll be the first person to tell you, I am not Jack Bauer, by any stretch of the imagination. But one of the things that I had to try and figure out, to kind of help form the character, was what would I do if someone threatened or endangered my family, and more specifically my children. And that reaction is instinctual, it’s guttural, and I would fight to the death for that. And so that was a real framework for me in developing the character, in that he feels this incredible sense of responsibility, that he does have a skill set that will allow him to do a lot of things and conquer a lot of things. And when lives are at stake, and particularly in the context of our show sometimes thousands of people’s lives, he is very willing to die for that. That’s something I admire in the character. For me, the easiest way to kind of access that thought was to just imagine something happening, you know, a threat to my children. And in that context in the fight or flight, it would definitely be fight.
Anne Bayley – Assistant TO the Editor-in-Chief