It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for since last year: the return of 24. Before Jack Bauer begins his ninth really bad day tonight on FOX, we had the opportunity to quiz 24: Live Another Day executive producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto about the process of returning one of TV’s best series to our small screens after a four-year break. Here’s what they had to say about what you’re about to see.
Firstly, even though we’re only going to see half the episodes that we’re used to, the series isn’t ditching its real-time aspect that made it so innovative almost 15 years ago. “This is a real-time series and it remains a real-time series,” explained Manny. “There’s no difference in the way we are treating the show itself. All we are doing is presenting 12 hours out of a 24-hour period. But the episodes themselves are real-time, as [the TV-movie] Redemption was and as the original series was.
“The idea for this, to do a 12-hour season, I think has a lot to do with the success of 12-hour limited series,” he continued. “I think Under the Dome was something that probably sparked the network and/or the studio’s curiosity about doing something like this. It makes it a special event; it makes it something to catch.
“We’re not re-starting the series, we are presenting the next day in Jack Bauer’s life,” he added, “and in the 12-hour format, it becomes, hopefully, a must-watch event because it’s a one-time thing. So I think the 12-hour format was attractive in that respect.”
What impact did the different episode order have on the writing of the new project? “For us, as writers, it’s been fun to condense the storytelling into this 12 hours,” Manny explained. “When we look down the runway of the season, we don’t have 24 hours to fill. Whereas in the old series, very often we might try to stretch things out, because we knew we had so much time. Now we’re finding ourselves with the end in sight and really working to resolve all of our storylines. So it’s becomes more compressed and more exciting, we think.”
Day 9 involves a number of supporting characters from across the run of the original series, including most notably Chloe O’Brian (played by Mary Lynn Rajskub), but also now-President James Heller (William Devane) and his no longer comatose daughter Audrey (Kim Raver), whose new second husband will repeat the first one’s mistake of running afoul of Jack.
Talking about getting the returning actors on board to reprise their roles, Evan told us, “I think that Kiefer wanted to make sure that he understood where the character had been and somewhere interesting to go with the character when we sat with him. And for Bill Devane the same was true; we’re doing something interesting with his character [that] we don’t want to reveal. He’s President, but there’s another big issue he’s wrestling with.
“And the same for Kim Raver and Mary Lynn. Mary Lynn’s character has had quite a radical journey, which over the first three episodes becomes clear. For Kim Raver, the last time we saw her [character], she was catatonic. So, of course, she came in and we chatted with her about what she had been through. Everyone, before they shipped off to London, we were all on the same page.”
One of the new characters introduced is Kate Morgan, played by Yvonne Strahovski, most recently of Dexter, although the fact that she’s playing a CIA agent will no doubt prompt reminders of her time on Chuck. Like Renee Walker before her, Kate begins on the other side of the proverbial line from Jack; whether she’ll stay there is something you’ll have to watch and find out.
“We really liked the idea of bringing in a female point of view character. I’d say the first, at least, month or so of talking about the new season was largely focused on who this woman would be, what her backstory would be, and there was a lot of trial and error,” explained Evan, “but we wanted to make sure she had a wound. Some kind of wound that pursuing Jack Bauer might potentially heal. We also wanted to make sure that there was the potential for her to be able to relate to Jack in terms of personal tragedies they had experienced.”
Always having been a fairly topical series – it began airing in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks – 24 has built stories out of real-world issues and events, and with four years away, there was plenty of material for the writers to utilize for Live Another Day. “There were a number of political developments over the years that we seized upon when we started conceiving the season,” said Manny. “Things that were in the zeitgeist, things that were talked about, that we felt could lead us to a really interesting possible villain and characters for the season.
“[There] is the whole idea of government spying on its citizens and the technology, and consequently individuals who appear who are trying to fight that and to counter that level,” he continued. “It led us to a fascinating character in the season who is doing just that. And it also gave us an idea for what to do with Chloe O’Brian. She is someone, like Jack, who has turned against the government. Jack is a man of action, so when he turns against the government, he goes in a different direction. Chloe, someone who lives behind the keyboard, how does she get revenge? Well, she goes the Edward Snowden route. So it opened up some interesting possibilities for the Chloe character.
“And also the idea of drones, which have become larger in the military landscape since the show was on. I think we featured a drone [in] one season in the first eight years. But, at that time, the drones were kind of smaller and flimsier and didn’t look particularly menacing,” he added. “The drones that are in reality and are in operation now, and some that are on the drawing board, are large, menacing things from the sky that can blow up entire buildings.
“We wanted the show to have a flavor of its old self,” he told us, “but also to take into account the changes that have gone on.”
But to answer the biggest burning question of all: don’t get your hopes up that Live Another Day will lead to the full-time return of 24. This is intended to be Jack Bauer’s last stand. “Nothing is impossible, but we are treating this season as a one-time miniseries. A one-time series event,” said Manny. “It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the ending could be the end of 24 for good, if you look at it that way. It depends on how you look at it.
“[More is] possible, certainly. Obviously, it’ll depend on eyeballs, if people tune in,” he continued. “But one thing to keep in mind is we all came back to tell this one last story, one last day in Jack Bauer’s life. If there’s more beyond, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
24: Live Another Day premieres tonight at the special time of 8 PM ET/PT on FOX. Stay tuned as we’ll be recapping the entire 12-episode event.