Edinburgh TV Fest: Howard Gordon Talks '24: Legacy,' Making Topical Shows

Howard Gordon
Joe Pugliese

"Having been called a torture mongerer, an Islamophobic, a racist has made me miss writing about vampires and aliens," he says about his work on such shows as 'Homeland,' '24,' 'The X-Files' and 'Angel.'

Howard Gordon, executive producer of 24: Legacy and Homeland, told the Edinburgh Television Festival on Friday discussed working on the 24 spinoff and tackling big topics in drama series.

"The genesis was very organic," he said about 24: Legacy. When Gordon had dinner with original 24 star Kiefer Sutherland, he said he realized that "I really missed the character [Jack Bauer], he kind of missed it, we kind of danced around it, and we sold the show the next day."

Later, Gordon said, "we really felt that Jack Bauer had run his course as the center of the real-time franchise." And then they had "another idea that really worked well" in the 24 context. "There was a strange existential question: Is 24 Jack Bauer? Is it real-time?" he explained, adding that they ended up excited about drawing up the 12-hour show.

Gordon also said he has been working on a seven- to eight-minute prequel for the protagonist of the upcoming series that will be presented as a virtual reality featurette. "I'm really enjoying it," he said, adding he was curious about the new technology and how it works for storytelling. "I'm really curious to see how it comes out."

Asked about political, social and other big issues he has tackled in his shows, Gordon said he felt people had a "responsibility as citizens to ask certain questions," but TV can help with that. "The animating question that makes it interesting for me to do is to fictionally work through some of the questions — of what are we afraid of, why, how should we be afraid, what should we do about it," he explained.

Added Gordon: "There are certain questions that have no good answers, but I think getting to work through them fictionally ... just makes you think a little differently about these things."

Can dramas take on such other big issues as climate change? "That is a fantastic question, and actually I had this conversation with [21st Century Fox CEO] James Murdoch," Gordon said. "My wife is actually an environmentalist." But he said abstract issues are harder to tackle.

Writers can look at issues such as gay relationships or Islamophobia via characters and their interactions, he explained. "It is a much easier question to dramatize than climate change," said Gordon. "What does that look like?"

He also touched on his past work on The X-Files and Angel and being criticized for some past 24 and Homeland storylines that had some call him a supporter of torture and other things. Said Gordon: "Having been called a torture mongerer, an Islamophobic, a racist has made me miss writing about vampires and aliens."