Martin Bohm, the character played by Kiefer Sutherland in his new Fox drama series “Touch,” is nothing like Jack Bauer, the character he played on the Fox series “24,” but he did not take the role for that reason, just to manage his career after “24,” Sutherland told the many TV attending Winter TV Press Tour 2012 who were rabid fans of “24.”
Then he told them again.
They didn’t seem to want to hear it, so they just kept on asking.
Finally Sutherland gave up and announced production on the “24” movie would begin shooting in late April.
It was like throwing raw meat to piranha.
In “Touch, Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, a widower and single father, who is haunted by his inability to communicate with his 11-year-old son Jake, who has been misdiagnosed as being autistic. Martin discovers his son, Jake, has the ability to see hidden patterns that connect people around the world.
“The character was so vastly different and the tone of the piece was so vastly different that that was part of its appeal,” Sutherland answerd, the first time he was asked. “And I had to re-read it a second time, to make sure that all of the emotional components 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’.”
You can see where he went wrong — too many three-syllable words.
“Kiefer, continuing on that point for a minute,” a critic said. “Jack Bauer had to keep his emotions in rein so often… In this one…you got to do more…outward acting, than you got to do in all the years of that. How different an experience is this for you?”
Sutherland answered politely that it was a very different experience, being careful to use more words of fewer syllables. “This will hopefully become more open and more open and more open,” he said.
“Kiefer, in front here, on your left: being identified with a role is a double-edged sword, and obviously you are happy people bought into it, but you don’t want to be known only for that. So, in taking this role…did you feel, ‘I’ve got to get away from Jack Bauer as far as I can?’”
Sutherland re-recited his gag about making sure the pilot affected him personally rather than just trying to manage his career – this time winding down with, “Does it happen to also be a nice diversion from ‘24’? Yes. But I believe, honestly, that the choice and the reason that I made the choice was because it spoke to me.”
“I guess, in some way, you are still kind of saving the world, though on a lesser scale, indirectly through your son,” responded one critic, undaunted. “You prevent sort of an unwilling suicide bomber and a major bus wreck in the first episode.”
“Unwittingly,” Sutherland shot back, like he meant it to sting. “I mean, again, the real driving force for my character is to really just simply communicate with his son.”
“I’m curious if, after saving the world and running around in a TV show with a gun and a cell phone, I’m curious if one of the things that appealed to you about this role is that, presumably, you are going to have quite a few fairly quiet, intimate scenes with [child actor] David Mazouz as your son,” said another critic. Now they just sounded like they were baiting him.
About the sixth – maybe it was the seventh – time a critic asked Sutherland about “24,” Sutherland began to talk about how sorry he was that “I really wasn’t very articulate when I answered this question” – the FIRST time.
Critics did not take the hint, though at least they started prefacing their questions with “I hate to keep going on this ‘24’ thing.”
Sutherland tried a new approach: “Touch,” he said, is a show that teaches viewers “that things happen for a reason, very much like the wildebeest that is stung by a bee in the Serengeti, and starts a stampede, and creates a dust cloud that rises and carries over two continents, and starts a storm in the Gulf -- and there is a cause and effect to everything.”
Well, that shut them up.
After that, they wanted to know if American TV viewers are “ready for something that is so positive” as his new show “Touch.”
You betcha, said the panel, which included show creator Tim Kring. Kring, in marked contract to Sutherland;s experience, took only one question in which he was asked whether the son character on “Touch” wasn’t really a prototype for a character on Kring’s NBC’s superheroes drama “Heroes.”
“This is not a superpower idea,” Kring said firmly. “It’s a mystical or spiritual idea,” ending that thread of talk. Or, maybe TV critics are just so over “Heroes.”