After years of playing the tough and resilient agent, Jack Bauer, who worked for the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit in Los Angeles, actor Kiefer Sutherland now does an about turn with his new TV series, Touch. In it he portrays Martin Bohm, a widower and single father, who works as a baggage handler at the airport.
Haunted by an inability to connect with his autistic, mute 11-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz), everything changes when Martin discovers that Jake possesses an extraordinary gift – the ability to perceive the hidden patterns that connect every life on the planet, and to predict upcoming events.
Kiefer spoke with the TV Critics about his new show, and told me about his upcoming 24 movie.
Were you looking to do another TV series?
I was doing a play on Broadway called That Championship Season, and I got a call from a great friend, a partner of mine, who I’ve worked with forever. And she said, ‘I have a television pilot that I think you should read.’ And I said, ‘I’m not ready to do that yet.’
I really wanted to set some time apart from the amazing experience that I had with 24 and try some different things. And she said, ‘Trust me. You have to read it.’ And I remember I was on page 35, and I went, ‘I’m in real trouble here,’ because it was just so beautifully written, and it presented itself as an opportunity.
Being identified with a role is a double-edged sword obviously, you’re glad people recognize you for the role, but you also want to move on. Did you feel, ‘I’ve got to get away from Jack Bauer so that’s not the only role people think I can do?’
The first time I read Touch, it showed me this unbelievable opportunity to play a very different character. But I had to read it a second time to make sure that all of the things that were affecting me, were affecting me on a personal level as opposed to trying to manage a career.
The second pass that I read the script had a profound effect on me. Does it happens to also be a nice diversion from 24? Yes. But I believe that the choice and the reason that I made the choice was because it spoke to me.
Jack Bauer has to keep his emotions in rein so often. With this role you get to show more emotion in one scene than you got to do in all the years of that. How different is this experience for you?
The opportunity that I had in 24 to have to repress all of this stuff and carry that with me informed the character beautifully for me.
To be able to have the antithesis of that and this opportunity now where he can openly show and have an emotional reaction to what is actually happening at this exact moment, is another fantastic opportunity.
The one thing I learned over the course of doing 24 was that these characters developed hopefully over a long period time. If we are lucky enough to be able to do the show for a few years, this character will grow.
So that is an aspect that I would like to see this character grow in. Very much like 24 where the repression was something that got heavier and heavier, this will hopefully become more open.
I guess in some way you’re still saving the world, though on a lesser scale, indirectly through your son.
Unwittingly. The real driving force for my character is to simply communicate with his son. He wants to have as normal a relationship as he possibly can with his son, which I think every parent can relate to. And the rest of the stuff is really for the audience to experience in how one thing can interconnect or affect another.
Do you see any parallels between Jack Bauer and Martin Bohm?
The one parallel that I can actually bring from the two characters is that Jack Bauer was asked to save the day, and there were always going to be casualties. So it was never going to have the perfect win.
Martin Bohm is never going to have the perfect, idyllic relationship with his son, and so there is a circumstance, a weight on both characters where they just will never completely win. And that is something that, for whatever reason, I am drawn to certainly as an actor.
24 quite creepily anticipated 9/11, this story seems very much a response to 9/11.
I think it speaks to this new age of communication, and having the messenger of hope be four foot, five inches, and less than 100 pounds, can’t talk, and if you touch him, you’ll peel him off the ceiling, was perfect.
I think it really does speak to how connected we are. I love phrases like “He was in the right at the right time,’’ or ‘He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ This show, there is no wrong place at the wrong time.
Things happen for a reason, and very much like the wilder-beast that is stung by a bee in the Serengeti and starts a stampede and creates a dust cloud that rises and carries over two continents and starts a storm in the Gulf, there is a cause and effect to everything.
I think, just on a fantastical level why I chose to do this show there’s something wonderfully comforting about thinking that everything has a purpose and that there is no small moment.
You said that part of the reason you wanted to do Touch was to step back from Jack Bauer. Does that preclude you from doing a 24 movie?
No, absolutely not. The reason for doing this is not because I wanted to get away from 24. The status of the movie is, hopefully we will start shooting the end of April, the beginning of May.
Is the movie a conclusion to the last season?
I see it as a continuation, I think the script that we’ve got right now, which I’m very excited about, is relatively a direct continuation, [it takes place] within six months from the end of that [last] episode and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Touch had a special preview last Wednesday, January 25 and will make its World Premiere Monday, March 19 2012 on Fox.The movie 24 is released in 2013.