Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski admits she had not seen much of the ground-breaking series 24 before she landed a role in its revival, 24: Live Another Day, so as with many modern TV consumers, she binge-watched several seasons.
Season nine follows 24‘s original concept of having the drama unfold in real time but this time the season is compressed, with only 12 of the 24 hours being shown.
The action picks up four years after we last saw Kiefer Sutherland’s damaged anti-hero Jack Bauer go off the grid after uncovering a conspiracy involving the Russian and American governments.
Bauer resurfaces in London in nail-biting style. The CIA suspects he is planning to kill US President James Heller (William Devane) when it is in fact Jack’s plan to save Heller, who he worked for when he was Secretary of Defence. But first he must find and enlist the help of his old Counter Terrorist Unit ally Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who is now an underground hacktivist.
“I had never seen episodes one after the other with this show so I ended up doing a lot of binge-watching,” Strahovski said by phone from London, where the series is still being filmed.
“I watched the entire season one chewing my nails off just like you and then I skipped to season eight because I knew I wasn’t going to have time to complete all of it, so I watched a lot of it.”
Strahovski, who was CIA Agent Sarah Walker in Chuck and serial killer Hannah McKay in Dexter, plays CIA agent Kate Morgan, who is about to be transferred after a scandal involving her husband.
“I liked where she was at in her life, I liked the fact she was being demoted, I liked the fact she was this great agent who had lost everything because her husband, who had been an agent as well, was selling secrets to a foreign government and she didn’t see it,” she said of playing Morgan.
“I think it’s a really great starting point for a character, it gives her a chance to go somewhere, to build and have a journey. Also the greatest thing about 24 is there is always so much going on, it is so layered and every character has something to sink their teeth into.”
Morgan becomes suspicious of Bauer’s actions and has to convince her soon-to-be ex-boss, Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt), to let her stay on to track him.
“We have an extraordinary cast but I haven’t really seen a lot of them,” Strahovski said. “I spend most of my time with the CIA crew, Benjamin Bratt, Gbenga Akinnagbe (who plays Agent Ritter) and Giles Matthey (who plays tech analyst Jordan Reed).
“I have spent time with Kiefer and it has been fascinating watching him get back into this role with equal intensity, if not more intensity, than he used to have.
“The stakes are higher – Jack Bauer has been in exile this whole time and has resurfaced.”
24 won the Emmy for most outstanding drama in 2006, the last US broadcast drama to do so, with every award since won by cable programs including Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
The new season employs familiar techniques from the first eight seasons, including split screens and the ticking clock, and again has topical subject matter, in this case the use of military drones and the unauthorised release of classified information. The double episode season return was watched by about eight million US viewers last Monday.
Stephen Fry plays the British Prime Minister and Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley is a vengeful British terrorist, a role that was originally to have been played by Australia’s Judy Davis.
Although it might not seem obvious to Morgan, she has a lot in common with Bauer. Both have worked loyally for their country, only to be sidelined, and are prepared to bend the rules to get to the truth.
“I am not sure if she realises at first, definitely not at first. But as I have been reading the script, especially the first one, there is a lot of Jack Bauer in Kate Morgan,” Strahovski agreed.
“They’re impulsive; they don’t do things by the book. Certainly that is demonstrated in that first episode where she takes matters into her own hands. So yeah, hopefully there is an opportunity for Jack and Kate to recognise that in one another as we move along in the story.”
‘I watched the entire season one chewing my nails off just like you and then I skipped to season eight because I knew I wasn’t going to have time to compete all of it, so I watched a lot of it.’