One of the biggest casualties of the writers' strike this winter, 24's Jack Bauer, never made it out of the gate and his seventh "day" on Fox. The Emmy-winning hit still will not return until January, but fans will get a Bauer visit sooner than that!
Jack is taking the action to Africa in 24: Exile, a two-hour, real-time prequel airing this November.
"The conflict that starts in the prequel is the conflict carried all the way through season seven," star and executive producer Kiefer Sutherland explained between panels at the TCA press tour. "It was a great way to incorporate a storyline that we love in a stand-alone, two-hour deal. We wanted to have something out in November instead of just January."
The intense storyline that takes Jack to South Africa was initially conceptualized as part of the new season, but logistics made that impossible. When the season was delayed a year, however, show runners seized the opportunity to tell their African story.
The break also allowed the creative team to fine tune the entire season.
"It'll be the first time we've actually been able to complete 24 episodes before one will air," Sutherland marveled. "There's generally two major conflicts within the context of a season and transitioning from one conflict and moving into the other has been the muddy area for us. Last year, we struggled with it. We really got it handed to us with season six, but this year has allowed us to take our time to work those dangerous episodes."
Sutherland is also seen in movie theaters across the country in this Friday. The horror-thriller should add another layer to the actor's character persona. Sutherland found the film a challenging experience to bookend his difficult days on 24.
"I did a film with Alexandre Aja called Mirrors, which is something I'm very proud of," Sutherland said.
"I play a retired police officer who's trying to protect his family from...so hard to explain in two seconds, from...oh God, I don't even know how I articulate it. It's complicated. It's kind of a horror film, so I would have to say (protecting his family from) an evil spirit."
If Mirrors is difficult to to capture in a few moments, a most recent chapter of his life flowed surpringly quickly. "I made a really dumb mistake and I went to jail for seven weeks," Sutherland recounted.
There was also one more upside to the strike delays: the fact that Sutherland was able to handle some personal business over the holidays relating to his September 2007 DUI charge.
"They (the strike delays) made what I had to do easier because I could do it in one go and the show was not affected by that. To be able to go back to work is something I feel comfortable doing and it's a safe place for me. I was grateful to have that opportunity," Sutherland said.
"I've had very good friends that have made similar mistakes and have not been that lucky. I was very aware of how lucky I was."
The time served turned out to be a weight off Sutherland's shoulders.
But what about our hero Jack, who invariably ends up carrying the entire planet's future on his shoulders?
"One of the great things about the show is that every season has impacted how that character develops and you're going to see a Jack Bauer that's carrying the weight of the last six seasons," Sutherland promised. "He's a much freer person than at the end of season six, which left him disillusioned. He'd been manipulated to do things he didn't like for himself and he was leaving this world behind."
Jack Bauer does in fact leave CTU behind, but trouble is another matter. When we catch up with him about four years later, his wanderings have landed him smack in the middle of the violence of South African and an international incident. Cape Town makes a stunning backdrop for Jack-tastic action, but with child soldiers involved, the hero's adventures are sure to hit an emotional and political chord or two.
"There's no question there's an unbelievable economic depravity on the continent of Africa and there has been a level of violence that is really unparalleled to anywhere else in the world," Sutherland said. "No one can justify going there to help, because they have no viable reason, meaning oil or money. As the series' new U.S. president suggests, the reason is a human one: we can stop genocide. Bill Clinton apologized for not doing that with Rwanda and we centered a show around that."
For a production like 24, where real time action hits the streets, that meant actually taking the cast to Africa. In spite of the country's history of violence, not to mention the short days and thorny weather of a Cape Town winter, shooting abroad went smoothly.
"We found an unbelievably qualified and competent crew, which you don't necessarily find anywhere in the world," Sutherland raved. "And we had the best extras I've ever seen in my life. We had street scenes where we had 500 people walking in a crowded street and a gun battle takes place and the commitment of these people to hit the ground! They really took on these performances. Women were crying in the street and clutching children. There was a kind of boldness from all of the actors that were literally involved, from extras on up, that I hadn't seen in a long time."
Sounds like some production. Tune in to judge for yourself and see what Jack does to end up on trial in season seven premiering November 23 on Fox.
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