Sarah Clarke interview from 24: The Official Companion Seasons 1 & 2 book

Sarah Clarke as Nina Myers behind the scenes of 24 Season 2
Sarah Clarke as Nina Myers behind the scenes of 24 Season 2

When Nina Myers was carted off to prison for treason and tha murder of Teri Bauer at the end of season one, audiences knew it would be just a matter of time before she returned to confront Jack Bauer once again. For actress Sarah Clarke, stepping back into character for this arc was exactly what she was hoping for.

“After this season, you realize, on a show like this, that storylines can get extended to such a point that they become ridicolous. I was just getting to the stage of feeling the repetition of, ‘Where’s Jack now and how can I help him?’ and then I was the mole, and that gave me a whole new thing. When they told me I was coming back, I knew that my story was going to be amazing because, however I was coming back, it wasn’t going to be extended or lingering, so you get a concise, great story. The fact that I was in prison ws exciting. Plus, the whole journey of playing Nina was such a departure from anything I’d played si far.”

From her dramatic, shackled return to CTU to her stone-faced reunion with Bauer in the interrogation room, the episode crackled with energy. “I had the most fun in the second season because I really loved the storyline,” Clarke says. She also got to explore new level of tension with Kiefer. “It’s really lucky when you have a story where so many things are unsaid between characters. As long as you trust the energy of the other person, it’s all going to translate. We both respected each other enough to let the other do their thing. It’s almost like two big cats in a room. I knew that Nina’s best tool was what she knew, and I knew to be kind of like a cat, very still. I’m so small physically, I remember thinking it would be so ridiculous to be shackled, like I could really break away from these huge guys,” she laughs. “But I also remember thinking I had to puff myself up with confidence. It was the only way I could survive because there really was no way out for Nina.”

Sarah Clarke actually learned Arabic for the scenes where she had to communicate with Faheen. She says, “As hard as it was at first, I had a great coach and it gives you a whole other layer and a sense of place and person that you can’t fake.”

The tension-filled sequence in the CTU plane, leading to Nina’s brutal killing of Faheen, remains one of Sarah Clarke’s favorite moments in the second season: “I loved the airplane scene! The sequence where I killed Faheen with the gift card was so complicated. I remember the actor playing my bodyguard on the plane marveling, because, at one point, we have this conversation going on betweem Jack and his daughter nad Mason; then we have my Arabic going on with Faheen. There was no way for the director to cue us because I was supposed to be saying these things that are being translated, so everyone had to be doing this weird listening. Meanwhile, Faheen has no idea what is being said. I’m shackled and I had to lean down and tap his knee to cue him to get really upset. I remember my bodyguard was going, ‘Whoa, there’s all this communication going on and I have no idea what’s happening!’

“Those scenes in particular are when Kiefer is really good. What I loved playing in Nina was when Jack would get really mad and I would get even more liquid and pay it blasé, and it would just get him even angrier,” she laughs.

Knowing the Nina arc would be quite potent, executive producer Howard Gordon admits bringing her back was more of an idea than a plan. “The details of how we brought her back weren’t as organic as the need to bring her back, because she was clearly a piece of unfinished business for Jack. The challenge though was finding a really good way to dispatch her. Jack killing her in cold blood, which he did in an early draft of the script, didn’t feel satisfying. For the resolution in the second season there was no good way to do it, so we had Jack whisper thus cryptic thing, and no one ever knew what he said… apart from Kiefer.”

Special effects coordinators Stan and Scott Blackwell are the man behind all the complicated gunfights staged during the series. When a round is shot or a bullet hits someone, it’s Blackwell brothers who make it look realistic. One of the most interesting moments was during the tense standoff between Nina and Jack after the plane crash.

“Nina has the automatic weapon and she says she will kill him. Jack says, ‘I’m already dead’ and walks away, so she shoots the bushes next to him. So I set up a bunch of hits in the bushes and afterwards Kiefer goes to me, ‘Nice timing, Stan’ and Sarah just looked at me and said, ‘Nice timing on what?’ I said, ‘That was me setting off those hits in the bushes.’ I think she thought for a minute she had a real weapon and had done it herself! But I wasn’t going to give her a real machine gun when she had never shot a gun before!” he laughs.

For her part, Clarke says she got her biggest injuries during Nina’s takedown. “It was a very rocky terrain and I had absolutely no padding on. We didn’t know how it was going to go down, and we didn’t even really talk it through, but I knew it was going to be violent. When I got shot and had to scramble for the gun, it was all adrenaline. We did one take and I was like, ‘Ow, my knee!’ I remember by the third time, I was saying, ‘I can’t do it again unless I get padding!’” she laughs.