Is the world ready for a kindler, gentler Jack Bauer? Not really. Kiefer Sutherland is back in the saddle again as terrorist-fighting government agent Jack Bauer in the action-thriller series “24,” which returns January 17 for its eighth season on Fox at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time. In “24” this season, the possibility of peace in the Middle East will be a recurring theme, but as “24” executive producer Howard Gordon says, that doesn’t mean Jack Bauer still won’t “blow sh*t up.”
In July 2009, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the stars of the “24” gathered for a panel discussion, and (not surprisingly) the hot topic was what happens in the show’s eighth season. Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub (who plays Chloe O’Brian), Freddie Prinze Jr. (who plays Cole Oritz), Katee Sackhoff (who plays Dana Walsh) and Anil Kapoor (who plays Iran President Omar Hassan) couldn’t give away any major spoilers, but the direction that “24” will take in Season 8 was discussed when they answered questions from a moderator and members of the audience. Sutherland also addressed the possibility of there being a “24” big-screen movie and whether or not his famous father (actor Donald Sutherland) will ever make a guest appearance on “24.”
Kiefer Sutherland in “24”
Jack went through a lot in Season 7, from reuniting with his daughter to being affected by biohazard. Was there any particular highlight that you were happy to play or you felt showed a new facet to Jack?
Sutherland: I think one of the things Howard [Gordon, one of the executive producers of “24”] and I talked a lot about last year was trying to figure out how to get Jack back to a place where living mattered. His life had been crushed so badly over these last seasons, and so the introduction of the Annie Wersching’s character, Renee [Walker], was fantastic, because … she’s such a fantastic actress, and the fact that she was an equal to him allowed them to develop a relationship, and you wanted it to work. And we knew it would be a main part of Season 8. So there was a reason to live.
The reconnection with his daughter, which I thought was fantastic, made dying very difficult for him. So that was a fantastic thing to be able to play. So those kinds of components that mattered a great deal in development of those relationship, because they took on those sides. So those were fantastic from last [season]. And everything from season to season is also thought of in the perspective of, “What are we going to do next year, and how is it going to play out?” Seasons 7 and 8, probably more than any other seasons we’ve done before, are really connected together. The storylines from Season 7 really play through Season 8.
Anil Kapoor and Cherry Jones in “24”
Anil, what attracted you to play the character of Omar Hassan, the president of Iran?
Kapoor: It’s an honor to be in this show. I’ve been a great admirer and big fan of “24,” and I think I’m very, very fortunate to be in the show. I was asked by Howard and [he says jokingly] the entire “24” team.
Freddie, you were a big fan of “24” before you were cast in the show. How does it feel being on the other side of the screen now?
Prinze: It’s not a huge secret that I’ve been a big fan of the show from the beginning, and engrossed with it with my wife from Season 1 … We were sitting there watching Jack Bauer save the world, and I remember saying to her, “It would be great to be on that show one day.” Not that I thought there would be an opportunity or chance, because I was acting as talking animals and stuff, so hen the opportunity came around, I jumped at it and gave it all I got. I’m incredibly grateful to [Kiefer Sutherland and Howard Gordon], and I hope you guys love the show.
As far as my character goes, his name is Cole Ortiz, and he’s field ops for CTU [Counter Terrorist Unit]. He’s an ex-Marine. I think he’s the kind of guy who went into the Marine Corps, like a lot of young men did, with a lot of rage and a lot of anger. And those feelings were replaced by what the Marine Corps did to him: discipline and control, and [those] are the qualities I’m trying to bring to the guy. I happen to have a cousin in the military who’s over there [in the Middle East] right now whom I’m trying to patter myself after.
Katee Sackhoff and Freddie Prinze Jr. in “24”
Katee, can you talk about your “24”character and how you ended up on the show?
Sackhoff: I think I found out there was a role — it’s a long story, but I basically called my manager and said, “Get me on ‘24’!” Through a long process, I finally ended up on the show. I play Dana Walsh … who is engaged to Cole, and she is a data analyst at CTU, and that’s all I can tell you. I don’t want to give too much away. All I can say is that I sat down in the writers’ room with Howard and everybody, and I said, “This is fantastic! At some point I need a gun, because I’m starting to feel completely naked.” The stuff is great and I love saying all those big, complicated words — not really — but I need a gun. And two, preferably.
Mary Lynn, how is it being a real-life, first-time mother and having Chloe O’Brian being a mother on the show? And what’s next for Chloe in Season 8?
Rajskub: I’m happy to be back on the show in general. And yeah, I’m a mom, on and off the show, and I’m bringing it with me. And my character starts off a little bit behind, if you can believe that, for being such a genius, because I’ve been a home with my son and I’m back at CTU to relearn some stuff from my boss here [she points to Sackhoff]. That’s been really fun. I’ve been really loving the scripts so far, and I’m just excited that [“24”] is still so smart, there’s still so much energy behind, and it’s been really fun with the stuff I’ve shot so far.
Katee Sackhoff and Mary Lynn Rajskub in “24”
Kiefer, you’re also an executive producer on “24,” so how involved do you get in how the storylines go? Can you talk about Season 8, for example?
Sutherland: For me, one of the things that has been really fantastic since “24” has been made since Season — and I really attribute this to Joel Surnow, the creator of the show — the writers write, the directors direct, the actors act, the editors edit. He hired the people he wanted for those jobs, and there is such a mutual respect for all the people involved that I really don’t get that involved in the early process. Howard and everybody else are considerate enough to run an idea by me. But literally, they run through the first two scripts until they’re at a place where they like them.
