Mary Lynn Rajskub Talks the Series Finale of 24
First question, in Jack's big speech at the end he tells Chloe how he never dreamed when she first showed up how important she would be to him. I was wondering if you can relate to what your expectations were, you as Mary Lynn Rajskub, the actress, when you first showed up on the set? In retrospect are you surprised as Jack was?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Absolutely, I like that perceptive parallel there, and I think that's absolutely true. I'm going to use that in interviews from now on because it kind of mirrors real life in that way because when he says that speech to me that was exactly how I felt about this whole job. I had no idea when I started, and I think that's kind of truthful to what the character has been and what this job has been for me, starting out with four episodes and then six episodes and thinking I was going to be fired. I'm just the geeky computer tech weird kind of by-the-book girl when I first started, but people were really annoyed because they people in their office that you remind me of this annoying person that works in my office with me to then be Jack's most loyal helper for lack of a better word that's not coming to my mind, the confidant and friend. It's been pretty amazing and unexpected for sure.
When you begin a new season, how much thought do you put into Chloe's outfits for the day given that's obviously an important consideration because that's pretty much what you're stuck wearing for a season.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: We give so much thought. As soon as I have my outfit for the year, I'm already thinking about next year's outfit.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I think that's exactly what the producers have talked about in the different press panels and things that I've read and talked about. They didn't think it was going to go, and I think that's exactly the reason why it did go because it was original. It was different. It was well done. It was a passionate project, and if you were around at every level from the producers and the writers to the camera crew to Kiefer, those are all key players that set the tone and the passion to make this concept that could've been a terrible idea. It could have really fallen apart, but instead turned into this wonderful thing that, okay, two years, three years, five years in it's like, okay, we've got to do this 24-hour concept again and make it fresh. I think that's part of, viewers can feel that, that it's challenging them, and it has the familiarity with all the plot lines that they burn through and all the characters that died. That's the thing that holds it is this concept that you know it's on this time clock and how're they going to make it work and how're they going to make this fresh again. I think that's kept it exciting all this time.
Chloe O'Brian's a very quirky character, and you're known for injecting a lot of humor, definitely intentionally I'm sure in some cases intentionally with the character. Can you talk about how much of your own personality you put into Chloe and if you and the producers and even the writers, how do you all discuss trying to interweave Chloe's quirky personality that creates a little bit of comedy with the serious gravity of what's going on in the show, presidential assassinations and nuclear bombs?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: The second part of that question first is that there's surprisingly little discussion form the get-go besides the fact of the rocky beginning, not rocky, but just not knowing if this character was going to stay, if it was going to work, but once Chloe was sort of in there as a character, there was very little discussion. There was just a lot of trust on both ends that I would, sometimes I would see the stuff that they wrote for Chloe to say which I think they had a lot of fun doing because of the nature of the show. When they would get these little lines of humor, I think that became very fun for both of us, and sometimes I would look at what she would say and not believe that anyone would say that as me in real life. Then once I got the costume on and got on set, it was like finding a way to deliver the stuff while remaining as intensely involved in the events that were happening was really fun. As for the first part of the question, I was doing comedy. Before that I was doing performance art. I did acting as a kid, but I went to school for painting, so my whole approach to performing is very organic. It's kind of based on comfortable nervous character that I started out as in my standup routines where I would stand on stage and say, "What do you guys want? What do you want from me?" I would get laughs by simply saying my name because I was generally very nervous, truly, and then that became somewhat of a device, but that's very much a part of me and a huge part of my personality. I definitely use that in the construction of the character, and that's just my style of acting is very natural. It was imaging what would I be like as a computer expert, trying to imagine what would I be as a computer expert in these crazy high-stakes situations.
Have there been any discussions regarding Chloe possibly making an appearance in the 24 feature film?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Well, I hope say for gosh sake. I've not heard much, but I am very much hoping that I will be involved. I think that could be very interesting to see how that happens.
I wanted to ask about 24 the film. I know you addressed it a little bit, but more specifically, why do you think 24 the series, which we're going to see the finale of, why do you think it'll work in a film format and what you've heard from Kiefer and the executive producers about how excited they are or not excited for a film and what you think the show will be able to do on a big screen that it wouldn't be able to on television or vice versa, so just a little bit more about the movie.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Sorry, can you hear my dog? Hi, Ginger, come here. I'll be right out. Well, when I watch 24, it feels like a film because there's so much going on. I think it really was groundbreaking in the filming of it and with the 24 which would seem like sometimes when you have a narrow concept like that it forces them to cut to all these different stories that are happening simultaneously and makes it that much more exciting. How are they going to make it into a film? I have no idea, and I've not talked to anybody about that. I know that Kiefer's really excited. I did an interview for Extra TV yesterday, and he told me that Kiefer told him that there were three movies. They're planning on three, and so I always kind of get my news from what has already been said in the press. In that regard I'm sure you guys know more than me, so please let me know if you hear that I'm in the movie. Please call me at home any time day or night. Yes, I'm kind of out of the loop, but I think it could be interesting and a creative challenge to see how they would handle that.
You've gotten to do a lot of things that people playing computer nerds don't usually get to do. You've gotten to wield a gun, and you got to be choked in this last episode. Is any of that hard to do? Do you have to learn of figure out how to wield a gun or how to safely be choked?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Well, luckily for me my character is not supposed to be able to do all those things, so I can get away with being a little bad at it which also I think it's kind of fun, not that I would be opposed to actually learning. For the choking and stuff like that, Kiefer is very good at all that stuff and very used to doing that, so I just kind of follow his lead and do what he tells me to do pretty much. That's how that goes. I learned from him.
