SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The world is in a terrible fix. Drones are zipping. Threats are flying. Secrets are leaking. The president of the United States is in the crosshairs of crisis. Only one person can help - Chloe O'Brian. Oh, and her friend, Jack Bauer. But not everyone's happy.
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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Jack Bauer is a traitor and a psychopath who killed two Russian diplomats and came close to assassinating their president. And now after all these years, he surfaces in London the same time as President Heller? We have to consider the possibility that he is here to do the president harm, and there may be other people involved.
SIMON: Jack is back. After four years off the air, "24" returns. "24: Live Another Day" opens with a two-hour premiere at 20:00 Eastern time on Fox, Monday night. Mary Lynn Rajskub returns as Chloe. Kim Raver is back as Audrey Raines. William Devane is back as her father, now President Teller. Tate Donovan plays the president's Chief-of-Staff. He's married to the president's daughter, Audrey. The one name he will not utter is the one we'll say now - Jack Bauer, of course played by Kiefer Sutherland, who joins us from New York. Thanks very much for being with us.
KIEFER SUTHERLAND: Thank you so much for having me, Scott. I don't know if I could've done that introduction for the cast myself.
SUTHERLAND: Really well done.
SIMON: (Laughter) Listen. "24" is not frozen in time. It's now - it's about drones. There are glints of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks with Chloe's character. What themes are you going for now?
SUTHERLAND: Well, I think one of the interesting things about "24" in the history of the show is that it has had this kind of political discussion that almost surrounds Jack Bauer, even though Jack Bauer's not a part of it. Howard Gordon made a very conscious choice to write about things that were topical at that present moment, and drones was certainly one of them.
And the Julian Assange-esque type character that is played by Michael Wincott, there's a constant discussion of whether or not he is in fact a hero or a traitor. And that is a very poignant discussion that is currently taking place in this country now.
SIMON: I put out the word on Twitter for people to ask you questions. And there were two areas of interest, overwhelmingly. Does Jack Bauer ever go to the bathroom?
SIMON: And companion to that, how does he always have a cell phone that works?
SUTHERLAND: It's funny that you say that because I actually - I have a cell phone that - that has - I've never really had a problem with it. It's always worked until I got here about five days ago. And I've had terrible problems with it...
SUTHERLAND: ...And I have found myself wishing that I had Jack Bauer's phone.
SUTHERLAND: You know, it's funny. There was a scene that we once did where I actually did exit a building and went into the restroom and Joel Surnow cut it out. He believed very strongly that we're not going to kind of bend to that. There have also been scenes where I've tried to say, you know, Chloe I can't hear you. Hold on. I've got to move.
SUTHERLAND: He would cut that out, too, because he didn't find - he didn't find the banality of that very interesting. And so we just kind of got accustomed to the fact that Jack Bauer has the best phone on the planet.
SIMON: Forgive me if I've asked you this before, but, I mean, Jack and Chloe - will they ever realize, you know, come on, baby - we're meant for each other.
SUTHERLAND: (Laughter) I think one of the interesting things, but, you know, certainly the dynamic, that in the first eight seasons, is they're the most unlikely pairing. So I don't think there's - there's any kind of thing that would be intimate between the two of them. But it would be nice if they actually realized how much they actually needed each other.
SUTHERLAND: But what's interesting about season nine - Jack Bauer is, in fact, probably at the most hard place in his life in the way he is interacting with people. He's been isolated for four years. He's been hiding in Eastern Europe. This threat comes up so he actually surfaces, puts himself in - at great risk, is actually being hunted by the same people he's trying to help.
But there's an anger to him at the beginning of the season that is, I think, more extreme than anything else we've seen. And it's the reuniting with characters, like Chloe O'Brian, or Kim Raver's character, Audrey, that almost start to bring him back to what, at least, I personally would rather see him at - as kind of more of a human man.
SIMON: I suspect when people talk about our times 25 years from now, the phrase a Jack Bauer type is going to mean something to people. I wonder how you feel about that.
SUTHERLAND: It's actually a really, really interesting question. I think the more we spend in conflict, the character gets judged in a much harsher way. You know, within the context of the television show, we - long before even the events of 9/11, we were using torture as a device, as a dramatic device to show you how urgent a situation is.
I would love to have arrested this person and brought him in and done proper questioning, but I've got five minutes to find this out. And I'm going to have to threaten this person to get this information because, otherwise, a bomb's going to blow up. I've never lost sight of the fact that we were making a television show, and this was born out of the imagination of writers. Then the terrible events of 9/11 happened. And unfortunately, our show went from this thing that was born out of the imagination of writers, and in fact, started to mirror, on some level, some things that were happening in reality.
I long for the day that "24" can go back and be viewed as this kind of spectacular imaginative idea as opposed to some kind of reflection of what was happening at the time.
SIMON: And we won't hold you to this, but is this really the last season?
SUTHERLAND: I believe so. Yeah. I really do. But I thought that when we finished the eighth season...
SUTHERLAND: ...So I don't really want to be that affirmative in the answer. But my instinct is that yeah, this is it.
SIMON: Mr. Sutherland...
SIMON: ...To quote Jack Bauer, we're running out of time.
SUTHERLAND: Very well done. Cheers.
SIMON: Do people say that you?
SUTHERLAND: I get a lot, like, you know, if you're riding the subway and you're getting off the subway, the following takes place between 8:03 p.m. and 8:05 p.m., and stuff like that. People have been really kind, and they've been actually very clever and funny with some of the things that they've said. And I've always known that it was, you know, out of some version of respect for the show.
SIMON: Kiefer Sutherland. He returns as Jack Bauer in "24: Live Another Day" on Fox on Monday night. Thanks so much for being with us.
SUTHERLAND: Scott, thank you so much for having me. Great to talk you again, and talk to you soon.
SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.