After eight years of saving the world from a wide assortment of infidels, it is kind of a relief to know Jack Bauer is finally getting a long-deserved rest! Still, the end of '24' is a bittersweet one. Here's one last interview with the great Kiefer Sutherland as the minutes tick down to tonight's series finale on Fox.
If two shows deserve to be praised for changing the face of the television landscape it is both these riveting pop culture institions. While "Lost" opted for the meta-finale of the decade, "24" will deliver what its fans have enjoyed for eight seasons. Tonight's final two hours will not skimp on explosive action, human drama and the sight of Jack Bauer saving us all with seconds to spare.
It's hard to believe that "24" faced an early end in its freshman year. Thanks to the Fox network's own unique programming strategy combined with the impact of the DVD collections, it survived an unforgiving TV landscape on its own terms.
Since its debut in 2001, the political face of the world has changed quite a bit during its watch. At times the series appeared awfully prophetic and, altternately, controversial in its depiction of world cultures and events. Both the left and right often projected its own complex agenda onto their own political narrative, something that only validated "24's" place in modern culture.
Now, that narrative will most likely be transferred into motion pictures, morphing into aJason Bourne-typeadventure to thrill audiences anew. Few TV characters have become a descriptive term, but "Jack Bauer" is now bigger than the series and its charismatic star, Kiefer Sutherland.
The 43-year-old Emmy winner had already established himself as a movie entity before taking on the demanding task of portraying Bauer. It was an epic job, shooting two episodes at a time and often with a revolving cast of characters that would exit without warning. The role would also have other hazards not found on the set. With great success came the relentless media pursuit of the actor that would often find his personal life at odds with the heroism seen on screen. But, they shared a certain flawed reality that made both actor and role thrilling to encounter, no matter the context. Still, even Sutherland would find the humor and grace to offer his own spin, always revealing a gentleman's accountability.
"I can't deny half the stuff that's been written about me has been true," Sutherland said in an interview with the British newspaper Daily Telegraphin 2007. "I've done some stupid things. You have to take responsibility, go, 'That was embarrassing,' and move forward as best you can."
Now, a unique hour of television is moving on, too. Here's my last face-to-face encounter with Sutherland, captured in New York City just before the start of its eighth and final season.
JORGE CARREON: After eight arduous hours of life and near death experiences, how has Jack Bauer evolved over the course of each season?
KIEFER SUTHERLAND: He’s evolved from season to season.I think one of the great challenges for any actor doing a show over this kind of period of time is to be able to show the impact of season one in season two and the impact of season one and two in season three.I think that’s up for an audience to decide whether or not I’ve done that, but it certainly is the effort. I would have to say most of it is written and then there is a part of it that are ideas of mine. This time though there is a massive change in Jack Bauer.Any circumstance that he has revolved around from seasons one through seven, Jack Bauer has led the charge in dealing with the circumstances.This is aseason where he is unbelievably grateful to have survived the end of season seven and at the beginning of season eight he finds, through his granddaughter, an opportunity to rekindle a relationship with his daughter and feel a part of a family that he’s been estranged from for over ten years. He has so much hope in this opportunity and feels so responsible for having been given the opportunity. When the day starts to look a bit shaky and people start to contact him, his first response is "I have nothing to do with this and I’m out and good luck and I wish you the best.This is your job now." There is a kind of reluctance, well, not even a kind of.He’s absolutely reluctant in partaking in any way and it is his moral compass that makes him hedge his bets, if you will. And that’s a big change for this guy. To watch how that weaves its way through season eight is very interesting for me to play as an actor and I hope it will be for an audience.
CARREON: Is it fair to say that season eight was the most human we’ve ever seen Jack Bauer?
SUTHERLAND: I think probably since season one.Season one started off and he was very human.He was a father and he was a married man going through a difficult time in his marriage and that day obviously went south on him to the point where he lost his wife.That damaged him forever and I think he is so grateful for this second opportunity with his daughter and his granddaughter that kind of almost takes him full circle back to the emotional place of season one.
CARREON: After so much chaos and some often too-complicated storytelling, will season eight also mark a return to a streamlined narrative?
SUTHERLAND: I promise you the other stuff’s coming and that’s the hallmark of our show. However, it’s coming for a different reason. A lot of his frustration and a lot of his fear and a lot of his anger is not manifested by the circumstances of the day, but by what’s in jeopardy which is this potential relationship.
CARREON: The show has weathered the challenges of a changing TV industry, but sustaining a certain level relevance is never easy.
SUTHERLAND: I think it is relevant as I think a lot of shows are relevant.I think the quality of the work from our crew to our cast to our writers is as strong and as committed this season as it ever has been and I actually don’t believe that the television audience is eroding at all.I think it’s being spread out.I think we’ve gone from a world where in the United States we started with three channels then we had four channels then we went to four hundred channels and now we’re at about a thousand channels and so I think people are very particular about what they want to watch. And the fan base that we’ve had for "24" has been as consistent from season one all the way through season seven.Every once in a while it’ll go up a bit, maybe down a bit, but it pretty much locks on that number and we’ve been very proud of that and very grateful to the fans that we’ve had that have supported us.
CARREON: What will be the hallmark of this eighth season?
SUTHERLAND: At times implosive, at times explosive. One of the exciting things about doing "24" as an actor and I think one of the things that’s exciting about it from an audience perspective is that you are going to have wonderful character development and relationships and interactions between those characters. But, at the end of the day, some very difficult choices are going to be made by those characters and things are going to happen and therefore, it becomes explosive.
Will Jack Bauer surive these final minutes? Tune into the end of an era as "24" ticks down to its series finale tonight on Fox.