24: Live Another Day resets the ticking clock for a groundbreaking and thrilling new event series, premiering on Fox on May 5th. Set and shot in London, heroic agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is back, but not a fugitive from justice. Willing to risk his life and freedom to avert yet another global disaster, Jack needs the help of his old CTU confidante Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), if he’s going to keep CIA head Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) and CIA agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) off his trail. The show also stars William Devane, Kim Raver, Tate Donovan, Giles Matthey, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Michael Wincott, Stephen Fry and Michelle Fairley.
During this recent interview to promote the premiere of this event series, executive producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto talked about how the actors approached things, this time around, what they were most excited about, with the show returning, how the current political world helped in crafting this story, what makes this 12-hour format more exciting, why they decided to take the show to London, how Jack Bauer fits into the world now, why viewers who have never seen 24 will still enjoy this season, and how they approached this as a one-time thing, but they are open to the possibility of future seasons. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
EVAN KATZ: I think that Kiefer [Sutherland] wanted to make sure that he understood where the character had been and that there was somewhere interesting to go with the character, when we sat with him. And for Bill Devane, the same was true. We’re doing something interesting with his character that we don’t want to reveal. He’s the President, but there’s another big issue that he’s wrestling with. And it was the same for Kim Raver and Mary Lynn [Rajskub]. Mary Lynn’s character has had quite a radical journey, which over the first three episodes becomes clear. For Kim Raver, the last time we saw her, she was catatonic. So, of course, she came in and we chatted with her about what she had been through. Before everyone shipped off to London, we were all on the same page.
The fans couldn’t be happier that the show is coming back, and the critics are excited that the show is coming back. What excited you guys about bringing the show back?
MANNY COTO: A lot of things excited us. Even though when season 8 finished, we were tired and ready to move on, I think all of us felt that there was more to this story and that Jack Bauer was not quite ready to shuffle off the stage. Of course, there was talk of a movie, so it was generally agreed that there would be more. And when this came around, I think a lot of our thoughts that had been percolating over the years bubbled forth. [Evan and I] both experienced people coming up to us saying, “I wish that show were still on the air. I miss the show. I miss Jack Bauer.” So, when the opportunity appeared, we had a reservoir of ideas and thoughts about this character and where he would be now, that we were able to draw on. It’s particularly exciting because he was a fugitive and on the run from his own government. He’s a man who had saved the United States multiple times, and that same country has turned its back on him. That is a fantastic dynamic to start a series with, and it’s something that we seized on and that really energized us. At the same time, there’s the idea of Chloe O’Brian also being a fugitive, almost as much of a fugitive as Jack, having turned her back against the government, as well. You take those two characters and say to yourself, “There is an event that requires the two of them to work together and come back together to try to help the government and save Americans, but at the same time fighting the very government that gave them this opportunity,” it’s a great dynamic that we’ve decided to explore.
24 has always been very vested in what’s been going on in the political sphere. What kind of shifts in the political world were you interested, in the last couple of years, and how did they inform the crafting of the new season?
COTO: There were a number of political developments, over the years, that we seized upon when we started conceiving the season. There were things that were in the zeitgeist, things that were talked about, and things that we felt could lead us to a really interesting possible villain and character for the season. That is the whole idea of government spying on its citizens with technology, and consequently the individuals who appear to be trying to fight that and to counter that. That led us to a fascinating character in the season, who is doing just that. And it also gave us an idea for what to do with Chloe O’Brian. Like Jack, she is someone who has turned against the government. Jack is a man of action, so when he turns against the government, he goes in a different direction. Chloe is someone who lives behind the keyboard, so how does she get revenge? Well, she goes the Edward Snowden route. So, it opened up some interesting possibilities for Chloe. And also, there is the idea of drones, which have become larger in the military landscape since the show was on. I think we featured a drone in one season, in the first eight years. But at that time, the drones were smaller and flimsier and didn’t look particularly menacing. Now, the drones that are in operation now are large, menacing things from the sky that can blow up entire buildings. We wanted the show to have a flavor of its old self, but also to take into account the changes that have gone on.
What was behind the decision to condense the show from 24 hours into 12 episodes?
COTO: This is a real-time series, and it remains a real-time series. There’s no difference in the way we are treating the show itself. All we are doing is presenting 12 hours out of a 24-hour period. But the episodes themselves are in real time, as Redemption was and as the original series was. The idea to do a 12-hour season had a lot to do with the success of 12-hour, limited series. I think Under the Dome was something that probably sparked the network and/or the studio’s curiosity about doing something like this. It makes it a special event. It makes it something to catch. We’re not restarting the series. We are presenting the next day in Jack Bauer’s life. And in the 12-hour format, it hopefully becomes a must-watch event because it’s a one-time thing. So, I think the 12-hour format was attractive in that respect. It also allows us, as writers, to have fun condensing the storytelling into 12 hours. When we look down the runway of the season, we don’t have 24 hours to fill. With the old series, we very often might try to stretch things out because we knew we had so much time. Now we’re finding ourselves with the end in sight and we’re really working to resolve all of our storylines. It’s becomes more compressed and more exciting.
With the success of shows like True Detective and Fargo, and other event series, what advantages do you see in a short run event series?
