Evan Katz discusses recent 24 twist, Dennis Haysbert blasts carnage

Dennis Haysbert
Dennis Haysbert

Last Monday, “24” revealed that wishy-washy President Logan, of all people, is the man behind the evil plot Jack Bauer is foiling this season. Wait, wasn’t the vice president supposed to be the cunning mastermind?

“That was the red herring,” said “24’s” Evan Katz, who resisted the urge to giggle maniacally in a recent phone interview.

But Katz sure couldn’t wait to drop that tidbit on the show’s viewers.

“I’ve really been waiting for this, I’ve been hinting to people, make sure you watch” the April 3 episode, says Katz, one of “24’s” executive producers. “This was the [revelation] we’ve been keeping in our hands and couldn’t wait to lay down on the table. You’ll have to watch the upcoming episodes to see, but clearly this takes the story in another direction. It’s no longer solely going to be about Jack chasing down Peter Weller.”

“Jack is going to discover Logan’s involvement very shortly,” Katz adds.

“There was a discussion internally about when we should make this reveal [about Logan], and some people were arguing for later,” Katz says. “The decision was to make it now, because it’s going to open up a lot of really interesting story lines and conflicts for Jack. What could be a better antagonist for Jack than the president of the United States?”

Dennis Haysbert

Speaking of “24’s” presidential types, the actor who played president David Palmer on the show, Dennis Haysbert, said in a recent interview that he’s unhappy with all the “carnage” this season on “24,” which killed off many regular characters, including his.

“You have to constantly stunt to get people to watch, because every relationship that Jack has had, from Season 1, all those people are gone,” said Haysbert, who added that he “just didn’t think it was right” to kill his character at the start of the current season. Removing so many characters, Haysbert says, creates “this man against the world thing, and it becomes a bit cartoonish, not plausible.”

“At every turn, for better or for worse, the producers sought to destroy these relationships [that Bauer had], and consequently turn the show into something that it didn’t start out being. … I think it makes for a weaker show,” Haysbert says.

“I’m frustrated for them,” Haysbert says of his former “24” colleagues. “I look at it and I go, ‘My God, how many more people can you kill?'”

“I think that we kill our characters for a number of reasons — mostly to keep the tension and the apprehension going for people watching the series. It really helps give the sense that nobody’s safe,” Katz says. “I don’t think any actor likes to be told that their character’s getting killed, so I completely understand. But I think you could make the argument that the outcry over Tony’s death, over Edgar’s death, over Palmer’s death, in a way, means we did the right thing. The purpose of the show is to appeal to and produce emotion in the audience, and clearly we have.

“In terms of David Palmer, in many ways this whole year is about David Palmer and Jack, and [seeking] justice for that murder. In that case, I’m certain we did the right thing,” Katz added.

“We were sort of surprised by the depth and the volume of reaction to Edgar’s death. For a second, I thought, ‘Does this mean we screwed it up?’ But I think what it really means is, it’s a sign of how seriously people take the show,” Katz says.

The entire text of my conversation with Katz is below; more from Haysbert below too.

Evan Katz interview

So, this week it was revealed that President Logan is the guy behind all the things that Jack Bauer and his colleagues are fighting. Are we to understand that he’s the mastermind behind everything?

“Well, I don’t want to give anything away, but this was the big one. This was the [revelation] we’ve been keeping in our hands and couldn’t wait to lay down on the table. You’ll have to watch the upcoming episodes to see, but clearly this takes the story in another direction. It’s no longer solely going to be about Jack chasing down Peter Weller.

“I’ve really been waiting for this, I’ve been hinting to people, make sure you watch [that episode]. I think it really lets us go some really cool places.”

We had gotten intimations that the vice president was the one behind everything.
“That was the red herring, that was the misdirect.”

So the vice president could be a good guy?
“Correct.”

Will Jack have to go to the Western White House again, and take care of that situation, or will other characters have to step in there?
“Well, we don’t want to tell you too much about how it’s going to work, but clearly Jack is going to discover Logan’s involvement very shortly. Actually he did at the end of [the April 3 episode], we just don’t see it. He’ll know that he doesn’t just have Christopher Henderson to pursue.”

Does this give Jean Smart some cool stuff to do coming up?
“Jean Smart has plenty to do.”

