As the clock ticked down to the sixth season premiere of 24, television’s most action-packed drama, Hollywood.com squeezed as many precious seconds as we could out of the show’s star Kiefer Sutherland.
Hollywood.com: Has the 24 team ever considered picking up a new season of the show literally the very next day after the previous season?
Keifer Sutherland: For me, I think that it would be fantastic to go immediately into the next day, but I think that we've asked our audience to take such a leap of faith in so many other areas of our show that for us it seems to be smarter to spread them apart.
HW: Will the new season pick up with Jack Bauer in Chinese custody, or will that be long past?
KS: Well, I don't really want to ruin any of that. There will certainly be stuff when I'm in Chinese custody. That'll certainly be things for the DVD. Whether they make them in for the season we'll have to see.
HW: Did they tell you how many years ahead it is this year? Is two months?
KS: We're looking at about a year to a year and a half.
HW: Is there anything different this season that you can talk about that's maybe thematic?
KS: The show is political. It's not that the show hasn't been political, but I think that last season it became political because people observing it drew political angle from it. I remember Joel Surnow, the writer, saying that it was really quite amazing to have the Right kind of adopt the show the way that they have, and then have so many people on the Left adopt the show for themselves as well, and that it's managed to run this kind of neutral political ground while having very strong political aspirations within the context of the show. This year there are a couple of statements that are very political. They are on purpose from the writers. I think that they chose to address a really interesting situation in our society.
HW: Do you think that it's interesting that people accept Jack Bauer's excesses—including delving into torture territory—and still consider him a heroic figure?
KS: I think that one of the things that is really important to understand about that character is that I've always believed that he wears the burden of those things, whether it was the killing of Chapelle, or that after a torture like that, there is a weight on him. It's like a little piece of him gets taken away every time. This is not how he likes to conduct his business, but he's done a very unique thing and I think that people appreciate that he cuts through bureaucracy and he gets to the point. How many times in a public trial have we seen what seems to be so obvious turned around and get convoluted and derailed and distracted? Again, you have to remember that it's a television show. In no way, shape or form am I saying that we should abandon due process and our civil liberties. I think that those are the great qualities of this country that make it a unique place and make it a special country that it is. But I do think that there is a frustration with the level of bureaucracy and Jack Bauer is certainly a character that manages to go through it as opposed to around it.
HW: Do you think that we need people like Jack Bauer?
KS: I think that we already have a lot of people like Jack Bauer. I mean, obviously this is a television show that's told in a very fantastical way, but I think that from every law enforcement across this country to the people that are in special forces, I think that we have a lot of men and women that are doing the work that is combined into this one character. I think that we have men and women all around the world doing incredibly hard work. We hear about the things that happen and I think that we luckily don't hear about how many things have not happened as a result of those people's work.
HW: What can you say about the planned 24 film?
KS: It's something that we really, really want to make. The real key difference would be that the 24 film would be a two-hour representation of a 24-hour day. It would be the first thing that we didn't do in real time. Mainly you have to understand that we're making two episodes every three weeks. We would have three months to make a two hour movie. Just to have that kind of time to really allow our cinematographer and our director and the writers to focus on such a finite thing and actually be able to do a film that really has a conclusion, I think, would be really exciting, not only for us to make, but I think that for an audience to see as well. But the thing that I'm most excited about that is that we're going to make it within the context of still running the show. I actually believe that the film and the show can actually coexist, and I'm sure for quite some time. I think that once that starts to happen, the dynamic between television and film will really change in a major way.
HW: Will the movie be a story outside of the television show?
KS: It'll be outside of the show. The writers are working on it now and I've heard rough ideas.
HW: Are you working on anything else right now outside of 24?
KS: This summer was the first summer that I didn't take a film. I really wanted to kind of take some time for myself and I really wanted to focus. I think that every year, we've always noticed it, the first four episodes get more and more difficult. We really needed to make those work. I wanted to work with Jon Cassar and the writers as much as they were available so that we would have as much of a head start as we could get when we started filming.
HW: When was the last time you were awake 24 hours straight?
KS: There is one day a season where we will stay up 24 hours trying to complete an episode and generally it's the 23rd or 24th episode. We've stayed up for 24 hours before, and imagine the adrenaline rush with the stakes that are involved for people who are dealing with counter terrorism. There is an amazing show on cable called The First 48 where you see detectives in everyday society dealing with homicides and they believe – well, not believe, but the numbers show them that if they don't find a suspect within the first 48 hours of a homicide the trail will go cold immediately. They show these cops and they're not sleeping in the 48-hour period.
HW: What's the closest to a day that you've ever come to 24 in your own life?
KS: Never. Maybe the day that my daughter was born. I was shooting Young Guns and my wife went into labor early and we were going to have a C-section, and she went into labor early and I was a horse and I was getting ready to shoot some guy. They pulled me off of the horse and they got me changed and threw me on a plane and flew me back Los Angeles. I got there within 20 minutes of having the baby. That was the biggest rush that I've ever been in. I think that I still had all this blood caked on my ear from the film and I remember when I walked in the hospital they first thought that I needed care as opposed to looking for the maternity ward.