Interview with Kiefer Sutherland of "Touch" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Interview with Kiefer Sutherland of "Touch" on FOX 1/23/12

I was on this call, but unfortunately, I did not get to ask a question. When they have calls with the really big stars like this, sometimes the little peons like me don't get to ask any questions... the "real" press get their questions first. Not that I'm bitter :) Oh, well. Anyway, it was a nice call, and Kiefer seemed like a really nice and decent guy. He was very down-to-earth and appreciative of the attention and the fans of his work.

FBC PUBLICITY: Touch Conference with Kiefer Sutherland
January 23, 2012/8:45 a.m. PST

Josh Governale
Kiefer Sutherland


Moderator Ladies and gentlemen thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Touch conference with Kiefer Sutherland. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session. Iíd like to remind you that there will be replay available of todayís conference after 11:15 Pacific Time. I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Mr. Josh Governale. Please go ahead.

J. Governale Thank you, Tricia, good morning and afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on the Touch conference call with series star and Executive Producer, Kiefer Sutherland. As a reminder the Touch special preview airs this Wednesday night after American Idol at 9/8 Central on Fox. So without further delay, letís open it up for our first question and please welcome Kiefer Sutherland.

K. Sutherland Good morning, everybody, how are you?

Moderator The first question will come from the line of Megan Ward with Please go ahead.

M. Ward Hello, how are you doing today?

K. Sutherland Great, Megan, how are you?

M. Ward Iím doing good myself. So you had a bit of a whirlwind to get here for these interviews, eh?

K. Sutherland Well, weíre in the middle of shooting, so itís trying to balance, juggle both, yes.
M. Ward Well, thank you so much for your time.

K. Sutherland No, thank you.

M. Ward I watched the first episode of Touch, absolutely amazing.

K. Sutherland Oh, thank you very much.

M. Ward The title is perfect, completely touched. In the first ten minutes I felt an emotional connection already. So what Iím wondering is at what point did you connect with your character and just know that this was a story that you wanted to tell and be a part of?

K. Sutherland It was funny. I was doing a play in New York on Broadway. I had a film that I knew I was going to go do and so I read Touch almost reluctantly. I donít think I was completely ready to go back to television yet. I was enjoying some of the different opportunities that I had had. I think it was around page 30, I remember going, ďOh, ...,Ē or I guess something you could print, ..., which I just knew I would be so remiss if I didnít take the opportunity that Touch was.

I identified with him out of the gate. There was something interesting because obviously this is very different than 24.

M. Ward Yes, extremely.

K. Sutherland Yet there is a real similar through line in the kind of character of the man. Jack Bauer would be faced with unbelievable circumstances in the course of a day and he would never win completely.

M. Ward No, he wouldnít and youíd almost fell sorry for him and keep hoping for the next day to be better.

K. Sutherland Better, yes, and this guy is never going to win either. Heís never going to have the quintessential relationship of a father and a son.

M. Ward No, definitely not.

K. Sutherland And yet he perseveres and thatís a great kind of character statement and so I identified with him greatly on that and I think as a parent as well just the sense of responsibility combined with not knowing what to do all the time. Even though this is again a heightened experience, I think every parent feels that. I certainly can speak for myself and say that I have during Cameliaís pregnancy when Sara wasófor nine months Iíd have these great fantasies of how I was going to be the greatest dad on the planet. And then she was born and a kind of fear came over me like none other that Iíve ever had in my life. I was confronted with the fact that I really didnít know what I was doing and it was something that I was going to have to figure out as I went.

And I really relate to Martin on that level and just the dynamic between he and the son I just find so extraordinary. So for all of those reasons, those were the first things that grasped me.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of David Martindale with Hearst Newspaper. Please go ahead.

D. Martindale Hello, thank you. Hello, yes, I saw the pilot last week, too, I enjoyed it.

K. Sutherland Oh, thank you very much.

D. Martindale Do you like to think that the world maybe does exist and does work this way that everything is connected and maybe weíre just not clever enough or observant enough to see all the working pieces?

K. Sutherland Well, I absolutely think it does. Can one focus on every single moment of their life in this way? No, of course not, but anything as simple as someone who is late for a bus one day, all of a sudden theyíre not on the bus. Theyíre taking up other space. They either had to get a taxi and that affects the taxi driverís life.

