’24’ Backlot Talk

Feb 27, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Chuck Ross: Hi again everybody, it’s Chuck Ross, editorial director of TelevisionWeek, and we’re on again with the folks over at “24,” and today we have co-executive producer, Manny Coto, who also wrote last night’s episode. How are you doing this morning, Manny?
Manny Coto: Good, thank you.
Mr. Ross: I thought it was just a wonderful episode, a lot of stuff going on. I thought it was incredibly action-packed. I thought the appearance of the former president on the show, actor Greg Itzin spotting a full beard, I thought it was great. It was a subtle thing; you don’t know exactly where he’s headed. Jack obviously doesn’t trust him. I think it was very well-written and very well-performed.
Mr. Coto: Thank you. Definitely the highlight of the episode and something that we were definitely looking forward to this season was to bring back Itzin, and Gregory was always a favorite from us for last year. And we really wanted to find some way to make him an interesting character this season and I think the idea that he’s possibly seeking some sort of redemption or has found God is an intriguing concept; and whether it is actually the fact or not, we’ll see it play out in the next few episodes.
Mr. Ross: How early in the process of planning the episodes for this season would you think of bringing someone like Itzin back into the mold.
Mr. Coto: Well in this case it was kind of making a list of things we definitely wanted to do this season, and at the top of that list was try to find some way to bring back Gregory Itzin. And we knew in general what kind of an international plot we were going to have this season and we felt that there was going to be some way that President Logan would be involved in the background and that Jack would ultimately have to go to him and have to work with him.to bring an end to the crisis.
Mr. Ross: What that brings up is one of the things I think you guys have done so well season after season is, in basically a plot where you have the good guys, the white hat versus the black hat, so to speak, you’ve actually done shades of gray. And I think that’s what you’ve done with Gregory Itzin, I think that’s also what you’ve done this season with the whole intrigue around the White House, the embattled White House in the bunker, and exactly what’s going to happen with the Peter MacNicol character. At first one thought he was going to be a real demagogue on one side of it; obviously he’s not that character and I like the way you guys are handling that as well.
Mr. Coto: Well I have to say that that’s something we strive for, but I also have to talk off my hat to Howard Gordon. Howard is really always insistent that the villains, that all our characters have very large gray areas, that nothing is absolute, that no one is painted in broad strokes, and that’s what makes it more interesting.
Mr. Ross: I think you’re absolutely right. One of the questions the fans have asked us.is how much involvement the network has with the input with what we here in Hollywood call “notes” that they would give you and how that affects each episode. Have you guys ever had to go back and re-shoot some things once you show it to the network executives?
Mr. Coto: Well I can really only address the situation as far as I’ve been here, which is through Season 5 and Season 6, and we’ve never ever had to go back and re-shoot anything for the network; there have never been those kind of notes. Now whether the network really loves the show and loves the work we’re doing and that’s the reason that the notes are light or it’s simply because they feel that this is a show they don’t really need to pay attention to; either way I find that the notes are pretty light on this show from the network. Usually they’re biggest note tends to be more Jack, more Jack Bauer, and we’re always conscious of that, but I must say, it’s not a huge.I’ve been on a show where the networks are really all over it and this show, it’s the opposite.
Mr. Ross: You wrote last night’s episode. Do you guys get together sometime over the summer and decide you write X number of episodes? How is that divided amongst the staff?
Mr. Coto: It really kind of happens as it goes along. The only time we’re really assigned slots is at the beginning of the season.but then after that, it becomes who’s available when; so it’s kind of a rotating basis. But pretty soon we get into a situation where we are behind and many times writers take acts from other people’s episodes and vice versa, and that’s just something that happens on this show; it’s a very tough show to write because you really can’t get ahead. On other shows you can send people off on episodes; not on this one. You really can only be one episode ahead because what’s happened in the previous episode directly affects what’s happening in the current episode.
Mr. Ross: So you’re sort of doing this along with the writing process. Do you have to turn in your script before they start writing in the next one or how does that work?
Mr. Coto: No, I basically had to have the script.we had to have an outline, a detailed outline, so that they can start the next one; and they could start writing it, but the next one couldn’t be finalized until mine was finalized. So there could be a script in place for the next one, but always with the provision that there would be a number of changes depending on the episode that was written before. I’m going through this right now. I’m writing Episode 21 and I’m still making changes based on changes that are happening in Episode 20.
Mr. Ross: Have you filmed Episode 20 yet?
Mr. Coto: No, not yet.
Mr. Ross: How long did it take you to write last night’s episode?
Mr. Coto: It’s hard to say. Probably a month from start to finish, with all the re-writes. The first draft really takes likes a week, but then these scripts are heavily re-written throughout, so it’s hard to tell because you’d have to sit down and really calculate the hours put in because sometimes I’m writing this script and sometimes I’m helping beat out another episode.
Mr. Ross: How many folks are involved in the re-writes?
Mr. Coto: It usually depends on the situation. In this case it was pretty much I did the re-writing on myself on this one, if I remember correctly; I could be wrong. But on Episode 2, which I wrote, Howard did a good chunk of the re-write; Evan took one act and I took the last three acts because we were behind at that point as well. So it depends on the episode. This one I think I pretty much took from beginning to end, if I’m not mistaken.
Mr. Ross: Well I think it was one of the best episodes we’ve seen this season, so kudos Manny. Thank you for talking this morning and I hope we’ll talk to you again later in the season.
Mr. Coto: Thank you.
Mr. Ross: Take care Manny. Bye bye.
Mr. Coto: Bye.


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