Welcome back the all-America action hero that is Jack Bauer. Next week on Sky 1 (on November 24th no less!) a special two-hour prequel movie that bridges the gap between Days 6 and 7 of 24 returns to the screen.
In 24: REDEMPTION we catch up with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) on the African continent where he has sought solace in missionary work. He soon finds himself in the midst of a bloody uprising in the fictitious African nation of Sangala where a ruthless dictator is drafting innocent children to serve as soldiers in his army. As the vicious Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) descends on an orphanage in search of recruits, Jack enters into a one-man crusade at the behest of his friend Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle) to rescue the children and get them to safety.
It seems like it’s been about five years since we last caught up with 24’s Jack Bauer. When last we saw him, he was staring off into the distance at the very edge of a cliff… and has remained doing so since last winter’s writers strike delayed the start of 24’s Day Seven by a year.
However, fans of 24 will get a glimpse into the life of Jack Bauer this fall when FOX airs the two-hour 24 prequel telefilm, 24: Exile, which follows Jack in Africa as he takes on the ripped-from-the-headlines issue of child soldiers.
Fans at the 24 panel at Comic-Con were treated not only to 24: Exile’s trailer–which features lots of familiar faces including Kiefer Sutherland, Peter MacNicol, and Powers Boothe, but also first female president Cherry Jones, Jon Voight, Robert Carlisle, and Gil Bellows–but also to a look at a full scene from the prequel movie, in which Jack shepherds a group of African children to the US embassy but finds himself caught in a full-blown gunfight on a crowded street. In addition to the gunfire, it’s also a deeply emotional scene, in which Jack is forced to tell a sobbing African child that his beloved teacher, Mr. Benton, sacrificed himself in order to ensure their safety.
Kiefer Sutherland and Carlos Bernard, who returns as presumed dead Tony Almeida for Day Seven, were on hand, along with executive producers Jon Cassar, Howard Gordon, David Fury, Manny Coto, and new writing staff additions Brandon Braga and Carlos Coto. Gordon explained that the “genesis” of 24: Exile originally came about when they were exploring doing some webisodes or mobisodes for 24 and he and Sutherland began riffing about an African storyline that had been discarded from a previous season; those discussions ended up informing what would become 24: Exile. “It turned out to be a very good idea,” said Gordon. “Day Six ended with Jack at the edge of the cliff, a very existential moment… but an emotional bridge was missing [from the season finale].”
Cassar said that the studio originally intended to shoot for three days in South Africa and then shoot the rest of the two-hour Exile in Simi Valley, California, which would have been a “hard cheat.” FOX ended up telling them to shoot the entire thing in South Africa, which was “tough,” as they had to get a new crew and new actors, but Cassar admitted that the process was “pretty exciting… being there gave it a whole new feeling.”
For Sutherland, 24: Exile was definitely exciting. “It was arguably one of the best scripts we’ve ever had,” said Sutherland. “We weren’t racing against some clock to get it to air.”
As for the issue of the strike, Manny Coto said that it was a mixed blessing but it “allowed us the freedom and creativity to make the season even deeper.”
As for the depth of Day Seven, we do know that it involves the first female president of the United States, who will be played by celebrated Broadway actress Cherry Jones, and the return of fan favourite character Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard).
For his part, Bernard says he jumped at the opportunity to work with the 24 again, due to the “amazing mixture of talented people who make this show” and said he had the “funniest year yet working on the show.”
So what does it mean that Tony has seemingly returned from the dead? Gordon joked that it “very well could be a measure of our desperation that he’s back,” and noted that on paper at least Tony had been killed four times over the series’ run. Producers David Fury and Manny Coto, however, refused to accept Tony’s final death (which seemed to be sticking), saying that they didn’t believe that Tony was dead; even Gordon admitted that he didn’t love the way that Tony had died.
For Sutherland, Tony’s death was a reminder that none of the characters is safe. “The most difficult thing during the run of the show,” said Sutherland, “is working with talented actors who leave the show. Everything has to service the story. When Howard Gordon brought up that Tony was coming back again, I asked, ‘How?'”
The secret behind Tony’s return will be a major component of Day Seven. Sutherland says the method by which he’s returned to the series is “so clever” and “very 24.” The back-story will be a function of how Tony didn’t actually die and what was done behind people’s backs in order to secretly keep him alive and fake his death. “I think the writers did an amazing job,” said Sutherland.
As for what to expect from Day Seven, launching in January, Sutherland joked that Tony will die. But more honestly, Sutherland said, “We’re not trying to reinvent the show… [But] make it better, tighter, and smarter and that’s hopefully what you’ll see in the seventh season.”
As for Jack, “he’s trying to be better,” said Sutherland. New cast additions include Cherry Jones, Jon Voight, Annie Wersching (who will play Jack’s new partner, a tough-as-nails FBI agent who could be perceived as a “female Jack Bauer”), Rhys Coiro, and Janeane Garofalo.
Audiences will see Jack Bauer have to answer for the torture he’s inflicted on several characters throughout the series’ run. David Fury says that they are never “endorsing torture” but are showing that Jack’s use of torture will have consequences. “It’s kind of necessary for people to get hurt,” said Fury about the series.
What we won’t be seeing in Day Seven, however, is Jack pausing to grab a cup of coffee, use the toilet, or grab a sandwich. In fact, Sutherland and Gordon revealed that they had shot a scene in a previous season in which Jack was seen coming out of the restroom before a raid and the network cut the scene. “Whenever they cut to the White House,” joked Sutherland, “Jack is in the bathroom. And not only is he peeing, he’s having a drink and getting something to eat.”
As for favourite episodes, Sutherland diplomatically says that he’s “optimistic about that future” and therefore they haven’t made his favourite yet but that 24: Exile is “certainly up there.” He’s also extremely proud of episodes 8-11 of Day Seven. (His coolest moment on the series to date, however was when he “chopped off that guy’s head off in Season Two.”)
Bernard seconded the notion, saying that his favourite was definitely from Day Seven. As for Tony being evil, Bernard said that the transformation for Tony from hero to villain is “very organic from where his story has gone since the beginning.” Sutherland says that the first scene he shot with Bernard this season, “I got to shoot at him and tackle him. I loved it.”
So what’s going on with those rumours of a 24 feature film? Gordon says that the basic consensus is that “while the series is on the air, I don’t want to mess with a good thing,” but that a 24 feature will happen when the series wraps.
It all sounds great. Still no news on the exact date when Day 7 returns to the British screen but it is being shown in America from January 11th 2009. Hopefully, Sky 1 will be showing the new series not far behind so we can experience Jack Bauer’s new stressful day.