It’s interesting how you guys turned everything on its head – David Palmer was this guy that everyone looked up to as president in previous seasons. Was it a conscious decision this year to have a very different president, an “enemy within,” if you will?
“It was a conscious decision to … we really felt last year we had gone as far with David Palmer as the character could go. He was a highly moral, highly righteous man who always tried to do the right thing and did so for three seasons [as president].

“Last year we moved on to a different president, President Logan, to have the storytelling be different. As opposed to a guy who you could rely on and who could be trusted to always attempt to make the right decision, it became much more interesting to us to have this character who, prior to this episode, you could rely on him to make the most convenient decision. He seemed to be easily manipulated, to be most concerned about getting blamed for things as opposed to making the right decisions.

“But at the same time, all that was tempered by great love for his wife, which I think made the character kind of redeemable. [He] definitely comes up in the category of the character you love to hate. But also, he’s consistent, he’s recognizable on some levels, we all know people like this. And every once in a while he’ll do something good, so you don’t completely [write him off].

“And Greg [Itzin, who plays Logan] is just so good. So interesting to watch, so much fun to watch. That performance is a combination of real and unpredictable. I hope he gets an Emmy. There are many levels and layers to what he’s doing. He’s not really playing it villainous. He keeps finding the wrinkles on this guy, and it’s great fun for us to watch when we watch the dailies.”

But has Logan been covering up a steel-trap mind the whole time?
“I think you’re really going to have to see.”

But this revelation was pretty surprising.
“I haven’t seen the message boards, but I’m assuming from the e-mails I got that people were like, `Whoa!’ ”

Yeah. Definitely “Whoa!”
“There was a discussion internally about when we should make this reveal, and some people were arguing for later. The decision was to make it now because it’s going to open up a lot of really interesting story lines and conflicts for Jack. What could be a better antagonist for Jack than the president of the United States? Or a bigger [antagonist]?”

And Jack won’t have CTU helping him because Homeland Security is messing things up there.
“Correct.”

There was a big reaction to this revelation, as there was to the death of Edgar. Does fan feedback ever influence what you do or don’t do?
“I think that’s in the back of our minds, not wanting to disappoint people. Some of us check the boards every Tuesday morning. [Note to TelevisionWithoutPity.com types: Some staffers at “24” do read your message boards.] Some of us don’t. I’m not one of the ones who does. You have to take the response the right way.

“Being upset about Edgar doesn’t mean we did the wrong thing.”

I talked to Dennis Haysbert last week, and he said that he thought “24” had gone down the wrong path by killing off too many characters this season, including his character. What’s your response to that?
“I think that we kill our characters for a number of reasons — mostly to keep the tension and the apprehension going for people watching the series. It really helps give the sense that nobody’s safe. That’s the reason we do it. I don’t think any actor likes to be told that their character’s getting killed, so I completely understand. But I think you could make the argument that the outcry over Tony’s death, over Edgar’s death, over Palmer’s death, in a way, means we did the right thing. The purpose of the show is to appeal to and produce emotion in the audience and clearly we have.

“In terms of David Palmer, in many ways this whole year is about David Palmer and Jack, and [seeking] justice for that murder. In that case, I’m certain we did the right thing. When we found that, we really felt we had found an interesting launching-off point for Jack this year, sort of `man on fire.’

“In terms of Tony and Edgar, I mean, CTU was hit by nerve gas. Someone had to go. And I think Edgar was the right guy. It really upset people. It was a great moment for Chloe. And you know, someone had to go.

“In terms of Tony, we knew that was coming. That was a long time coming. We felt we had told the stories we could for his character. And he went out with a bang; it was a surprising and sort of tragic way to go.”

Some people have said there wasn’t enough mourning for Tony on the show. But then, there’s not really a lot of time for mourning, is there?
“Exactly, that’s right.”

I understand the creative decisions you made to kill those characters, but do you ever think, “What do we do next year? We’ve killed almost everyone now.”
“We always worry about what we’re going to do next year, but I don’t think that has anything to do with who we kill or haven’t killed. It certainly forces us to be creative. A lot of times we’ll find we’ve backed ourselves into a corner, by virtue of the plot avenues we’ve closed off through characters being dead or being in the wrong location. So it keeps us on our toes.”

