The new Fox drama Touch, debuting with a preview on January 25th (prior to its March 19th premiere), shows how seemingly unrelated people all over the world affect each other’s lives in ways that are both seen and unseen, known and unknown. From creator/writer Tim Kring (Heroes) and actor/executive producer Kiefer Sutherland, the series will follow widower and single father Martin Bohn (Sutherland), who learns that his emotionally challenged 11-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz), possesses the ability to perceive the seemingly hidden patterns that connect every life on the planet and he figures out a way to communicate directly with his son through numbers instead of words.
While at the TCA Winter Press Tour, Kiefer Sutherland talked about how he came to be doing another television series so soon after 24, why he responded so deeply to this compelling idea, gave hints about where the series will go after the pilot, and said that he feels he’s relatively astute, when it comes to seeing connections in his own life. He also talked about the status of the 24 movie, that he expects to shoot it in late April or early May, that it will pick up within six months of the last episode, and that two hours will represent a 24-hour day. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
KIEFER SUTHERLAND: I was doing a play on Broadway, called That Championship Season, and I got a call from a great friend and partner of mine, who I’ve worked with forever. She said, “I have a script for a television pilot that I think you should read.” And I said, “Do you know what? I’m not really ready to do that yet. I think I’m going to finish up the play and do this film with Mira Nair.” I really wanted to set some time apart from this amazing experience that I had with 24 and try some different things. She said, “Trust me, you have to read it.” And, I remember that I was on about page 35 and I went, “Shit, I’m in real trouble here,” because it was just so beautifully written, and it presented itself as an opportunity.
Normally, I would say that I wouldn’t think about something like this at all, but I’d made 200 episodes of 24, and it was impossible not to figure out how to navigate what I was going to do next without thinking about that. The character was so vastly different, and the tone of the piece was so vastly different, that that was part of its appeal. I had to re-read it a second time, to make sure that all of the emotional components that I was reacting to so strongly were affecting me on a personal level, as opposed to trying to manage a career. It was unbelievably appealing because it was so different, and then I just emotionally responded to the piece in such a strong way that, by the end of it, I realized that, if they would have me, this was certainly something I wanted to do.
What could you most relate to, with this character?
SUTHERLAND: The real driving force for my character is to really just 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. The rest of the stuff is really for the audience to experience, in how one thing can interconnect or affect another. The driving force for me is to have this relationship with my son. 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. It was never going to be a perfect win. And Martin Bohm, my character in Touch, is never going to have the perfect, idyllic relationship with his son.
There is a circumstance that puts a weight on both characters, where they just will never completely win. That is something that, for whatever reason, I am drawn to, as an actor. If you are going to do something potentially for another eight years, you want it to be something that you can really sink your teeth in and that’s going to be different and interesting, for this next period of time.
Even though this series offers many opportunities to play a different character, the real choice to do this was not because I wanted to get away from 24. The reason why I could not turn this down was because it spoke to me on a really profound level. (Executive producer) Tim [Kring] said one of the nicest things I’ve heard in a long time. We were just talking about getting older and he said, “You know, at some point, you start to realize you have to be responsible for what you are going to say.” And, if there was anything I wanted to be a part of saying, it was this beautiful idea of inter-connectivity and this responsibility that we have to each other as a people, as a race, and to this planet. So, for all of those reasons, that’s why I chose to do this show.
Was it important fo you to find a role where you weren’t superhuman?
SUTHERLAND: It’s not part of the criteria of why I ultimately chose to do this. I think of them as two very, very different entities.
How different an experience is this for you, doing a character who is showing his emotions, compared to what you used to do on 24?
SUTHERLAND: Well, they are both fantastic opportunities. The opportunity that I had on 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, with 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 those characters developed over a long period of time. If we are lucky enough to be able to do this show for a few years, this character will grow. This is an aspect that I would like to see this character grow in. Very much like in 24, where the repression was something that got heavier and heavier and heavier, this will hopefully become more and more open.
How is this character’s strength different from Jack Bauer?
