Keifer Sutherland (24: Live Another day)

Keifer Sutherland: The Interview (24: Live Another day)

Keifer Sutherland scored his first major acting role in a Canadian drama entitled “The Bay Boy” in 1984 at the ripe age of 18 years old. That role earned him several award nominations and caught the attention of the world. Since then, He has starred in numerous movies such as “Lost Boys,” “Young Guns,” and “A Few Good Men.” However, his most recent notable role has Keifer playing a special agent named Jack Bauer in the hit TV show “24.” The show was last seen on FOX in 2010 before its supposed final episode, but the show is returning for a special 12-episode event starting May 5th at 8pm on FOX and it is being called “24: Live Another Day.” Shakefire had a chance to hear Kiefer talk about the special event and pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about the show.

Shakefire (SF): Hi Keifer! To start, can you talk about how many times fans have asked you when the show “24” was coming back? Also, what kind of response have you received since the show’s return with the 12-episode special event?
Keifer Sutherland (KS): Well, I got asked that question a lot. It wasn’t just a question of whether or not “24” was coming back, but I think it was more specific towards when is it coming back. I think people were anticipating a movie and then, with regards to where I’ve been asked that question, that’s always amazed me too. Even in the context of the promotion of another television show I did called “Touch,” where I would be in Russia, and even when I went to South Africa, I was always amazed how successful the show was and that it somehow managed to transcend culture, language, politics, and religion. 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.

SF: What is it about Jack Bauer 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. Also, 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. I think there’s a kind of reality in that not winning that makes Jack Bauer incredibly relatable. This is also a character where 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. 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.

SF: Would you consider doing another 12 to 15 episode season like “24: Live Another Day?”
KS: I would never say no, because it’s just too easy for something to happen. 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, we actually started the process of the writers with the scripts, Jon Cassar and myself doing our pre-production and then we became so focused on trying to make these the best 12 episodes of 24, period, and we still 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.

SF: If there were possibly going to be a “24” movie, how closely related would it be to the events of “24: Live Another Day?”
KS: They’re very different. The relation to where the script was for the film to what we’re doing for these 12 episodes is night and day. Having said that, I spent my whole career with “24” dealing with 20th Century Fox television production company, which is a very separate entity than the film company, and I dealt with the network. There wasn’t a lot of conversation with regards to the film, other than we had expressed a real desire to make one. I think that they were interested on some level, and for whatever reason, and I have no idea whether it was our story, whether it was what they had already in stock and ready to go out, I couldn’t exactly tell you why it didn’t happen. I just know that it didn’t.
Then Howard obviously came to me with this idea for this one last season, but I couldn’t exactly tell you why. You know, 20th Century Fox is a very big company and there are a lot of different divisions, and I’ve only worked with a few of them, and it wasn’t something that ever got so far down the line that I could point to one specific reason as to why that didn’t happen. I just know it didn’t.

SF: I was wondering how the Jack Bauer we meet in “24: Live Another Day” has changed from the guy that we knew in “24” and in what ways 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 season, 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. Then that might shift, but he certainly always starts there. This season not only is he not working within the context of that infrastructure, but that he’s actually working on his own and the people that he’s trying to help are actually hunting him and they’re trying to either kill him or arrest him.So that’s a really interesting dynamic.
On a much more kind of intimate character level, Jack Bauer is 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. 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.

SF: Interesting dilemma! What is Jack’s motivation then and why does he still try and protect these people?
KS: 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. 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. 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.
Jack also has a profound respect for President Heller, and obviously Audrey, his daughter, is kind of the great love of his life. 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.

SF: Last question, 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.
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. 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.

SF: Thanks for the clarification and I do not think you were trying to compare the two in that sense. Well, thank you so much talking with use and we cannot wait to see the first episode of “24: Live Another Day” on Monday, May 5th at 8pm on FOX.
KS: Thank you.

Paul Arca
Interview by Paul Arca
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