They couldn’t keep Jack Bauer down.
After playing the nearly superhuman government agent for eight seasons on “24,” Kiefer Sutherland was ready to take a break. The series was draining. But he knew he would miss playing Bauer.
“I have never done anything in my career that has had such an explosive reaction by an audience,” Sutherland says.
Now he’s back in the role beginning Monday (8 p.m. on Fox).
Bauer walked into the sunset almost four years ago, but he returns with his own special brand of growling justice with “24: Live Another Day.”
Things are going to move a lot faster in this show. While it continues the format of events that unfold over 24 hours, the summer series will run only 12 hours. That means skipping hours to complete the day in half the time.
On this day, Bauer, who has been in deep hiding for years, surfaces at the time when the U.S. president is negotiating an important deal that needs the support of the prime minister of England. Bauer’s on the trail of those who want to kill the president.
It’s a familiar story for Bauer.
“Through almost every season we have followed as a back story the president of the United States. In this 12-hour arc, we’ll be following the president of the United States and the prime minister of England, which will be a very interesting look into how those deals, or how we perceive those deals, to be done,” Sutherland says. “Many times, what we perceive as some kind of treaty is involving things that we know nothing about. We’re examining that in the course of the show. So from every perspective – from visual to storytelling – it broadens the scope of the show. So for those reasons, I’m very, very excited.”
This time the action takes place in London. But there will be some familiar faces. Kim Raver, who played Audrey Raines in seasons four, five and six, is back. James Heller (William Devane), first seen in season four, is now the president. And Mary Lynn Rajskub reprises her role as the always snitty tech genius Chloe O’Brian. She’s been Jack Bauer’s annoying eyes and ears on the world since the first minutes.
“There’s a great impetus for all of us to create something new with the show and we’ve done that with a lot of new characters, certainly within the context of the story lines and the political issues that Jack Bauer and all of the other characters are dealing with. That’s all very fresh,” Sutherland says. “And Chloe and Jack have had a relationship certainly over the entire span of the show and they have been allies. At the very beginning of this show, they’re actually pitted against each other by virtue of a set of circumstances. So that is a dynamic that she and I, that Mary Lynn and I, get to play. That’s very exciting.”
That relationship plays out in familiar “24” fashion, from big action scenes to split screens to the ticking clock. Sutherland knows how much fans love him playing Bauer, but he believes the design of the show would support another actor taking over as the central anti-hero.
“I’ve always said that I felt that the star of the show was this concept, was this idea. I still believe that very strongly. I think very much like ‘Law & Order’ had many casts, like ‘CSI’ had so many different shows or branch off shows. I think the format, which allows certain characters to kind of have a moral objective within a world that’s maybe not very moral, is fantastic drama,” Sutherland says. “If an audience were to latch onto a younger character that would be helping my character and you would reboot the show through that character.”
For this day, it’s Bauer who is fighting the good fight.
“I won’t lie to you. I’m very nervous. I think the audience that we’ve had that has stayed with us over the years has been so spectacular and supportive and loyal, and to not give them the best that we’ve got to offer would be very disappointing. So I’m about as anxious and wound up as I’ve been in a long time,” Sutherland says.