Being involved with a TV series like 24 must be pretty demanding on your time. Has it taken control of your life?
My professional life? Absolutely. It’s been interesting though. I’ve been so lucky, I love doing this show, I love this crew, I love the subject matter, I love the character. For all of those things, I’m very happy and I’m really enjoying it. I could not imagine what it must be like for an actor on a show that they don’t enjoy doing. Because I’d become suicidal.
You’ve said in the past that your character could be killed off at any time. Is that something that your happy to live with and do you think the show could continue successfully without Jack?
It’s a possibility that that will happen one season. Which one, I don’t know. When I said it, it was certainly nothing that I wanted, but I think all of us are aware that the real star of the show is the time format and the concept, and we actors service that. I’m no different than any of the other actors, and we’re all aware that at some point, to service the show we might get killed.
I think with the death of Leslie Hope’s character – my wife in the first season – I think we set a precedent that we were going to break some rules. I think that it’s much more exciting to watch a character like Jack if you don’t think that there’s a guarantee that he’s going to be around forever. Otherwise when he’s in some kind of peril it’s just very boring if you just know he’s going to get out of it every time.
I think the show can go on for 20 years and go through multiple cast changes.
You seem to have a habit of killing off some of the shows best characters.
Yeah, and it’s very funny when we get together and have a party.
One of the nice testaments about how wonderful being on the show is, people that have died two or three seasons ago are still showing up to the parties. Yeah, we’ve managed to form a really tight group.
The other actors have mentioned in the past that they are all kept in the dark about how their characters will evolve. Is that the same for you?
If they’re in the dark, I’m at dusk. I probably get a little more information than all of them. But there’s nothing that you can do. I mean when the writers are still working on the last four episodes right now in their head, I don’t know what they don’t know. It’s one of those very weird circumstances that’s very different from a film. That you just never know what your ending is until you’re actually almost shooting it.
Are you ever disappointed when you read the script?
It’s a constant process. There’ll be things that I won’t like in a script. Generally if I don’t like something and Jon, one of the directors, doesn’t like something, and one of the writers doesn’t like something, we’ll change it. It works like that. I didn’t want Leslie Hope to die. I thought that that was not great, but it ended up being one of our signature moments, you know. It certainly doesn’t stop me from having an opinion about it. And whether they take it or not is up to them.
How do you deal with your fame? How do you cope with constantly being recognised?
I live my life the way I live it, which is pretty open and I do what I want to do. I think for the most part I’ve been very fortunate. I still take the subway all the time, I do what I consider to be very normal things.
For the most part, I’ve made a real effort to try and treat people with the kind of respect that I hope to be treated with. People have been really cool with me. So I’ve never had a real issue with it.
How do you feel about the way that Jack’s drug addiction was handled during season three of 24?
I think it’s a fantastic device. I mean, in the first season here is he struggling with a failed marriage or a marriage that certainly was in trouble. Now he’s dealing with an addiction. I think he’s justified in why he became addicted, but he’s still struggling with an addiction.
Those imperfections in his character, and his effort to deal with those imperfections, I think, have been one of the real reasons people have enjoyed the character so much. Because no one’s trying to pretend he’s perfect.
I think that one of the things I was attracted to in the character when I first read the pilot was that this guy was, set in a position to become this hero, and yet he’s dealing with a failed marriage and his inadequacies as a father, not being able to control a 16-year-old daughter.
I thought that that dynamic was fantastic. He’s a very reactionary person and a very reactionary character. Some of those impulses are going to be wrong. And I like that about his character. There are consequences to the things he does, and some of them are not right. I think that makes him more interesting.
Has anyone ever confused you for your character in real life?
No. There was a very funny moment, I was skiing, and a guy who actually worked for the CIA was sharing the chair-lift with me [laughs]. And he looked over and he said, “I ought to hit you.” And I said, “Why?”
