Four years after 24 ended its popular eight-season run on Fox, the iconic Jack Bauer returns to the small screen in the event series 24: Live Another Day, debuting with a two-hour premiere Monday, May 5 at 8 PM ET on Fox. Following the conference call held by executive producers Manny Coto and Evan Katz, Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland, held his own conference call to discuss this 12-episode event series, that finds Jack as a fugitive in London, where he tries to thwart an assassination attempt on President Heller (William Devane).
After 24 ended in 2010, the actor revealed that he was always confident Jack Bauer would indeed be back, although he wasn't initially sure if it would be for a movie or a new TV series like 24: Live Another Day. Here's what he had to say about the fans who kept asking him when his beloved character would make his return.
"It wasn't just a question of whether or not 24 was coming back, I think it was more specific towards when is it, because I think people were anticipating a movie. And then with regards to where, that's always amazed me. Even in the context of the promotion of another television show I did called Touch where I would be in Russia, you know, I had gone to a lot of different places, been to South Africa, I was always amazed how successful the show was and that it somehow managed to transcend culture, language, politics, religion, etc. 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. And then with regards to people kind of coming up, it was either one of two things. They would either say, oh, man, I really miss 24. And if they were going to say when is it coming back it was usually directed towards that of a film, meaning that the last thing I thought we were going to do is kind of another season. And I think fans were kind of surprised by that as well, and I hope in a good way."
When asked about why he thinks Jack Bauer is so beloved around the world, the actor had this to say.
"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. And 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. And I think there's a kind of reality in that not winning that makes Jack Bauer incredibly relatable. And this is also a character that is-I'm so sorry-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. And 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."
While Manny Coto and Evan Katz stressed in their conference call that this limited series is a one-time only event, the actor revealed that he would be open to revisiting Jack again.
"I would never say no, because it's just too easy for something to happen. 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 obviously the writers with the 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. 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. This decision I made this time was really because of (executive prodcuer) Howard (Gordon)'s conviction that he had a great story to tell. So, there are so many other factors involved, I guess, is my point."
He also spoke about the 24 movie that was in development at one time, before 24: Live Another Day was born.
"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, so, there wasn't a lot of conversation with regards to the film, other than we had expressed a real desire to make one. And 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. And 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."
When the series begins, Jack is a fugitive, with the government closing in on him when he pops back on the grid in London. When asked how his character has changed from the original series to now, the actor had this to say.
"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, 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. And then that might shift, but he certainly always starts there. 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. 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."
The original 24 series debuted just a few months after the 9-11 tragedy, at a time when many thought Americans needed to see a hero like Jack Bauer on the air. The television landscape has changed drastically since then, with popular anti-heroes dominating the airwaves. When asked how Jack Bauer fits into the current TV climate, Kiefer Sutherland had this to say.
"That remains to be seen. 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. And 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. So, in all fairness, it's going to be much easier to answer that question in the next few weeks. One of the things that I've always admired about Howard and Evan and Manny with their writing is that they do manage to have quite a very current political discussion within the context of the show. And even though it doesn't necessarily permeate my storylines, but we're dealing with Edward Snowden, we're still obviously dealing with torture, we're dealing with drones, and those conversations are being represented by all sides, so, I think that that's a really interesting part of the show, and it will be interesting to see how an audience processes that. I personally have to wait to kind of weigh in on that until that in fact happens, and that's going to start Monday."
The actor was also asked about what he hopes 24's legacy will be 20 years from now. Here's what he had to say, revealing he hopes the show is still relevant.
"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. And 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. And 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."
The actor had revealed in previous interviews that the show's success in the U.K. was a main factor in its longevity. With this new event series taking place in London, the actor revealed that he was very pleased with the new setting.
"It made me smile. I mean, if there was a place that I thought deserved our attention, I thought London was it. And when I say it was instrumental in the longevity of the show, it was a hit out of the box in London. It was a huge success. And as you guys all know, picking a show up for a second season is a monumental investment by a network, not just financially but literally in every aspect. And I think 24 was on the fence, and its success kind of, in other places in Europe and ultimately in Japan as well, were instrumental in that decision to pick it up for a second season, which we were really grateful for. So, when I heard that we were going to shoot it in London, there was part of me that felt that that was very fitting."
In previous seasons of 24, there was often an enemy who was working against Jack from the inside. While the actor wouldn't tease who the villain in 24: Live Another Day, he did say that there are more than just one adversary he is going up against.
"I can't tell you who that's going to be because that would just ruin the whole thing. But what's interesting again this year is it's multi-layered. It usually used to be one person. And this year all I can tell you is it will surprise you, I think, and it's multi-layered. It's more than one person."
24: Live Another Day debuts with a two-hour premiere on Monday, May 5 at 8 PM ET on Fox.