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Interview with "24" Star Kiefer Sutherland

By Fred Topel

Interview with "24" Star Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland, the star of "24."

© 20th Century Fox

Until we get to the 24 movie, we'll have to tide ourselves over with weekly hours of Jack Bauer's real time days. Last season ended with Jack taken into Chinese custody to answer for the accidental death of an ambassador during one of his raids in Season Four. The Season Five DVD has a Season Six prequel of Jack in China, but no word on where Season Six will actually pick up.

Will there be anything tonally or thematically different this year?
“The one thing - the show is political. It’s not that the show has not been political but I think last season it became political, because people observing it drew a political angle from it. I remember Joel Surnow, the writer, saying it’s really quite amazing to have the right kind of adopt the show the way they have and then have the left, Barbra Streisand and so many people on the left adopt the show for themselves as well. And that it’s managed to run this kind of mutual political ground while having very strong political aspirations within the context of the show. This year, there’s a couple statements that are very political. They are on purpose from the writers and I think they chose to address a really interesting situation in our society.”

How do you find new aspects of Jack's character every year?
“A small example is the whole reintroduction of Audrey as a character and myself as a character that is alive. Every scene that I had with her, I wanted three beats or three lines to really play how much he loved her and how much he wanted to be with her, and the fourth beat would always be, ‘I can’t. The second this is over, I have to disappear.’ And then the next beat, the new measure would be, ‘I love her, I love her, I love her, I can’t. I love her.’ I know it sounds really simplistic but it’s not an easy thing to keep that meter in your head. Or maybe it is for others. It’s not for me. It takes me a minute to get into that groove, but I remember when it worked, Jon Cassar turned around and went, ‘What was that?’ It was just a complexity of playing two things at the same time which is not something normally as an actor, I’m a huge fan of not the obvious but sometimes things are obvious for a reason and I see some people avoiding it at such a cost that they miss the whole point of the characters. This has taught me to kind of try and find a blend of both.”

Are you worried that all the new serialized shows will eat away at your audience?
“I don't think people like the show because it’s serialized. I think people like the show because the characters are working and the writers do a fantastic job creating a world that they’ve found entertaining. Again, I can’t tell you how lucky that is. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I’ve never had an experience like this in my life. I certainly know I could have worked for another 20 and never had it. So I think again, it’s not a question of… Law and Order is a fantastic show and it was absolutely serialized in a perfect package episode to episode to episode. This is not, and I think they work in different milieus for their own different reasons. Again, I think it comes down to creating a situation that is interesting for an audience and ultimately creating characters that you care about that are in that situation.”

Does the political climate affect people’s interest in the show?
“Absolutely. I think escapism is a very broad word. I think all entertainment on some level is, and I think it can also be informative and I think it can be a variety of things. But absolutely. It was uncanny the timing of us coming out with our show and the terrible events of 9/11. It certainly awakened an ear in this country regarding terrorism that I don't think was as pervasive before. So yeah, absolutely. I think the world has changed incredibly since that terrible day and our show certainly deals with aspects of that. Again, in the context of a television show, not reality.”

What's the timeline for next season? How much time has passed?
“I think it’s about a year and a half.”

Will President Logan be back?
“Yeah, he will be on in some capacity.”

Will Jean Smart be back?
“She and Greg [Itzin] both, absolutely. I think that that was a really dangerous part and the fact is that she really did take it on as Mrs. Lincoln, the ultimate First Lady, and that was one of those great moments where you saw an actor instead of trying to defend herself from it, absolutely attack what could have been a death blow to that character. Just truly one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen and someone I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I think they both are going to be, in which capacity and how much I don't know. I don't know that yet.”

Is it still important to you to do interviews to promote 24?
“You know what? If I [didn't feel] that way, I wouldn’t have come here. I’m so grateful, I was saying earlier. We wouldn’t have been even picked up had it not been for this event 5 years ago. It was the energy that was kind of created out of the screening of the new pilot and by you guys that got Fox, because we were on the fence and we were teetering off it in the wrong direction. I’ll never forget that. This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and certainly I think the most amazing of my career to date. I’m really grateful for it.”

Anything else you can say about this season or about Jack?
“Certainly from Jack’s point of view, he’s at the end of his line. Something’s going to have to really rejuvenate him from the position that he’s in. So in that area, there’s going to be a character shift within the context of the show with his character. There has to be. Otherwise he’s just going to be dead. And he’s been put through it. So it’s going to be interesting at least to try to come from a very dark, really deep, dark place and actually try and come up as opposed to starting in an up position and going down. That’ll be different.”

Will there be another romance for Jack?
“That might be possible, but you also have to know that that doesn’t stop Kim [Raver] from coming back to do our show. She’s contractually free to do both shows, so we have to see what happens.”

How many more days can Jack handle?
That’s up to an audience. Me, I love doing it and I’m glad that they let me do it as long as they have.”

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