Drama series '24' keeps Kiefer Sutherland on run

Monday, December 10, 2001

NEW YORK -- The first few episodes of "24" occur at night.

"But we started shooting the series in the summer, when the nights were shortest," says Kiefer Sutherland with a rueful laugh. "Now, with things taking place in the daytime, we're shooting in the winter, when the days are shortest."

He shakes his head in bemusement. "I think that's just hysterical."

For Sutherland "24," this thriller has been rife with unexpected twists.

But complications will arise when you try to tell a tangled tale hour by hour, in real time, stretched across a season's 24 weekly episodes. (The fifth "24" segment, which covers the period of 4 to 5 a.m., airs Tuesday on Fox at 8 p.m., with an encore Friday at 8 p.m., and on cable's FX network Sunday and Monday.)

"The real-time aspect of this show affects every little thing," says Sutherland on a publicity hop to New York.

While "24" is in production, what the characters wear must remain the same. Every prop must stay rooted in place unless someone is shown moving it. And none of the actors better pack on any weight.

"Maintaining the energy level is a challenge," adds Sutherland. "If you were in a fight in the last scene, which is supposed to be just two minutes ago, when they come back to you, you've got to still be breathing hard."

Sutherland plays Jack Bauer, a Los Angeles-based CIA agent desperate to penetrate an assassination plot against a presidential candidate -- a hit expected in the next 24 hours, with one of Bauer's own people possibly involved.

Bauer got wind of the conspiracy after midnight on California's primary day. That's the day David Palmer, a charismatic black U.S. senator, is expected to clinch his party's nomination.

Meanwhile, Bauer has to find his party-hearty teen-age daughter who slipped out of the house around midnight and has gotten in a jam. Plus, he and his wife aren't on the best of terms and -- golly! -- it would be nice to get a little shut-eye.

While the critical raves showered on the series so far have not translated into blockbuster ratings.

Fox has made its own support official: "24" recently won a full-season order of 24 episodes.

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