Jon Voight adds another dimension to ’24’ villain

Jack Bauer Meets Jonas Hodges

Finally, Jack meets Jonas.

Monday’s 24 showdown between hero Jack Bauer and one of the show’s more memorable villains, Jonas Hodges, gives star Kiefer Sutherland face time with Jon Voight. Hodges heads Starkwood, a shadowy military contractor gone rogue with bioweapons.

Voight, in his first role in a TV series since the late ’60s, lies in a hospital bed, falling ill after being ordered to take a heart-attack-inducing pill by a woman representing a shadowy overlord. Jack, fresh from a seizure induced by the biotoxin, arrives to find out why this bad day is about to get worse.

“It’s really about broadening the conspiracy,” says executive producer Howard Gordon, “by delivering on the details of the threat (Jonas) made to (President) Taylor, when he said he’s just a cog in a larger machine.” Hodges also explains his motives.

But the confrontation didn’t come soon enough for Sutherland. “One of the great fears of mine is that in many cases in 24, characters don’t meet, and Jon and I took until the very bitter end,” he says. As he received script after script with no scenes between Bauer and Hodges, “I finally had to go up to Howard and said, ‘If you don’t let me work with him, I’ll kill you.’ ”

Voight says he had a blast playing Hodges, first glimpsed in last summer’s movie prequel before reappearing halfway through this season, after the previous baddie, Sangala’s Col. Dubaku, was dispatched.

The actor, 70, says he found the experience “an adventure,” and he made some significant contributions. Gordon says Voight ad-libbed several lines, including the producer’s favorite: “Stress is the fertilizer of creativity.”

And more important, he broke a rule of 24, which frowns on food or bathroom breaks. “He was eating when you first see him,” Voight says. Specifically, Chinese noodles. “They said, ‘We don’t do that on this show.’ ” (“It might be the first time food’s been eaten on 24,” Gordon says.)

But Voight argued that “you want to see he’s got levels of concentration, he’s doing lots of things and he’s comfortable. It’s not like he’s working hard or scared or has the weight of the world on him. He’s living his life and he’s not intimidated.”

Hodges is also “out of his mind,” Gordon says, crediting Voight with giving the role an extra layer. “He’s operatic and over-the-top. It’s a character that’s one-dimensional on the page, but he makes it three-dimensional.”

Sutherland says, “The key to a villain like this is you want to like him. Jon floats that fantastic line; his ideology is insane, but he almost sells it to you. He’s charming, which is what makes him scary.”

One of his favorite scenes was a few weeks back, when Jonas bashed the head of Starkwood’s chairman of the board with a brandy snifter, then hurled him over a balcony to his death.

Voight was relieved, because it enabled him to show Hodges’ true character. “I felt this guy was holding himself back,” Voight says. “He had this venom, and it had to be unleashed.” It also clearly signaled to viewers that Hodges is a man of action: “He’s not just talking, he’s nuts. We’re keeping him in this danger zone.”

Also tonight, Chloe returns (Mary Lynn Rajskub is back from maternity leave), locking horns with Janis (Janeane Garofalo), and the president’s daughter Olivia (Sprague Grayden) seeks her own way to get at Hodges.

Just four hours remain in 24‘s day, including a two-hour finale scheduled for May 18, and Sutherland says they’re among the series’ best. They bring the show’s controversial stance on torture — still making headlines in the real world as recently as last week — full circle from the start of the season, when Bauer faced a congressional hearing on his interrogation methods.

Jack “really goes inside himself in a very deep way, not only about things he’s been asked to do but things he’s done by his own choice,” Sutherland says. “It’s a much more emotional four episodes than dramatic, explosive, blow-up-everything episodes.”

And on May 28, 24 — absent last year due to the writers’ strike — will begin filming its eighth season, to be set (and partially shot) in New York with a story centering on the United Nations.

Source: USA Today