“24” Prequel Offers Redemption To Long-Waiting Fans

Kiefer Sutherland in “24 Redemption”
Kiefer Sutherland in “24: Redemption”

Posted By Jeff Pfeiffer

Pity Jack Bauer. He’s a man who should be standing on a stage getting the accolades of the nation but usually ends each day in situations far from ideal. He’s lost his wife, his lover, his freedom and his identity, going into hiding so his own government could not find and arrest him. Since 24’s Day 6 finale in May 2007, fans have been waiting for their hero to return. Alas, a writers strike canceled an entire season. With such a long interval between Days 6 and 7, the show’s writers are making sure fans can keep up to speed with 24: Redemption, a two-hour film airing Nov. 23 on FOX. The film, costarring Robert Carlyle and Jon Voight, finds Jack in hiding and working as a missionary in Africa when a ruthless warlord stages a military coup and begins rounding up children to serve in his militia.

We recently spoke with 24 co-executive producer Howard Gordon to get the scoop on Redemption, as well as the upcoming Day 7 of 24 in January.

Channel Guide: What’s the premise of Redemption? Would you consider it a movie, or more of a special episode of 24?

Howard Gordon: It’s very much a movie. It’s something you don’t have to see to enjoy the rest of the main season. It was conceived midway through the season itself, so it’s not required viewing. I think it enhances the experience, but it’s very much its own story.

Jack [Bauer] ended [Day] 6 on a very existential note, on a cliff overlooking the water, and this season, the season proper, begins with Jack being held accountable for some of his behavior in the past, including illegal detention and torture. So he’s literally testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee. So just strictly from a practical matter, how did Jack get from that cliff to a Senate chamber? That’s really the question that we pose in the prequel, and we learn that Jack has actually been traveling the world, going from place to place. One of these places is Africa, and he’s been traveling emotionally with a very uneasy, unsettled feeling, in part because he’s been avoiding this subpoena. He feels he’s sort of given at the office, and all he’s got left is his freedom, and he’s not about to give that up, knowing full well that he’s basically going to be paraded in front of a kangaroo court.

So the story involves Jack’s journey from this sort of nomadic state to being held accountable — or holding himself accountable — for his own past, and there’s a nice standalone story that we’ve found involving a group of kids who are orphans from previous wars and conflicts, and there’s a new conflict about to erupt in this place. So once again, history intervenes with whatever plans Jack may have for himself. He finds himself having to sublimate those plans for other people’s well-being.

CG: The title Redemption seems to have some implications behind it. Does Jack change as a character here, and will that carry over into the new season?

HG: Every year, Jack has always had a clear-cut and relatable aspiration — whether it’s his family back together again, or forgiveness for what happened to his wife from his daughter, from himself. He always had a very strong and very clear idea. After Season 5 when he lost everything and pretty much everyone who meant anything to him, it was very different. Jack came back from China and was very kind of damaged goods. And last year, in some ways when he started the year the only thing he was aspiring to was an honorable death. So he almost was relieved at the prospect of his life ending.

This year, I think his time away has sort of hardened Jack a little bit. In some ways he’s a darker Jack, but he’s also a Jack more at peace with who he is. Lat year he was a little bit downbeat I would say, a little beaten down. This year it feels like he’s coming back swinging. But one thing he’s taken away from all these days … he does tend to keep relationships and people at arm’s length for fear of what happens if he gets too close to anyone.

I think one of the big [upcoming] secrets is we’re going to give Jack a reason — a very flesh-and-blood, human reason — to live again. Whether it’s reconciliation with people from his past or meeting a new person.

CG: Does Redemption take place over the course of 24 hours, as the series episodes do?

HG: It actually takes place in the course of two hours. The real conceit of 24, what gives it a special energy and narrative drive, is the real-time conceit. So we decided to keep to it.

CG: Was Redemption always a story you had wanted to tell, or was it mainly created to tide fans over who had waited so long for more 24 action?

HG: A combination of the two. Redemption actually has a lot of elements of a failed attempt that we had at the very beginning of this season. Jack was originally located at the beginning of the season in Africa. We just weren’t able to make it work. We had some material brewing that always felt like we couldn’t lick it initially. There was a lot of good stuff there. When the writers strike happened and the network came to me and said can I do a prequel, the Africa story took hold pretty quickly and it seemed like a great opportunity to both get the show back in front of the public before we launched the season, and, at least in this calendar year, get the show back on the air.

CG: You filmed Redemption in South Africa. What were some of the production challenges?

HG: The weather. Unlike Southern California, which is the perfect place to shoot a real-time show because the weather is so constant, in Africa, in the winter, the days were very, very short, so there was much less shooting time. The weather from one hour to the next was torrential winds and rains, and then sunshine. Particularly for real-time it became a challenge. Ironically, it wound up giving the film a character we would never have gotten in Southern California; there’s a very electric, dramatic look … different look.

The biggest unknowns were the crews and the facilities; no one knew what it was going to be like. And it turned out to be an extraordinary bounty of talented people. Perhaps the greatest bounty were the kids, the local acting talent. Some of them never did anything really more than local theater, and we just found such a deep and talented group of people, from people who have one line to people who are costars of the movie. It was amazing.

CG: You say Redemption is not “required viewing” for Season 7, but are there any connections to the upcoming season?

HG: The [secondary] story in Washington, which takes place on inauguration day, is a little bit more of a key-up for the season, so that’s something that is a little bit less standalone and more of a tease for the upcoming season.

It’s an introduction to a couple of characters. None of them necessary, but I think anybody that’s a fan of the show will definitely benefit from watching it. We meet the new president [played by Cherry Jones] for one thing. It’s her inauguration day as she takes the reins from Powers Boothe’s character Noah Daniels, who was last year’s president. We’ll meet her husband, we’ll meet her son, a whole new group of people.

CG: Any other hints for Season 7?

HG: The big one is that Tony Almeida turned out not to have died in Season 5 as we had thought, and so Jack is enlisted from the Senate hearing by the FBI to search for an old friend who, it seems, has turned bad. So there’s a bit of a Heart of Darkness story here.

CG: Would you like to do any more standalone 24 movies like Redemption?

HG: I know that the studio and the network are very happy with it, and I think they’d like that to happen. I have to say it’s probably driven entirely by whether there’s a good idea. But in the absence of one, no comment.


Photo: © 2008 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Kelsey McNeal