Season 8 was specifically difficult. I think there are about four different incarnations of that first script. There’s a process that’s very difficult to go through that they have to work out. We have found that the least amount of intervention in that process expedites it and makes it easier for them. Obviously, once we start to put stuff on the floor, [I] get very involved.
Kiefer Sutherland at the 2010 Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena California, in January 2010
Are there any plans to turn “24” into a film series, like James Bond?
Sutherland: There’s been a lot of work done on behalf of Fox and us as well, researching ideas for a film or potential film franchise. Certainly, with regards to the Bond thing, they’re in the same genre. I think for us, the energy it requires to make 24 episodes a year, to create them to shoot them and all of that, we agreed (I think after Season 2) that we would put any real planning aside until we felt that the series was in fact going to end or that we would be finished with that. Outside of people saying, “Wouldn’t this be a cool idea for a film?,” it really hasn’t gone father than that. We have been made aware that there is some interest out there, and we certainly would love to make it.
Kiefer, how does it feel to be the manliest man on the planet, Jack Bauer?
Sutherland: I play the manliest man on the planet. This character has been absolutely perfect. It allows you to do certain things that you would not try to do in your real life. It’s been a gift of a lifetime. It really has. The support that we’ve had just as a show, and certainly the support I’ve had as an actor playing this character, has been phenomenal. There are some things, some scenes that are pretty cool. I don’t know too many actors who can chop off someone’s head and put it in a duffel bag to use as evidence. Once you play a character that behaves like that, the sky’s the limit — and that’s been an awful lot of fun.
Kiefer Sutherland at the “24” Season 7 finale party in Los Angeles, May 2009
Katee, you were involved in “Battlestar Galactica” from the beginning of that series. How did you feel joining the “24” cast after the show had been for several years?
Sackhoff: It’s been interesting. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms. I said the other day that I couldn’t have found another experience that was so much like “Battlestar Galactica,” in the sense that it’s a family, the hours are kind of similar, and I really, really enjoy working with everyone and everyone enjoys working with each other. So it’s just a very seamless transition for me to come into. It’s been really nice.
Katee, after playing a strong-but-feminine woman with Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica,” how are you going to bring those qualities to your Dana Walsh character in “24”?
Sackhoff: Starbuck was so much fun, and she was so strong, and it was kind of my therapy to go to work and beat people up. It really was. I kind of miss beating people up. This character [Dana Walsh] is not that. I think every character you play on television has a little bit of yourself, because I think it’s a little easier to go to work and play this character. It’s just a side of yourself. So this is just the sweeter side of myself, for a while. I can’t give too much away. I don’t want to say too much. Seriously, I might get fired. I have no job security whatsoever. On “24,” you can get your head cut off and put in a duffel bag for evidence.
Mary Lynn Rajskub in “24”
Chloe, Season 7 of “24” had a redemption theme. Is there a theme for Season 8?
Rajskub: Totally party! … When life gives you lemons, make lemonade … CTU is looking pretty cool.
Kiefer, when can we look forward to seeing your dad, Donald Sutherland?
Sutherland: [He says jokingly] The man has made 100 some-odd movies. You can see him anytime you want. [He says seriously] On the show? There was actually a moment where I had a dad on the show already, so I think to have him [Donald Sutherland] play anything other than my dad — if you’ve seen a picture of the two of us, it would be kind of awkward. We’d be getting back to the “Star Trek” thing. So I don’t see that happening.
There was an opportunity in Season 6. We came so close [to having Donald Sutherland on “24”], and it was a scheduling issue. It was when he was doing “Dirty Sexy Money,” and we almost had him. It was something I was really, really excited about and pushed very hard for it. Our schedules are so tight. We couldn’t make it work. So I think the opportunity to make it happen on “24” has passed, unfortunately. But again, he’s made over 100 films, and you can see them anytime you want.
Kiefer Sutherland at the 2010 Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena California, in January 2010
Any last words?
Sutherland: I just want to take a moment to say, “Thank you so much.” The last eight years of my life as an actor, as a person, have really been the best years of my life, and that is because you guys have supported us in the way you have, and I can never tell you [enough] how grateful I am.
One thing about Season 8 … one of the things that’s most interesting to me about this season is we’ve had some amazing scenarios that are pretty far-fetched [in past seasons, but] this season is more grounded in what can possibly happen in the world, but there’s a sense of reality in Season 8 that really brings us back full circle to Season 1 … Basically, the threat centers around the peace conference at the U.N. [United Nations], and it is being headed by the president of the United States and the president of Iran, and the rest of the day takes forth at that point.
I’m always amazed to see what Howard and everyone else has written, and six months later, what was taking place in the general election, and how thematically, how these guys [the “24” writers] seem to be in tune with the world. And they’ve done it for this year. I think we all have a great hope that this peace will happen, and when those opportunities present themselves, they’re also threats. That’s basically what our season is about, and we’re really excited to show it to you. Thanks again for everything.
For more info: “24” website
RELATED LINKS ON aerochug.com:
Interview with Mary Lynn Rajskub, May 2009
Interview with Mary Lynn Rajskub, May 2010
“24” news and reviews
Photo credits: Photos #1, 7: AP. All other photos: Fox.