I think the outcry over the deaths says that people are involved in the relationships and characters as they are with the 24-hour plot.
“Yeah, absolutely. Otherwise it’s just bodies. We were sort of surprised by the depth and the volume of reaction to Edgar’s death. For a second, I thought, `Does this mean we screwed it up?’ But I think what it really means is, it’s a sign of how seriously people take the show.”

Is there always a conscious effort to bring in new characters to replace the old ones?
“Yeah, we always keep that in mind. And at the beginning of each year, obviously, there are always new people. We like bringing new characters every year as a way to shake things up and give us new stories to tell and to make things less comfortable for series regulars. This year it’s Karen from Homeland Security, who’s making life difficult for everybody. Last year it was Alberta Watson in a similar situation, but more complicated. The same could be said of Peter Weller’s character.”

I read that Kim Raver, who plays Audrey Raines, got a pilot for another show. Do you know if she is coming back, or if anyone is coming back?
“Don’t know yet. Don’t really know.”

Are you still writing the final episodes?
“The final episodes have just finished being written.”

This is the second year that you guys knew that you were running 24 episodes in a row, starting in January. Does that inform your storytelling at all?

“Not that much, but sometimes when we know episodes will air back to back, like [the first two episodes and the last two episodes of this season], we do very much keep that in mind when we’re writing. It means we don’t have to reiterate things quite as much. We like airing them two at a time, it’s like a little movie.”

Is there going to be a theatrical “24” movie?
“It’s definitely something in the works, but who knows when and who knows what. But it’s definitely being discussed.”

So would that film this hiatus or next year, or you’re not sure?
“Not sure.”

If you had to say what the feel of this season is, as opposed to the other seasons, what’s the feel of it for you this year?
“Every year is different. We don’t always know exactly how it’s going to be different when we start talking about the new [season], it kind of comes out, what the year is about for Jack’s character – that has to develop over the year. Year two was really about growing the show into something bigger, the first year was the assassination attempt, the third year was about global threats, nuclear bombs and biological warfare.

“Last year was more about layering one story within another, which we’ve done more of this year. We don’t feel the need to pick one threat and slowly unspool it the whole time.”

Right, this year, you’ve got the Logan drama and the stuff with Jack and then the different developments at CTU, there are different stories going on all at once.
“Yeah. I think one of the reasons people are still interested and one of the reasons the show is working is that we are definitely able to change the show every year but still keep it true to itself.”

“I’m very gratified that people are really responding to the show this year. We’re never sure. We start writing the show in May and June, and by the time the beginning of January rolls around, we’re all miserable and on some level afraid that we’ve screwed it up. It’s always really exciting to us and gratifying that people are responding, we realize we’ve done the right thing. That’s why we do it, so people do respond. We’re not doing it in a vacuum. In that way it’s been a good year.”

Are there any more new characters this season?
“Yes, keep watching. We’ll be introducing characters up until the very end.”

Will we see more of Kim?
“No.”

More from Dennis Haysbert:

“One of the other things I felt sad about with the demise of David Palmer on ‘24’ is that it prevents Jack from having a really bona fide male relationship. The crux, the basis of any good drama is a relationship, you know? And these men had a relationship. They backed each other, they covered each other’s back, they conferred with one another. And when Jack was saving the world, he was also saving his friend. And when Jack was in trouble, his friend was saving him. And that created a dramatic dynamic that you don’t often see in television.

“And then all the other relationships kind of support every other relationship in the show. And at every turn, for better or for worse, the producers sought to destroy these relationships. And consequently turn the show into something that it didn’t start out being. And I’ll let you come up with what you see as a result of what you see. But I think it makes for a weaker show. For a show, that what you come up with is carnage.”

There has been a lot of death this season on the show, that’s for sure.
“That’s the result of destroying these relationships. You have to constantly stunt to get people to watch, because every relationship that Jack has had, from Season 1, all those people are gone. It puts this man against the world thing in, and it becomes a bit cartoonish, not plausible. And that’s sad. I love the show, many of my friends are still a part of it, behind the scenes, but I without even talking to them, I know they’re frustrated. They probably wouldn’t even admit that to me. But I’m frustrated for them. I look at it and I go, ‘My god, how many more people can you kill? No. And all in one day?’

Source Chicago Tribune

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