Kiefer Sutherland on Jack Bauer, the Return of 24, and More
By Merrill Barr on May 5, 2014
With the return of hit series 24 in the form of a 12-episode limited series event, Em>24: Live Another Day, happening around him, it’s no wonder everyone wants to get the two cents of Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland. In a sit-down earlier this week, the actor broke down what it was like to return to the character that made him a household name, navigating the ground-breaking series in a world full of shows like Game of Thrones, and much more.
“I think he’s hugely relatable,” said Sutherland in regards to why he feels Jack has thrilled audiences so much over the years. “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.” Sutherland went on to add, “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. 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.”
Of course one of the major reasons 24 was let go by Fox in 2010 was because there were big screen plans in the future of Jack Bauer. Obviously those plans never came to fruition, but Sutherland did offer some thoughts on how the scrapped film and this new 12-episode event series differ. “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 production company (20th Century Fox Television), which is a very separate entity than the film company, and I dealt with the network, so, 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 Gordon] obviously came to me with this idea for this one last season.”
Being on the run for four years will make any man go a little crazy, so how did Jack deal with it? “I think there’s a very strong moral compass with Jack Bauer,” said Sutherland. “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. 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.”
Sutherland then elaborated in a deeper context, “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.”
On a more cultural perspective, Kiefer did ponder on where Jack fits in the television landscape now in a world filled with Homelands, Breaking Bads and Game of Thrones, “You know, I don’t know…. I think you’re going to have to wait for that kind of reaction, because in all fairness we had shot five months of 24 before the terrible events of 9/11 and after that terrible day. We personally thought that the show was over and we shouldn’t do it, because it was too close to something that had really happened. We were very surprised to see the audience reaction, and critic reaction to the show early on, and somehow there was something that made Jack Bauer’s character quite cathartic and actually a positive for once, and it was not what we were expecting.”
Finally, the big question is, is this really the last we’ll see of Jack Bauer in a live-action form? To that, Sutherland had this to say, “I would never say no, because it’s just too easy for something to happen.” Adding, “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 working with the writers on 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. 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.”
24: Live Another Day premieres tonight, Monday, May 5th at 8/7c on Fox.