Even Calgary-born Elisha Cuthbert doesn’t know what happens in tonight’s finale of her thriller, 24.
“There are a couple alternate endings,” the 19-year-old actress says on the phone from Los Angeles.
“It’s definitely being kept under tight, tight secrecy. They’re keeping the secrets to surprise and shock the audience.”
The series’ creators already did that last week when they revealed that counter-terrorist agent Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) is a mole working for Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper), the Serbian warlord out to exact revenge on Nina’s ex-lover Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), his family and U.S. presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert).
The development left some fans shaking their heads — did the twist make sense? — but Cuthbert feels the mole’s identity, and what other twists may come, do add up.
(Besides, as viewers know, the drama already stretched the long arm of reality until the bones snapped when Leslie Hope, who plays Cuthbert’s mother, Teri, got amnesia halfway through the day.)
What isn’t such a secret is that 24, which speeds to a climax tonight, has catapulted Cuthbert from Canadian unknown to prime-time starlet on one of the most acclaimed shows on the small screen.
When the Sun first interviewed Cuthbert a year ago, she was promoting the CTV drama Lucky Girl and had just landed the role of Sutherland’s daughter on 24 after only three months living in Hollywood.
Born in Calgary and raised in Vancouver, Cuthbert began her career at the age of seven as a model. At 13, she began acting and eventually landed a gig as a globe-trotting correspondent on the award-winning series Popular Mechanics For Kids.
Even before 24 debuted, fans were creating various unofficial websites in her name.
Cuthbert’s parents still live in Montreal, where she went to high school.
“They love (the show). There are a lot of Canadian fans watching it. And my family are huge fans — they’re proud of me.”
And admittedly a little nerve-wracked when they first saw their daughter being lured out of her home and eventually kidnapped and almost killed by 24‘s villains.
“It’s funny. (My mom) doesn’t see me every day and we’re so far apart that, in the beginning, that was the only way she saw me and it’s not pleasant — me in midriff tops, running around L.A. with two boys.
“She asked, ‘Is this really happening?’ and I was like, ‘Mom, it’s just my character.’
“But she’s since come down and visited, so she knows what’s going on. It’s fun playing someone I’m not … I miss my friends in Canada so much, but unfortunately I’m afraid of flying. When I have a good amount of time I’ll go back, but I wouldn’t go back for just the weekend.”
So it’s understandable that for Cuthbert, the show’s cast has grown into a surrogate family of sorts.
“We really just kind of bonded. We were with each other for almost a year. You end up getting close to these people.”
People like Sutherland, Hopper and recent guest star Lou Diamond Phillips.
“(Hopper) is really great guy. You sit there and watch and think, ‘What am I doing on this set?’ There’s Lou Diamond Phillips. This is like a movie, not television.
“It’s just been fantastic. We’ve all really connected on a really cool level, even if we always didn’t have scenes, like Sarah Clarke, who plays Nina. Even Kiefer and I never got many scenes together, but we still maintained a relationship. Everyone’s nice and down-to-earth and really happy.”
And Canadian. Sutherland, Hope, Cuthbert and Mia Kirshner, who appeared in the first few episodes as the sexpot assassin Mandy, all hail from north of the border.
“In the beginning, that broke the ice a bit, talking about is this a Canadian show or not?”
BACK NEXT SEASON
Last week, the Fox network announced it was picking 24 up for another season.
While the show generates middle-of-the-road ratings, its demographics (upscale, young) make it a draw for advertisers.
Moreover, the series is a likely Emmy nominee. Sutherland already won a Golden Globe for best actor.
Until production ramps back up, Cuthbert is looking for new projects. The only problem? Finding something as good as her TV gig.
“I’ve been reading scripts … 24 has given me an opportunity and I’m trying to take advantage of that.”