BUSY ACTOR: Elisha Cuthbert’s character leads a dangerous life on espionage drama 24.
The weeks leading up to her 19th birthday are an exciting and emotional time for any young woman. Imagine then what it must be like for Elisha Cuthbert, who turns 19 on Nov. 30, and starts that birthday countdown tonight with a Gemini nomination for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie, for her work on the CTV teen gambling drama, Lucky Girl.
Win or lose, Cuthbert has only a few days to schmooze before reporting back for work in L.A., on the set of the most talked-about new show of the TV season, the real-time espionage drama 24, an American series that coincidentally co-stars fellow Canadians Kiefer Sutherland, Leslie Hope and Mia Kirshner.
On the following Tuesday, Nov. 6, the hotly anticipated 24 will make its belated debut on Fox and CH at 9 p.m., repeating at the same time Friday on Fox and Global.
The Gemini ceremonies are broadcast tonight on CBC at 8.
“It’s an exciting time right now,” she allows. “A lot of things are going on. I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited too. Eight years of work in Canada, I get this nomination … and now moving down to the States. I mean, I’ll always come back to work in Canada. But this is still a nice going-away gift.”
Her 24 schedule has not allowed her a lot of time to visit. “I haven’t been back in a while,” she says. “I’ve been going through withdrawal. I won’t get back to Montreal this trip, but I’ll get to see my friends in Toronto. And my parents are coming in.”
The series’ revolutionary “real time” approach has Cuthbert and her castmates – Sutherland as her spy guy dad, Hope as her mom – enacting every waking moment of their characters’ lives, an hour at a time, over one entire, action-packed day. Twenty-four hours, 24 episodes – shot in 15-day, two-episode blocks.
They are just about to start work on the 10th episode of the 13 the network has so far ordered. They’ll be told shortly after the debut airs whether they’ll get to complete the remaining 11.
“We have high hopes,” she says. “We’re just kind of taking it one step at a time, really, just letting it go and see how far we can take it. Just having a good time with it. That’s what it’s all about.”
The work presents some unique challenges for an actor. “You really get to know these people,” Cuthbert explains. “I mean, you’re with them every hour, every minute, every second of this one entire day. It’s very intense. After each episode you’re going, `Damn! Can that much happen in one hour?’ There’s a lot of stuff going on.”
She is prohibited from being any more specific, though if promos for the show are any indication, her character is going to be placed in some sort of dire jeopardy, and will likely remain there for some time. She claims not to know much more herself.
“The crew gets their scripts a little bit in advance, so they can prep for the next show. But as far as the actors go, I don’t get my scripts until a couple of days before we actually start shooting them. So I don’t know that far in advance, either.
“But that’s good acting-wise, because if we knew what was going to happen to our characters next, maybe we would deal with the situations differently. Since we don’t, what you see is really what you get.
“There’s lots in store, let’s put it that way.”
There is, she admits, one small drawback to playing a single day in the life: Wardrobe. Here she is, a female teen on a major American network show, and while the Dawson’s Creekers and their ilk get to parade around in an endless array of designer duds, Cuthbert is stuck wearing the exact same outfit. Every single show.
“I tell my friends it’s like being in The Simpsons,” she laughs. “You wear the same thing every day. Which is kind of gross, when you think about it.
“We do try to be creative with that one outfit. As the show progresses, certain things do happen, and the wardrobe does get `altered’ in certain ways. It’s actually kinda nice, getting to sit down with the director, `So, what can we do to it today?’ How can we mess up my hair this episode?’ That’s pretty cool.”