I just wanted to ask, what is your favorite moment as Chloe throughout your time on the series?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I've been getting a lot of those kinds of questions lately, and I have more fun kind of coming up with a moment that's in my memory. I've twittered that, and then I get back like 12 moments that the fans remember that I didn't even remember. Certainly, having the gun and having to be on the run and on location was great. Edgar's death is something that people remember, and that was a very kind of a turning point I think for my character, watching him die was hard. I've just liked it better and better, and it's all kind of a big mush in my head, but this year it's been a whole new set of things which is amazing that there's so much left to explore in having those extra responsibilities and weighty questions of how to deal with. That was a whole new set of cool moments.
You've been on the show for such a long time now, and you've worked with so many great people over the years. I'm wondering aside from Kiefer, who'd be in your top three favorite actors/characters that you've worked with on 24?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I really don't like favorite questions. I get really stressed out or like what are your favorite bands or favorite movies. I feel not good about that. What have been my favorite characters to work with? I think I kind of pretty much deal with what's happening right now, so I'm going to go with the people that I worked with this year, Mykelti Williamson and Katee Sackhoff and John Boyd was a great character, Arlo, this year. I'm always very close to the people that I'm in CTU with over the years, Reiko and Carlos Bernard and James Morrison. We always have a special bond because we do all of our scenes indoors with all of the computers and all the screens whereas there's a whole other world of action stuff that we're not really privy to. Freddie Prinze Jr. I had a great time working with this year, Eric Balfour, Marisol Nichols. I think that's enough people and more.
You mentioned Carlos Bernard earlier, so just very quickly I wanted to ask because he had to fight to save his character's life last season. Did you ever have a beef with the script in front of you in your point in the last several seasons, whether it was going to be killed off of character disappeared. Did you ever have to fight to save your character's life or have it changed?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: No, and I think that's kind of funny you should say that. I think it's worked in my favor that I haven't fought for stuff. I've kind of hoped for stuff, but I've been pretty hands-off. I was not one of the people who walked up to the producers' rooms and knocked on the doors and had big conversations. I was very impressed that Carlos did that, maybe a little bit jealous, like he just talked them into making his character come back to life. I thought that was pretty ballsy and pretty awesome, but I'm very happy with what's happened to my character. There have been certain years maybe where I wish I would've been able to do more, but at the same time, I was very happy that I kind of was always that anchor in CTU. I don't feel bad about maybe leaving them wanting more as well as wanting more myself, but I think this year I've gotten to do a lot that I didn't before which is great.
So you talked a little bit about how you have hoped for story lines in the past, but you've never really requested. I'm wondering what you would hope if you could choose anything for Chloe, what direction you want her to go into in the movie.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: That's a great question. I should be thinking about that as a positive affirmation in order to make that happen, right? Maybe I'd have an eight pack. That's so weird and so not a feminine thing to say, be super muscular and super tan, maybe a lot of hair extensions and a machete and a bikini. In all honesty it'd be fun to do some action I think, a little, still be like super computer expert maybe on the move and get some action in there as well.
Your character has had this amazing, wonderful connection with Jack and of course your connection with Kiefer. I'm wondering how that really has continued throughout the seasons and how that's evolved for you both with your character's relationship with Jack and yours with Kiefer's.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Good question. I'm afraid I might have a disappointing answer, not really. I was going to say because my relationship with Kiefer has kind of remarkably been the same that it's been since I met him which is on set when he's playing Jack Bauer very intense, a little bit scary, keeps you on the edge of your toes, immediately just a very impressive guy in terms of his commitment to the story and making it good and keeping the pace. I was probably a little bit more scared of him when I first started than I ended up being, so that would be a change because he's a sweetheart. He helped me get over, there was a hump sort of. I talked about it a lot from being a computer geek in CTU to then helping Jack. What was I talking about? Sorry. He helped me with the emotional stuff and the high intensity that I had never done before, like when I had to look at his computer screen and kind of be watching my friend being hurt. I told him that I was really nervous to do that, and he stood off camera. He coached me through that to help me to kind of how he talked as if I was watching what was happening on the screen. You know what I'm saying and helped me be a better actor and learn how to do that.
Are you going to miss these long hours and days that you've been spending on the show 24?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes, absolutely, and I think leading up to knowing this was going to happen I was nervous in my head about the next job and the next paycheck and very practical things like that. Then when it actually came to an end it really was all about the crew and the show and missing that experience more than anything. That kind of sneaked up on me and was really very emotional. Yes, I will miss that.
What place do you think 24 has in TV history?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I think it has a large ... in TV history. There's a really eloquent answer that someone's given to the question which I'm not going to be able to give, but I think a groundbreaking show just in terms of the way it was filmed, in the storytelling, and I think it kind of raised the bar for that genre of shows. I think there's nothing like it. Countless people have come up to me and told me the 24 marathons that they've had. One girl said she gets together with her college roommates, and they bond over watching 24 all these years together. I think that's all I'm going to say about that.
24 is known for killing off its characters regardless if it's a main star or a co-star. I'm wondering if there was at any point over your stay on the show were you ever significantly concerned with Chloe being written off the show.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I like that choice of words, significantly concerned. Using that word I would say no. I was not ever significantly concerned, but I would sometimes out of nowhere have a little panic, like, oh God, what if die? I think for the first few years, like I said, it was more a worry of just being picked up again because they could've easily have just phased me out too. That's the beauty of 24. It's only one day. They could come back the next season and just not have me there. That was a great blessing and compliment to me that they'd have me back in the place where I worked where they would have a whole new staff almost every year. That was exciting. I maybe stupidly, naively believed that I wouldn't get killed because I was in CTU, but we all know bad things happen in CTU, so maybe I falsely believed that I wouldn't, but then again not because I'm still here.
You can watch Mary Lynn Rajskub on the series finale of 24, which airs on Monday, May 24 at 8 PM ET on Fox.