He said: “Don’t tell anybody this, but I work for the CIA and I’m an operative, and my mom is a huge fan of your show, and we all are too.”
And I said: “Well, trust me, we know that it’s a fantasy show and it’s not…”
He said: “Yeah. Anyway, I was in Europe for like four months, my mother was getting upset because I wasn’t coming home and she said, ‘You should be more like Jack Bauer and get it done in a hurry.'” He laughed so hard.
I think for the most part, people realise that it’s a television show.
In season three, Jack is working with his daughter. I understand that your daughter worked on 24 too. What was that like?
She was a production assistant and an AD for a little while. On set, there are people that’ll stand around and they’ll call out “Rolling” so that people outside know to be quiet and things like that.
For some reason, every once in a while someone will call “Rolling” in the middle of a take and they won’t be aware that we’ve actually been rolling for a while. And I was in the middle of a scene, and right in the middle of the scene I hear this voice: “Rolling!” I went “Who the…? Oh no [laughs]. That’s my daughter, isn’t it?” The whole crew just fell apart laughing. She kind of ran the show for a while.
Is there any sign of your daughter wanting to become an actress?
Yeah, I think so.
How do you feel about that?
Well, she’s getting older and as I’m starting to realize that that might actually be the reality, I’ve phoned both my parents and apologized to them because I now know how they must have felt when I was starting out. It’s not an easy way to live.
In the position I’m in now, it’s fantastic. But to get to that position, there are a lot of things you have to go through. An incredible amount of rejection. And that is painful. When you put yourself in such a vulnerable spot in an audition, when you’re trying to do a scene and give it everything that you’ve got and for someone, you know, to answer the phone in the middle of your scene or start laughing at you when you didn’t want them to laugh or all of those things-it’s fine for me to go through that but when I think of someone doing that to my daughter I want to kill them.
Do you ever worry that you are living in your father’s shadow?
You’re talking about one of the greatest actors in film, period. He’s the real deal, my dad. He’s it. You know. I will work very hard over the course of my career to try and be as good as I can be. But from my perspective, he’s an icon. You take a look at the variety of work, from Ordinary People to Fellini’s Casanova to 1900 to Day of the Locust, and just take a look at the difference in all those characters, it’s staggering. Eye of the Needle, Don’t Look Now – you’re talking about some of the most important work in cinema.
Are you close?
We don’t see each other a whole lot. He lives in France and I live here. And that’s hard. I grew up in Canada when he lived here, and so we’ve never been able to spend as much time together as I think both of us would’ve liked. But I have a huge respect for him and I believe that’s mutual. I care for him a lot.
Do you think Jack Bauer can survive another day like this?
That’s a question you’re going to have to ask Joel, Bob, Howard, and all the other directors. If they want him to, he can and if they don’t, he won’t. I certainly would like to, but he can get killed as easily as any of the other character s. And it is true. I think it’s important for an audience to know that when they’re watching, that if he gets himself in a real difficult situation, he’s not just going to miraculously get out of it all the time. But I certainly hope so. I hope so.
What do you think about the impact of this show?
It’s kept us alive. In the first year the show already had a core audience here that’s stayed with us, but it’s not as big (laughs) as I think they might have liked it. The incredible success that we’ve had in the foreign markets with the show, really kept us going.
I care about one thing, and that’s we make the best possible show. We have a hundred people here that work very hard and are at the top of their game. And it would be ridiculous to think that people don’t get upset. There are days when combinations of the weather and something that we needed to shoot with doesn’t arrive and people get angry.
We work 16 hours sometimes, and our days go by incredibly quickly. And they go by incredibly quickly because there is a relentless focus on trying to make every scene as good as it possibly can be. Our whole crew is involved with that. That’s something that our director, our cast and our crew has, and it’s a common goal. I think when the product is finished and we’re happy about that, that’s when we feel very good about that. But yeah, I am in one of those positions that can have a very serious effect on how our show is run. And in that context I do the best I can with it.