Kiefer Sutherland, star of Fox's 24, told reporters that the majority of next season's episodes will be completed by the time it airs. "We're starting in May this year instead of August," Sutherland said on Friday. "We will have finished, I think, 22 episodes by the time it goes to air."
Sutherland spoke about 24's new season during a press conference last week in Los Angeles while promoting his upcoming 3-D animated film Monsters vs. Aliens. He said that the show found a comfortable creative rhythm only after the production was faced with many different kinds of challenges. "I think at any given moment we need to stop and figure something out, we've afforded ourselves that time. I don't know why it took us seven years to figure that out, and a writers' strike, but we have."
In addition to discussing the immediate future of the series, Sutherland discussed the effect of the writers' strike on the show and addressed the prospect of a film version of Jack Bauer's adventures. The following is an edited version of the press conference. 24 airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
This season has been incredibly successful. How much was the production of the show affected by the writers' strike, and could that change things going forward?
Sutherland: As much as the writers' strike was a difficult time for everybody, there were some benefits for us. We had 15 months to shoot what we normally shoot in 10, and we certainly got hit for it quite hard in season six. But it's been a difficulty we've had from the very first season on. It's a three-act play for us, so each eight episodes kind of transitions us into another story, and some of those transition points have been really sticky for us. Because of the fact that we were about at episode 16 or 17, and they just shut down, they were having a hard time with that transition. They just stopped, and they took that three weeks and they figured something out, and it was very technical. It was not character-driven, it was not dialogue-driven, but it was a structural entity that led us into that last transition in the final eight episodes. We would not have had that time, and historically never had that kind of time specifically at that time of the season, which was of a huge benefit for us.
Were you concerned that the viewers would move on?
Sutherland: Well, they did. They have moved on. If you take a look, television as a medium has lost 40 percent of its viewership. I was aware of the terrible ramifications from Major League Baseball after it went on strike. National Hockey League went on strike, and it was replaced by f--king poker, and poker did better. You can't find a hockey game now, so, yeah, I was terrified. The fact that we were able to come back and managed to do the same numbers that we had been doing in previous years, you have no idea the relief.
Do you think that there will be a time when Jack Bauer will be a movie hero, or the star of an animated series?
Sutherland: I've never thought about an animated series. We thought that it would be cruel and unusual punishment to ask the writers to write, in the course of 10 months, the equivalent of 12 films, and in their off times, "By the way, if you have a great idea for a feature film that's so special, write that as well." We've kind of collectively agreed that we would entertain the idea of a film when the series was finished, and if people still wanted to see something like that. We would be really excited to do that, because the format that we would make the movie in, because we have discussed it, would be a two-hour representation of a 24-hour day, so we would lose the real-time aspect, which would be a huge freedom for the writers. But it's something we would not even start to do until the series was finished.