Kiefer Sutherland recently appeared on Chris Jericho’s “Talk Is Jericho” podcast to discuss his career longevity, new series Designated Survivor, his debut solo album, and more. We’ve transcribed the parts where he talks about 24.
On career struggles:
“From 20 years old to 30 years old everything was going swimmingly. At 30 it just dried up and stopped for a while, 4-5 years. Then I got very lucky with 24. And you need that moment where it dries up and stops, because that’s what allows you to look back and go “Oh my gosh, how lucky was I?”
And I will never take that for granted again. When I did 24, I didn’t – it was one of the great times of my life. I hope the same with this experience of Designated Survivor and with my album.”
Why 24 took off:
“I think it was a variety of things. And one of them, if I could take back, If I had the power to take that back, I would. We had shot about four months of 24 before the terrible events of 9/11. And I remember there was a moment, especially because the opening episode of 24 had to deal with a hijacked jet and all this other stuff. And it was just completely a fluke, no one in their wildest dreams thought any of this stuff could ever happen. And tragically it did.
I think FOX as a network questioned whether or not they should even put it out. They tested it with people and their reaction to it was really positive. I think the reason why their reaction was really positive. I certainly remember feeling incredibly helpless, incredibly angry after 9/11, and heartbroken too. I remember feeling really helpless, there was nothing you could do about it. It wasn’t like someone had picked on your sister at school and you went and found the guy and did something about it, I felt really helpless.
And then all of a sudden this show had this character Jack Bauer that was fighting these insurmountable odds and doing all that kind of stuff. I think certainly in the beginning year or two, people really appreciated that there were people out there doing this. The reality is there are people who are really doing that.”
Why the 24 movie never happened:
“It was talked about, talked about, talked about a lot. I never understood why it wasn’t made, especially in the earlier days. But there’s so many reasons why something doesn’t work and very few reasons why something does. It’s complicated. Companies have movie divisions and television divisions, they might not all get along.”
Having fun playing Jack Bauer:
“I have to say, I have been incredibly fortunate as I look back. Jack Bauer as a character just because of the amount of time that I got to spend with that character. I admired his moral compass, I thought he was a very righteous character and I wish I was half that.
But he was also so much fun to play. I remember, this is so embarrassing… I’m 5’10” on a good day, if I’m standing really straight. And they’d send in some guy who was 6’4″ and 240 pounds. And I’d look at him and go “Well, it says I’m gonna kick your ass, so I guess I’m gonna kick your ass!” (laughs) In real life, it would take two seconds and he’d hit me with his finger and I’d be down. But because Jack Bauer had these great moves or whatever, the way it was written, it would work out. So all that kind of stuff was a lot of fun.”
On why Kiefer stopped doing 24:
“When people ask me why didn’t you keep doing the show… I would’ve loved to have done the show until the day I died. I loved that character, I loved the people I was working with, and the audience that enjoyed the show has been incredibly gracious to me.
But let’s be honest, how many bad days can one guy have? We did nine seasons. At one point, probably around season 6, I said “Okay, this is getting a little long in the tooth.” So I kinda decided to not do the show almost out of respect to the character and what the show meant to me. And I had always said the idea of the show was the real star.”
On possibly returning to 24 at some point:
“I’ve learned to never say never with that one, because when I finished Season 8 I said I was never going to do it again. And they came up with what I thought was a really cool idea in England.
And the truth is, I did it because I missed the people that I was working with – Jon Cassar the director and Howard Gordon. And I happened to still have a really good relationship at 20th Century Fox. That was a decade of my life. I remember looking at a picture of my daughter from Season 1, she looked like such a cute little girl with her pigtails and I think was still carrying around a doll. By the end of it she was graduating at NYU, so that put a perspective on how much time that was.”