KATZ: I think that, in terms of an ability to platform something special, where people’s viewing habits have changed, asking people to devote 24 consecutive weeks to a highly serialized show is maybe a bigger ask than it was 10 years ago. So, one advantage, in this case, is that it’s more inviting. I also think that it’s more special. It’s not going to happen all the time. It’s not taking place over a year. This is a chunk of time. And it gives the network the opportunity to put more behind its launch.
COTO: Yes, the 12 hours allows us to really condense the storytelling. In a 24-hour season, we knew how many episodes we had to fill and where we had to go and, very often, during a season, we’d find ourselves trying to stretch out plots, as much as they could go, to fill up the vast material. Here, we find ourselves really compressing the action. We’re actually finding ourselves a little short of the runway, as far as finishing off plots and coming up to the end of the season. It’s very challenging. So, it is definitely an accelerated form of storytelling that we’re working with this year.
Why did you decide to take the show to London, and what it was like to bring the action there?
KATZ: Jack was put into exile at the end of Season 8. That gave us the idea that we could start him back here, but wouldn’t it be great for him to still be in exile? We’d been in L.A. for the show’s run, even though we sometimes set it in other cities, so it gave us the opportunity to truly take it international. A couple of cities were mentioned, but London is full of this great iconography, and part of the storyline is the Anglo-American alliance, which is also really interesting.
What was the greatest challenge in bringing the show to London?
KATZ: The greatest challenge was making sure that Jon Cassar, our fantastic producer/director, could go there and get everything set up. He was with the show for most of its initial run, and he has managed to recreate the look without really any of the key players. Other than that, it really has been a tremendously smooth experience. We have a great film line producer there, named Ian Smith. The film culture there and the production culture there is really fantastic, and there are wonderful craftspeople. So, with all of our challenges this year, London was a shining star. That’s not been our challenge.
KATZ: People have been very open minded. People seem to be excited to be on the show, whether it’s Stephen Fry, Ben Bratt or Yvonne Strahovski. I will say that it’s really been wonderful to have access to the British acting pool, with these wonderful, classically trained actors, from Michelle Fairley to Emily Berrington, who’s at the beginning of her career, and John Boyega. They’re just fantastic people.
Any real fan of the show knows how important Chloe O’Brian is to the show and to Jack Bauer. How did you come up with this idea for her?
COTO: When we approached this season – this 12-episode event – we wanted it to be something special, something different, and something that will surprise fans. We also had to take into account that four years have passed and the characters have changed, radically. At the end of Season 8, the last time we saw them, Jack was sent into exile for crimes he had committed against the state and against the Russians, but the person who helped Jack go into exile was Chloe O’Brian. The very last scene of the series is Chloe turning off the satellite so that Jack can get away. Well, we had to go with that. We couldn’t just ignore that. So, the obvious place to go is that Chloe O’Brian, herself, came under scrutiny, was charged, and became a fugitive. Jack became a fugitive in his way. He’s a man of action. He went where he went. And Chloe, who is somebody who lives her life behind a keyboard, took arms against the government in her way, became embittered, and suffered her own personal tragedy. Things will be revealed, as far as what she went through. So, it gives the characters a place to go to. It’s surprising. We haven’t seen them this way before. But, we also get the dramatic reward of seeing them possibly come together again and possibly reawaken their old selves.
KATZ: We really liked the idea of bringing in a female point of view character, very early on. At least the first month or so of talking about the new season was largely focused on who this woman would be and what her backstory would be, and there was a lot of trial and error, but we wanted to make sure that she had some kind of wound that pursuing Jack Bauer might potentially heal. We also wanted to make sure that there was the potential for her to be able to relate to Jack, in terms of personal tragedies they had experienced.
Since Jack Bauer has been underground for so long, how does he fit back into the world now?
COTO: One of the fun things about this season is that Jack doesn’t actually fit into the world. It’s a challenge for him to find his place, and that’s actually part of what this season is about. Can Jack return to what he was? That question is definitely up in the air. This is a man who wasn’t just exiled, but something has happened to him over these four years where he has been in exile and he has been running. There is a mystery as to what he was up to. Did Jack go through a period where he was not a hero, and where he, for lack of a better term, turned to the Dark Side? It’s an interesting mystery that’s part of the season.
Can you say whether Tony Almeida and/or Kim Bauer will be back?
KATZ: We can’t say.
Why should people who have never watched an episode of 24 watch this series?
KATZ: I think that we’re delivering something that’s not on TV right now. I think it’s just as intense a thriller as it ever was. If anything, it’s on a larger scope, and the scale is extremely impressive. It’s a much more international show. You don’t need to have watched 24 before. We’re very careful to make sure that people are brought up to speed. We just feel that Jack Bauer has become part of the cultural iconography out there, and this is a good 11-week – because the first two episodes are airing in one night – way to have a great roller coaster ride. If you haven’t seen it, see what all the fuss was about.
If this does as well as everyone hopes and thinks it will, could there be another season, or another event series?
COTO: Nothing is impossible, but we are treating this season as a one-time event series. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the ending could be the end of 24 for good, if you look at it that way. It depends on how you look at it. I guess my answer is that it’s certainly possible. Obviously, it’ll depend on eyeballs and if people tune in. But one thing to keep in mind is that we all came back to tell this one last story, of this one last day in Jack Bauer’s life. If there’s more beyond that, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
24: Live Another Day has a two-hour premiere on Fox on May 5th.