It’s been a long 18 months–one that featured a writers’ strike, and ajail sentence for Kiefer Sutherland–since the clock last ticked on thecritically derided sixth season of 24. But there was no evidence that Fox’s hit drama has faded from memory, not from the way the press and public were buzzing at the red-carpet premiere of 24: Redemption at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square last night.
Still, despite the great turnout to celebrate the TV movie (which airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox), the question remains: Is 24 relevant anymore? Debuting in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the show – with its apoplectic mixture of hawkishness and paranoia and its Constitution-be-damned, torture-prone tragic hero Jack Bauer – reflected back our anxieties about the war on terror and its toll on our civil liberties. But the political landscape has changed dramatically over the last several months, and as we spoke to cast members Sutherland, Jon Voight, and Cherry Jones, along withexecutive producers Howard Gordon and Jon Cassar (who’s alsoRedemption’s director), we wanted to get their takes on the show’s prospects heading into the Obama era.
How big an issue is the 18-month break between season 7 and Redemption?
Kiefer Sutherland: It’s been so difficult for us, what with the programming delays due to the strike. We’ve had 16 episodes of season 7 ready to air for 8 months. We apologize to the fans for the delay.
What is the place of 24 in the era of an Obama Presidency?
Howard Gordon: Jack came of age in this post-9/11 era, and hehas become a very dark character over the years, so this season, Jackhas to ask some very hard questions about how we can live in a worldwith Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and I think he reaches some interestinganswers about those things.
Jon Cassar: Our writers are newshounds and they’ve always been able to write “what-if” situations. And it’s really hard to see the relevance of this new season until it airs. In Redemption, we’re dealing with something that’s already happening, the whole issue of child soldiers, and putting a spotlight on that, which we’re very proud to do. But I think you’ll be interested to see that season 7 almost does reflect Obama, [even though we didn’t know] that Obama would be president when we started shooting 15 months ago. Some of his politics are reflected in the new season. Our writers are pretty amazing at foreseeing the future.
What are the politics of 24’s first female President?
Cherry Jones: To step into that Oval Office as an actor and sit inthat chair, it was a very daunting experience. I’ve played a lot ofvery strong women, but I don’t think any real president gets it untilthey are in that office and behind that desk for the first time. Andcertainly my one day that you see me as president is a bloody awfulday. It is a day that is so dreadful that it is non-partisan. JoelSurnow told me when I was prepping for 24, “There’s no past on thisshow, there’s no future. There’s the moment.” I didn’t worry about herparty politics, I worried about her soul and what she thought wasright. In terms of “why did they want a female president?” they wrotethis show over a year and a half ago, so I think they probably didthink the new President was going to be Hillary Clinton. But after twomale African-American presidents and three white guys on 24, what elsecould they do?
What was it like shooting parts of Redemption in South Africa?
Jon Cassar: Kudos to Fox for letting us shoot there. Weare a television show, we don’t have an unlimited budget, so we weretalking about doing it all in California, going out into the desert andmaking it look like Africa. But eventually they recommended that weactually go [to South Africa], and it wasfantastic being there not only because of the geography but because ofthe people.
But potentially losing the real-time format for a movie would free-up where you can go…
Jon Cassar: We started thinking about changing the format forRedemption. But it’s still in real time, taking place only in twohours.
Kiefer Sutherland: Travel is complicated for us in the context ofthe show because it’s 24 hours in real time, but it’s certainly anoption in the feature-film world for us. We certainly talked aboutdoing a season in Europe, a season in London, and of course right nowwe did the last season in Washington D.C., so we’re starting to warm tothe idea.
How would you like the show to end for Jack Bauer?
Howard Gordon: I’d like to see a happy ending for Jack, but I’m notcertain if it’s in the cards. The show is a tragedy after all. I thinkthere’s a temptation, since this is a real-time show, to show JackBauer’s last day. As a writer, it would be a very touching thing to do.My guess, though, is that it would be unbearable. And I don’tthink Fox would want to consider that, [especially] if we’re going to have a moviefranchise! That said, Jack’s tempted fate several times in the past,and he will again this year.
Jon Cassar: It’s really tough, I think both Kiefer and I thought atone point that Jack Bauer has to die, that the only realistic thingthat could happen is for him to die. That was before people startedtalking about movies. Now we’re not so ready to kill him. I think we’llbe happy just to finish season 8 and then start thinking about moviesand the franchise. I’d really like to see it go into a movie franchise.
Who would Jack Bauer have voted for? Obama or McCain?
Howard Gordon: I’m not certain he would vote, actually. He serveshis country in a different way, a non-partisan way. But that said, Ithink aspects of both Obama and McCain would appeal to him.
Jon Voight: [Laughs.] I’m not going there! I didn’t vote for Obama,but we wish the best for him and we want him to be a great President.I’m rooting for him, he’s our President.
Jack Bauer or James Bond?
Kiefer Sutherland: [Laughing because a group of nearby fanboys are shouting out “Jack Bauer” in response to this question.] They say Jack,so I’ll go with that.
So how about it PopWatchers? Are you stoked for Redemption? Will yoube back on board for another hellish day in the life of Jack Bauer comeJanuary? Or is 24 going to be left off your TiVo this year?