’24’ Backlot Talk

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Chuck Ross: Hello again everybody. It’s time for our weekly conversation with the folks at “24,” starring of course Howard Gordon, the executive producer and showrunner. We’re into season six, or day six as we fans like to call it, and we’ve just had the first four hours. I’ve got to tell you Howard, you’ve really outdone yourself. I think there was more there than even some seasons. The whole thing is almost numbing. I want to get right to it. You’ve gotten a lot of comments from last season with both Edgar and Tony having met their demise. And all I’ve been hearing about since last evening was of course what happened with Curtis Manning, played by Roger Cross. He got shot, and a lot of folks are very upset.
Howard Gordon: Well I’ll tell them that we’re going to stem the flow, for awhile anyway. Part of it was really, we look at the story from Jack Bauer’s point of view and Jack kind of had to do something that was so awful to him that he had to turn his back on the last four episodes and on the idea of returning the service. And having to kill Curtis to preserve Assad with something, that came really came to mind and I think Roger played it brilliantly.
Mr. Ross: Are you concerned that you’ve gotten a lot of fan reaction that hasn’t been the most positive?
Mr. Gordon: Maybe I was sticking my head in the sand, I don’t know. I knew people were pissed off, but I know people were pissed off when the same thing happened to Edgar. And again that was one of those things in hindsight I think was understandable and I hope this is similar. Yeah, I’m always concerned and again by making these big, broad reaches you certainly risk pushing people away. But to me I feel like they’re sort of necessary moves. They’re big.
Mr. Ross: And of course the one-two punch, I think viewers barely got a chance to digest what happened to Curtis when all of a sudden the nuke went off. Which I think was again pretty much of a shocker. And someone told me, and please tell me if this is true, that either you guys or the folks at Fox felt compelled after it was filmed to run it by Homeland Security.
Mr. Gordon: You know, I heard some kind of rumor, but I don’t know anything about it. I actually heard, and again this is second-hand, that somebody in the Bush administration felt it was irresponsible. I don’t know if that’s true, but somebody said it was on ABC News or something like that.
Mr. Ross: Interesting. Well what I’ve heard is that some folks at Fox had actually run it by Homeland Security and they said don’t worry about it.
Mr. Gordon: Oh, well I’m not aware of it, so maybe.
Mr. Ross: Well let’s talk about some of the other things. There’s a lot of things in four hours. A couple of real interesting relationships started to develop. Obviously one of the things that happened, I think we saw little sparks least season between Karen Hayes and Bill Buchanan, the actors being James Morrison and Jane Atkinson, and I guess they’ve actually decided to get a little more serious…
Mr. Gordon: And then as always, since nothing’s easy on “24,” they had to get married and she had to take a job in Washington with the new president, just to make things a little more difficult. You know, they had a great chemistry last year and we just wanted to explore that.
Mr. Ross: Well, as a fan, I think that I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops. And some interesting things with Chloe, we have Carlo Rota and maybe you can talk a little bit about that relationship.
Mr. Gordon: It’s funny, I had this conversation with a journalist today and it was somebody who sort of missed the old, idiosyncratic, twitchy Chloe, and part of my thing is we’ve seen Chloe really mature. I think this is really Chloe’s trajectory for becoming a woman and growing up. I think just to sort of keep Chloe static and just make her this idiosyncratic person, I think would start getting tiresome and she’d sort of wear out her welcome. I think here we’re seeing an evolution of Chloe becoming an adult.
Mr. Ross: Another one of the things that “24” has done historically, so so well, and again I think fairly well this season, is with the villains. And I think it started off with Amad Amar, and I think that was handled really really well. And you guys must love the twist where the folks come to his defense in the neighborhood and then of course he does indeed turn out to be a terrorist.
Mr. Gordon: Yeah, it’s pretty standard operating procedure for “24” to twist everything around that way, but I will say that one of the things that was of concern to us and one thing that we really want to be careful about is we don’t want to stoke any flames of xenophobia or anything. So I think a lot of times the people you think are good are bad and the people you think are bad are good, and it’s more of a tangle, more of a mess. There seems to be no good answer or no good response to what’s happening.
Mr. Ross: Again, I think another wonderful job with the Assad character played by Alexander Siddig.
Mr. Gordon: Well initially we had been talking to Alfred Molina … and he was in. And then he got a miniseries …
Mr. Ross: And where did you find Alexander?
Mr. Gordon: He did a part in “Syriana” where he played some Arab royalty, and he was just terrific. And I’m a “Star Trek” fan; he was in “Star Trek” as well. And he’s just a terrific actor. He’s actually a good friend of Joseph Hodges as well, our production designer, and he really recommended him.
Mr. Ross: And a couple of other additions to the cast I think are wonderful; I’m a huge Peter MacNicol fan. I’ve been a fan of his for years and years and I understand he came in at sort of the last moment there. He’s done a wonderful job.
Mr. Gordon: Oh he’s wonderful. He’s a real “24” actor. He’s thoughtful, things are going on behind his eyes and you’re not quite sure what that is.
Mr. Ross: I think we’re all enjoying seeing DB play the president. That really gives him a chance to expand and a real chance to see how he does versus Dennis, who of course played his brother, and those pressures that are upon his as president as well. And also I like to addition of Regina King playing his sister.
Mr. Gordon: Yes. She is again a challenging part because you don’t want to make her this shrill irritant to his already complex day and I think Regina handled it very warmly and I think very convincingly.
Mr. Ross: And Harry Lennix. If you could talk a little about him joining the cast. I think he’s another good addition.
Mr. Gordon: Yeah well once again, trying to twist things as much as we can. The idea that the president’s sister is going out with a guy who’s a Muslim and who is head of an advocacy group felt like an interesting complication. And once again — just an opportunity to explore some of the issues that we’re exploring in real life. At what point do we sacrifice security for the things we hold dear: due process, the Constitution, and put her and him in the middle of it.
Mr. Ross: I certainly like how you’ve done, at least in the first four hours, the development of Jack and obviously what he’s been through in China and his self-doubts. I thought that was one of the, if not the, strongest part of the whole character part of the script over the last four hours.
Mr. Gordon: Yeah, Fox has done such a spectacular job of it and I think Kiefer … I think he was particularly fantastic last night. He communicated so much again with so little. It really was a very visual, very internal thing.
Mr. Ross: Let me ask you a logistics question. You wrote the first episode and then Matty wrote the second one, and I actually I guess there were five of you that wrote all four episodes. It’s so intricate. How does that happen, where we’re able to watch that and it’s so seamless, but it’s done by all different folks writing those.
Mr. Gordon: Well the first four always tend to take twice as long as every other four episodes that we ever do. We work very closely together and rework them and obviously I have to write the first one. I try to get a jump on it and try to get the first one down so that we can go from there. So that becomes a cornerstone. But we’re all working closely together.
Mr. Ross: And when you wrote that first one, did you know what was going to happen in, let’s say, the end of hour four?
Mr. Gordon: Yes I did. We knew the first four by the time I went off, at least in broad strokes.

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