SUTHERLAND: He’s got an unbelievable perseverance. I think that any person, especially a single parent, who is dealing with a child with special needs is going to require that. The people that I have known, that have been in that situation, have an unbelievable strength.
SUTHERLAND: He gives me a lot back, actually. David [Mazouz] an extraordinary, young little actor. He was the first person I read with, out of about 25 young children. I remember that my reaction to that first reading was, “Oh, this is going to be fantastic. If they’re going to be like this, we’ll find an amazing kid.” And then, I read with the second one and I was like, “No, the first one was better.” And then, I read with about five more and I was like, “No, that first kid was still pretty good.” And then, around 20 or 23, I was like, “Will you just hire the first kid?” He was really just unbelievably special. It’s a real gift to be able to speak with very minimal body language, but he has something in his eyes that breaks my heart.
Is it a new set of people, in every episode?
Will any of them return, at some point?
SUTHERLAND: Yeah, but it would not be the characters in the forefront of any single episode. There might be a third character, way in the background. For those of you who watch the show for the 13 episodes, or for the 22 episodes for the year after, if you watch every episode, you might see a character come back. But, for someone who’s got a schedule where they’re catching one episode here and one episode there, they will have a beginning, middle and end. Having done a serialized show like 24, and Tim [Kring] having done a serialized show like Heroes, to be able to do this was a great opportunity. It’s a lot to ask of people, to set aside 24 hours a year to dedicate to one thing, with as many things that are going on in people’s lives.
Where will things go with the series, after the pilot?
SUTHERLAND: You’ll have to see it. My character’s fight is really with child services, who is trying to take his son away from him. In an effort to communicate with his son, as he starts to isolate numbers, my character starts to figure out, very quickly, what he’s trying to explain. What’s funny is that there are moments when I’m waiting for something to happen and I know something’s going to happen, but I might be looking at the wrong person.
SUTHERLAND: In Episode 2, I’m given a number and I realize it’s an address. So, I go to that address and I walk in and say, “I know this is gonna sound really weird, but I was meant to find you,” and the guy is like, “Get the fuck away from me. You’re freaking me out!” And then, literally three minutes later, the store gets robbed, and it was the robber he was supposed to be dealing with and not the other guy. He’s flying blind. So, the audience knows exactly what he’s being sent to do, but he doesn’t. There’s an almost light-heartedness, of watching him try to figure it out. The audience starts to see a lot more things. You’ll start to see the cross-sections between all five storylines, long before I ever do.
Are you noticing more connections, in your daily life?
SUTHERLAND: I think I’ve been relatively astute about that, in all fairness, which is one of the reasons the show affected me the way it did. Now, instead of saying, “Oh, that was lucky,” I think about it a little more and realize that maybe it wasn’t that lucky. Almost every great thing that’s ever happened to me in my life, I will find out 10 years later that someone made a phone call to someone and was really great on my behalf. I’d rather not wait 10 years to find that out. I think about it in a different way now.
SUTHERLAND: Everybody. I’ve been really fortunate. I grew up with my mother, and I have a very, very close relationship with my father now. Tommy Douglas was someone I was very, very close to. I have a twin sister, who has helped me through a lot of stuff. My youngest daughter is 24, and my oldest one is in her 30’s. They have come around the other side and are unbelievable support systems, too.
Now that you’re doing this series, what is the status of the 24 movie?
SUTHERLAND: The status on the movie is that, hopefully, we will be shooting the end of April, beginning of May.
Do you see the movie as a conclusion to the story in the series?
SUTHERLAND: I see it as a continuation. The script that we’ve got right now, which I’m very, very excited about, is relatively a direct continuation. It’s within six months from the end of the last episode. We’ll see where it goes from there.
The plan for the movie is still two hours, and not in real time?
SUTHERLAND: It’s two hours, representing 24 hours. The movie is not in real time. It’s a two-hour representation of a 24-hour day.
Is everybody from the cast back?
SUTHERLAND: I can’t say that.