'24: Live Another Day' Writers on Premiere: Jack's 'Had His Heart Torn Out' (Q&A)
Evan Katz and Manny Coto tell THR the episode handed them a story "gold mine": "You can't ask for a better place to put your hero: in the wilderness, alone and with people wanting to kill him."
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Monday's premiere of 24: Live Another Day, "Day 9: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m."]
Jack Bauer is back, with another 24 hours to put a terrorist plot on ice.
24: Live Another Day premiered Monday in an episode that reunited Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) with Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) to try to uncover an assassination attempt on President James Heller (William Devane).
Longtime 24 writers and producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto were tasked with penning the first episode of the miniseries. They say the four-year gap between Live Another Day and season eight, which ended with Bauer on the run, was a writer's dream.
"You can't ask for a better place to put your hero: in the wilderness, alone and with people wanting to kill him," Coto tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Here Katz and Coto break own the episode's biggest scenes -- and reveal what they decided to cut ("we realized it was horseshit").
What were some of the big challenges of reintroducing 24?
Evan Katz: The beginning of every season of 24 was a huge challenge, trying to come up with a set of circumstances you could tell 24 -- or in this case 12 -- hours of story about. It's not just about the first episode; it's about planning situations for the entire season. We don't want to repeat ourselves, and we want to honor where the characters have been. Beyond that, we want to tell a story that is somewhat fresh. In this case, drone warfare is something that wasn't as big four years ago and now is huge in the world, as well as these free-information activists.
Manny Coto: We had a gold mine handed to us at the end of season eight. Jack is a fugitive. He's a man who has saved his country numerous times, and that same country has turned its back on him and sent him into the wilderness. That opened up a host of storytelling possibilities. You can't ask for a better place to put your hero: in the wilderness, alone and with people wanting to kill him.
Jack doesn't speak until pretty far into episode one. How did you decide to do that?
Katz: We always try to have Jack do the smartest thing for his character all the time. We realized it's not in his interest to say anything. It's in his interest to be put down stairs so he can rescue Chloe.
Coto: We actually wrote a few scenes where Jack was talking, saying, "I'm not going to answer you," and we realized it was horseshit. The silence became far more compelling.
Chloe is now an Edward Snowden figure. We see her tortured. How did you decide that's where we find her?
Katz: One the keys to the season is, who does Jack care about? The list has gotten shorter as time has gone by because people die around him, adding to the tragic circumstances of the character. Chloe is the one who said goodbye to him in season eight, so she was the natural victim.
Coto: As we looked at Edward Snowden and the NSA, we realized Chloe herself is as much a fugitive as Jack is. She's the one who closed down the satellite at the end of season eight, which allowed Jack to escape. She rebelled against the government in a very significant way. Jack is a man of action, and Jack's rebellion takes the form of bullets, and guns. Chloe is behind a keyboard, so she naturally exerts her "revenge" against the government in another way.
Jack says "I don't have any friends" in episode one. What does that mean to you?
Coto: Jack has lost everyone he cares about. Jack still has a friend in Chloe, but Jack has put up a wall. This is an individual who has had his heart torn out. Like any deep wound, a scab forms. He's closing himself off to friendship. When he says "I have no friends," it's through his perspective. It's not necessarily true.
How do you find the right balance between action and catching us up on the past four years?
Katz: The show has to be exciting. The act arcs are frequently structured about rising stakes, but you have to make sure there is enough character in the show; otherwise you have empty action. We spent a lot of time talking about establishing the new characters, particularly Yvonne Strahovski's character, Kate Morgan, and also Michael Wincott's character, Adrian Cross.
The breakout scene was a standout moment. What was the key to getting that right?
Coto: It was a little disappointing for us to think Jack would get caught. So we said, "What if he got caught on purpose?" That immediately suggests a breakout. The action became an outgrowth of where the character was leading us.
Katz: The breakout was a challenge because he wasn't just breaking out of a rinky-dink prison. He was breaking out of a CIA headquarters run by characters we care about. The breakout had to be difficult so the new characters didn’t look like fools. It was very challenging to break him out.
Favorite thing to write in episode one?
Coto: I would argue the most charged moment is when Jack first lays eyes on Chloe again. He sees she has been tortured and he delivers a little punishment to the guy who has been torturing her, which is ironic, because in the past seasons Jack has been the torturer.
Do you see Audrey's husband as a villain?
Katz: He's an antagonist. Villain? I don't know. He's one of these classic 24 characters who is pushed and pulled in multiple directions.
Coto: He is deeply in love with Audrey, and he nursed her back to health. In his eyes, he is the hero. He is protecting the woman he loves from the man who destroyed his life.
What was the most challenging part of writing this?
Coto: When you really look at it, we are telling the story through Kate Morgan's point of view, so we were essentially creating a brand-new series with her has the main character. We set out to create a whole cast of new characters with their own back stories, and we're pleased with how it turned out -- but it was very difficult.