Kiefer Sutherland’s ready to face a little more torture, but not the kind Jack Bauer learned how to handle.
After his long, triumphant run on “24,” Sutherland’s returning to Fox with “Touch,” a brand new series – from “Heroes” creator Tim Kring – in which the pain inflicted he endures is more emotional than physical: Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, a former journalist living a working class existence as a luggage handler following the death of his wife during the 9/11 attacks, who first struggles to connect with his mute, autistic son Jake. As Martin strives to understand his son, he soon finds himself scrambling to decode the important meaning of the patterns connecting people and events across the globe that Jake seems to be able to pinpoint.
Sutherland admits he was still enjoying a break from the weekly TV schedule, with well-received stints in Lars von Trier’s film “Melancholia” and the Broadway play “That Championship Season." But as he reveals to PopcornBiz, something about “Touch” connected immediately to him in the same way its characters are interlinked.
“I got a call from a great friend, partner of mine, who I worked with forever and she said, ‘I have a script, a television pilot, that I think you should read,’” recalls Sutherland. “And I said ‘Do you know what? I'm not really ready to do that yet. I think I'm going to finish up the play. I'm going to do this film with Mira Nair.’ I really wanted to set some time apart from this kind of amazing experience that I had with ‘24’ and try some different things. And she said ‘Trust me – You have to read it.’ And I remember I was on about page 35, and I went S**t – I'm in real trouble here,’ because it was just so beautifully written, and it presented itself as an opportunity.”
“I'd made 200 episodes of "24," and it was impossible not to kind of figure out how to navigate what I was going to do next without thinking about that,” the actors adds. “The character was so vastly different, and the tone of the piece was so vastly different, that that was part of its appeal. And I had to reread it a second time to make sure that all of the emotional components that I was reacting to so strongly were actually integral to me, as opposed to this perspective that I was trying to create or navigate from ‘24.’ So, yes, it was unbelievably appealing because it was so different, and then I just emotionally responded to the piece in such a strong way that, by the end of it, I realized that if they would have me, this was certainly something I wanted to do.”
Sutherland says that while Martin is markedly different from Jack Bauer, he’s just as compelling in his own way. “He's got an unbelievable perseverance,” he says. “And I think that any person who is, especially a single parent, that any person who's dealing with a child with special needs is going to require that. And to the people that I have known that have been in that situation, their strength is unbelievable to me.”
Despite introducing new characters and giving each episode a procedural feel so first-time viewers can find an easy entry point into “Touch,” Sutherland said the series’ regular audience will also be rewarded with some subtle surprises. “For someone who's got a schedule and you're catching one here and one there and one there, the episodes will have a beginning, middle, and an end,” he says. “And having done a serialized show like '24' and having Tim having done a serialized show like 'Heroes', to be able to do this was a great opportunity. Because I think it's a lot to ask of people to set aside 24 hours a year to dedicate to one thing with as much things that are going on in people's lives…And for those of you who watch the show for the thirteen episodes or for the year after for the 22 you go, 'No, way, I saw that guy!’”
And since getting involved with “Touch,” has Sutherland become more sensitive to the far-flung ways in which each person’s life can uniquely connect to others all over the planet in ways they don’t realize?
“I think I've been relatively astute about that, in all fairness,” he says. “Which is one of the reasons I think the show affected me kind of the way it did. Now I'm more aware of it – instead of saying, 'Oh, that was lucky,’ maybe thinking about it a little more and maybe realizing maybe it wasn't that lucky. And almost every great thing that has ever happened in my life, I will find out ten years later that someone had made a phone call to someone and had kind of been really, really great on my behalf. And I'd rather not wait ten years to find out that, and so I think about it in a different way.”
"Touch" premieres tonight at 8 PM ET on Fox