'Touch' Creator Tim Kring Opens Up About Storytelling Challenges and 'Heroes' Blunders (Q&A)

Touch Kiefer Sutherland Still Tim Kring Inset - H 2012

Touch Kiefer Sutherland Still Tim Kring Inset - H 2012

Kiefer Sutherland returns to Fox, but this time he won't be racing against time.

Created by Heroes executive producer Tim Kring, Touch focuses on ex-journalist and single father Martin Bohm (Sutherland) and his mute son Jake (David Mazouz), an 11-year-old boy with the ability to connect seemingly unrelated people through his gift with numbers. Martin realizes that in order to connect with his son, he must decipher the numbers' meanings. As for the show's international feel, it grew simply out of modern-day realities.

"One of my friends and I were talking about the uprising in Eqyp and arguing a little bit. She said, 'Well, that's not what my Egyptian friends say,' " Kring shared with The Hollywood Reporter during a winter Television Critics Assoc. press tour party of a conversation he had with a Canadian friend. "I said, 'What are you talking about, 'your Egyptian friends'? 'Oh, I play Farmville with them on Facebook.' "

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He added: "This is the world we're living in now. If you've done any traveling in the last few years, you're starting to notice how small the world really is."

Kring spoke with THR about his upcoming Sutherland drama, difficulties in balancing mythology with procedural elements, lessons he's learned from Heroes and the biggest challenges he faces.

The Hollywood Reporter: Touch has a unique premise in that it borrows from the international vibe utilized on Heroes. Was that a conscious decision?

Tim Kring: I think it does bring in more people, but I don't know if that was the reason. If you're doing a show nowadays where the theme is interconnectivity and we live in a global world where what happens 10,000 miles away affects us. This is the world we're living in now. If you've done any traveling in the last few years you're starting to notice how small the world really is. That's where this idea came from. But I'm also very challenged as a filmmaker to be able to shoot the show only in L.A. I'm very challenged by that idea of creating other cultures, other parts of the world, other languages in LA.

THR: Is that the biggest challenge you face?

Kring: That is certainly one of the big production challenges. Why the show is shot here in L.A. and not another part of the country where you get bigger tax breaks, is because L.A. really does afford us the ability to create a global look. There's a reason why the movie business has been here for years; the ability to have multiple looks. One of the other challenges is the very densely crafted little stories that take a lot longer to craft than any other show that I've ever done.

THR: Is Touch going to be slow-building?

Kring: The show is really designed to be watched, to a great extent, as a standalone experience, so that each week you will see a story that starts, has a middle and has an ending, that Kiefer Sutherland and his son will be involved [in]. Surrounding that bigger story will be multiple satellite stories of people in different parts of the world who's stories are all connected. Those characters will change every week, so each week their stories [will be] tied up. The overarching story will be the deeper mythology of the show: What is this that's happening? What is this boy's gift? Why is it happening?

THR: Are you worried that one-offs will push viewers away who are more inclined to tap into mythology?

Kring: I don't know how much crossover there is between people who watch shows that don't have that and people that do. But you know, I do know that it's very hard to have an audience, a big audience, with shows that have a very strong serialized element.

THR: Do you think it's possible?

Kring: Oh yeah, sure. It's also very hard; it's a very, very complicated way to tell stories. I like it and I loved doing it on Heroes and on this, this idea just came to me in a different [form]. I always have been a writer who does things different from what I did before and so maybe I subconsciously went a different direction because of that.

THR: What have you learned from Heroes that proved useful for Touch?

Kring: The cliffhanger aspect of Heroes was very exciting for the viewer, but extremely challenging for us to do each week. When you do a cliffhanger that was fantastic one week and then the next week you did one that was three quarters as fantastic ..

THR: Not everyone will be happy with it ..

Kring: They'll be very disappointed with that, and so we kept raising the bar higher for ourselves. And then the idea of dragging a big story behind you .. I wanted to make sure that this time we didn't get too bogged, weighed down by that. There are a lot of elements of Heroes that are in here in terms of the international stories and what I call "high-goose" storytelling -- very short, very concise, four, five stories. It's something that I resonate with.

Fox airs a special pilot preview of Touch on Wednesday at 9 p.m. The series premieres March 19.