Becoming Jack Bauer is a much bigger challenge the second time around.
“Trust me, in the last few seasons of 24 he was a very hard guy [to play],” actor Kiefer Sutherland admits. “But he is even harder now.”
The problem? Well, much of it has to do with simply aging.
Kiefer will be 47 when he returns to the role after a four year absence for the new Fox series 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY.
“I started training five months ago,” he revealed this week at the annual Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena.
“I do a run every day, lighter weights, heavy repetitions… Everything I can for endurance. Because it is a grinding show and I am not getting younger.”
Kiefer says his workout routine has varied over the years.
“As you start to get older there are different things you have to do. I probably run a lot more now than I did back then. I probably used more weights back then. But again, everything is designed for endurance. I am in the best shape I have been in my whole life.”
Here’s more of what he had to share:
Did you miss Jack Bauer after 24 ended?
I knew that was going to happen when we ended the show for the first time. But we were tired. 24 episodes a year for 8 seasons… It was hard. [Jack Bauer] to me is associated not only in the character I get to play but [in] all of the other actors I got to work with, the crew I got to work with for 8 years… It was very difficult [to walk away]. So yeah, I am a little nervous going back — but very excited for the opportunity.
After taking four years off doing other things, were you sort of reminded about how much you had on 24?
No. Because I was fortunate enough to go and do things that I really cared about — MELANCHOLIA and THE RELUCTANT FUNDEMENTALIST. I really enjoyed my experience on TOUCH. They are all just very different. But you are absolutely right with regards to 24. I have never done anything in my career that has that kind of explosive reaction from an audience to a show like that and sustained over a long period of time. That made it very exciting as well. Unlike films where you make them in a vacuum and put them out there, audiences are watching 24 while we are making it. You just get a sense of it on the street. What people are liking and not liking. Or the reaction in the fist season when my wife was killed. People were very upset about that. But then they also said “Thank you. I didn’t expect it.” So it was a very collaborative experience with an audience.
Did you ever find yourself doubting that you would ever play Jack Bauer again?
I don’t think about it like that. I just always remembered it in that four year period as a really special time in my life. And then the opportunity to do it again is very exciting and very special and now very nerve-wracking.
With talk of the 24 movie, it seems like you will always be connected to this character?
I certainly will as an actor. It will be something I will be associated with for the rest of my life. And I am very proud of that.
What is Jack’s frame of mind like at the time that this begins?
He is very motivated. He has a very specific agenda. He has very much been operating on his own so he does not have the same kind of loyalty as a character that he might have in the previous eight seasons, certainly with regards to Chloe. I think he has had enough bad things happen to him that he really doesn’t trust anybody. And so I think he is even harder a character now than he ever was. Trust me in the last few seasons of 24 he was a very hard guy [to play] but he is even harder now.
Is it more difficult to play a hero or a villain?
Everything has to do with the writing and the context in which the characters maneuver. If the writing is good, it becomes unbelievably easy, and if there are problems in the writing — specifically with regards to structure — there are some leaps of faith you have to take and that inherently makes playing a character difficult.
People love you in this role. A lot of people have tried to copy it, but they never quite get it right. Have you thought about what you bring to the table that helps you connect with people.
That is something you would have to ask an audience person. Why do they like me in that role? It is really not for me to say. I can tell you why I connect with the character. I feel that Jack Bauer as a character has an unbelievably strong moral center. Why I can say that character is in fact apolitical is because everything that he has done has been about trying to accomplish a mission and that mission is always to save people. It is not because off someone else’s political agenda. In the third season he took down a president because he was corrupt. First two seasons he was desperately trying to save a president he thought was good. But in the end, the great dynamic of this character and what he has had to suffer is sometimes having to make those terrible choices where you allow ten people to be sacrificed in order to save 100. There are people in our world who have to make those kinds of decisions and he is one of them and I have always respected that.
Has Jack’s life been as eventful in the years since the original series ended?
No. He has been underground, hiding and had kind of accepted the fact that that was going to be the rest of his life. And he intercepted some intelligence that puts him in motion for this season.
What do you play in the POMPEII movie?
I play Senator Corvis, a Roman senator who goes to Pompeii to close a business deal and secure a wife. Kit Harrington plays the character of Milo who is in love with the woman who I am going to take. My character is kind of a fantastically not nice guy. It is huge. It is been some time since I have done a $100 million film.
What was it like working with your dad again on FORSAKEN?
There are so many different things. One of the sweetest things was I had called him the night before we started and said “I hope you have a great sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then there was a long beat and I said, “Just so you know I am really nervous.” And he said “Oh, thank God. Me too!” So we got to have that laugh and get that out of the way. He is a craftsman. He has such strong understanding of the material and writes such great backstory for his character and has such command over his voice. So it was like going to school for me.
As long as we are talking about your other bodies of work… I happened to catch your Cuervo tequila commercial. It made me chuckle…
It made me chuckle, too. [laughs]
What did you decide to do that?
I thought it was very funny. I thought the stories were very funny. And just really thought it was a really funny campaign and was proud to be a part of it.
24: Live Another Day premieres May 5 on Fox
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