For his cover story in this week's issue of Adweek, Kiefer Sutherland talked about his new ABC drama, Designated Survivor (debuting tonight), the future of Jack Bauer and why he's sticking with broadcast television. There wasn't space in the magazine for everything Sutherland discussed during the interview, so here are some of the best moments that didn't make it into the story:
22 episodes or bust
While stars like Kevin Bacon and Viola Davis mandated 15-episode seasons during their recent broadcast series so they could continue to act in films during the hiatus, Sutherland said he would never want to make anything less than a full, 22-episode season of a show.
"You can't expect the company to really get behind you unless you're going to produce enough material to make it worth their fucking while," said the actor, who filmed 24 episodes per season on 24.
"[With a shorter run], you're hamstringing yourself, because for them to promote and get behind, they have to feel the potential upside of something. That's much harder to do at 15 episodes than 22. Content is king, and you're almost better off with 22 or 24 episodes of something mediocre than you are with 13 of something great," he said. "That's unfortunate, but that's a reality. And so the dollars that someone can actually put behind advertising is always going to be reflective of that."
Tom Kirkman isn't the anti-Jack Bauer
While his mild-mannered Designated Survivor character, Tom Kirkman, seems to be the complete opposite of his most famous character, 24's ass-kicking Jack Bauer, Sutherland said the two have more in common than even he realized at first.
"A different skill set but faced with a gigantic circumstance that only can fuck you up and damage you. And I didn't really get that until halfway through the third episode," he said, laughing. "So it's kind of a big, common thread."
As his new series progresses, Kirkman will identify someone more suitable to step in for him as president. "They will have had discussions about who he's going to hand this off to, and then he won't, and you'll go, 'Shit, he's not the man he was.' And he's going to have to fight back to becoming that man again," said Sutherland. "There's a lot of parallels to 24 in a very interesting way at the root of the character."
How 24 changed the industry
Sutherland credits Fox's innovation for turning 24 into a hit, including helping create a new revenue stream for series—and jump-starting the idea of binge watching—by releasing complete-season DVD sets, which was still a rarity when 24's first season came out on DVD in 2002.
"Then everybody did it, and all of a sudden, a huge financial, secondary ancillary stream opened up and was big," he said. "In fact, the DVDs supplemented our show. It paid for everything. Everything else is profit."
When 24 made him a bigger star than ever before, Sutherland took advantage of his new standing by leaping at a lot of other acting and voiceover gigs.
"I actually wish I hadn't done a couple of things when I was doing 24, because I felt it was kind of distracting," he said. This time around, he added, "I probably won't do any films in the breaks. I'll do music instead. So if you like my work, the only place you're going to see it is here, and that's it."
The actor said he sees Bryan Cranston enjoying the same kind of career boost he had after 24.
"I think he and I have had very similar careers where there have been highs and lows," Sutherland said. "And then all of a sudden Breaking Bad hits, and you start hearing his voice everywhere. You start seeing him in every other movie and doing phenomenal work. And when I see him, it makes me smile, and I get it. It's like, 'Take the next one too, man!' I've never been the great architect of a life career. I take advantage of things when they're working and figure out how to navigate as best you can when they're not."
Father knows best
Sutherland said he tried to avoid getting pigeonholed like many of his '80s peers by changing his look for every role, something he picked up from his father, Donald Sutherland, when he marathon watched his dad's most famous movies—including Klute, Don't Look Now, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Bertolucci's 1900—around the age of 18.
"Other than the fact that he's the tallest guy in every scene, you wouldn't recognize him [from film to film]. That excited me as an actor," said Sutherland, who changed his appearance and hair color in iconic early roles in At Close Range, Stand By Me and The Lost Boys. "To physically be different from one film to another mattered a lot to me, and I think that was because I was trying to emulate what I thought was really cool about my dad's work. I actually never verbalized it until just now, but I would have to expect that helped me a lot in that regard."
The sound of music
Before releasing his first country album, Down in a Hole, last month, Sutherland toured more than 70 cities in North America, playing bars and small clubs.
"I'll always be grateful to those audiences because clearly they were coming out because they either liked 24, Lost Boys or something like that, because they hadn't heard anything," he said. "But they came out, and they actually gave us a shot to win them over on some level, musically. And that's a really gracious thing for an audience to do."
Here's Sutherland's approach to structuring a set for an audience that knew him but not his music:
"You're playing in a bar. The more energy you can put out, the better it is, so you start off with a bang and then get your slower songs out of the way early, while they've got some interest. Then, just try and blow them away with a set that just gets heavier and heavier. And when you're at a loss, talk about drinking," he said, laughing, imitating the audience: "'Yeahhhh!' And everybody's good."