So yes I do believe that there is a cause and effect and a ripple effect upon everything everybody does and they have positive consequences and negative consequences. If you start to focus on the kind of minutia of that, itís really quite extraordinary, or should I get on the elevator now or should I wait, and obviously we canít live our lives like that. But I do believe very strongly that all of us and all of the other things in the context of our planet with Mother Nature, all of these things absolutely have a profound effect. Some of the effects that can be felt are small and some of them are very large and it was really interesting to do a show that focused on that.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Steven Herbert with City News Services. Please go ahead.

S. Herbert Kiefer, you mentioned about how much you like the script. One of the things is that in the history of television when somebody has a great even groundbreaking series like 24, they rarely come back to television and now itís just been two years since 24 ended. Was it just the script that made you come back or what was it, what prompted you to come back to television just Öó

K. Sutherland Well, it was a combination of things. I had an unbelievable experience on 24. We shot 198 episodes and I was as excited about shooting the 198th as I was the first. So that experience, and I had a great relationship with Fox, both the studio and the network. And so that combined with this script, it wasnít even really a choice anymore. It was something that I knew I had to do.

And I remember thinking about it really strongly when I was crossing the street in New York and the person who I work with Susan Ö, I remember saying to her if we donít do this, how are we going to feel in September watching it knowing all of its potential and how great we both think it can be. And that answered my question for me. I didnít want to be sitting there watching this fantastic show in September if I had had the opportunity to be a part of it.

But youíre right, it certainly is a daunting thing having 24 been not only the great experience on a personal level for me, but it was an incredible success. Itís nice to have that in your pocket and let it be, but this was certainly something I just couldnít say no to, so I think itís been a little longer than two years, but it feels a lot shorter than that now I have to say.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Joshua Maloni with Niagara Frontier Publications. Please go ahead.

J. Maloni Thanks for your time today.

K. Sutherland Thank you for coming on.

J. Maloni So let me premise my question by saying that I think youíre a great actor and I know that thereís a lot of people like myself that would watch you regardless of what the project was.

K. Sutherland Oh, thank you very much.

J. Maloni But for people out there that are used to seeing you on 24 as Jack Bauer in sort of that action star sort of role, how do you convince them to give the show a look? How do you convince them that this is going to be just as entertaining, just as interesting and intriguing as that series was?

K. Sutherland I donít know if there is convincing. I think that ultimately almost in the way that 24 started, people that are initially interested, whether theyíre a fan of Tim Kring or a fan of mine or like the trailer, theyíll watch it and then if they feel strongly about it, theyíll tell friends and we have to rely on that.

For me personally I feel that there is a great deal of suspense within the context of the show, even in the not knowing what the numbers are and the narrative where the audience actually knows more than the lead character. So I think that even though weíre not blowing things up, I think that there is enough excitement around the drama of this show, that people will not be that thrown by it who enjoyed 24. And we really do rely on you guys telling people about it and hopefully it will be something that grows.
Moderator Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Henry Hanks with Please go ahead.

H. Hanks Hello there, thanks for talking to us today.

K. Sutherland Thanks for coming on.

H. Hanks No problem. So when you see the show, itís sort of hard to put it into a genre or Ö. How would you categorize it as far as being maybe science fiction or paranormal fiction or something like that?

K. Sutherland No, Iíve always felt that this was a drama. This, weíre embarking on the journey of a father trying to connect with his son and trying to have as normal a relationship as he can under the circumstances. That will always be at the heart of the show and it certainly from my perspective it would be, but it has all of those elements.

I think there is an element of science fiction. I think certainly as the show has developed, you guys have seen the first episode, which has a lot of requirements to kind of explain where the show is going. But for us in the subsequent episodes that follow, this really does have a great deal of energy, so thereís an aspect of it that I would categorize as a thriller or suspense and certainly the science fiction component as well. But at its heart itís a drama.

Itís so weird, I have to admit, to not be able to talk to you after the question is answered; I hope Iím answering appropriately for you guys.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Amber Dowling with TV Guide Canada. Please go ahead.

A. Dowling Thank you. The way that Touch is set up, thereís obviously such a great opportunity for a rather large roster of guest stars and Martin and Titus Welliverís character, they had a special connection. So how many episodes is Titus signed on for and is there also a possibility of your father doing an episode?

K. Sutherland There certainly is always that possibility. The show is a procedural show. Unlike 24 and unlike Heroes, which was a serialized show, these episodes will have a beginning, a middle and an end. But it does not preclude a character who youíve seen in one episode being able to come back five episodes down the line, and we have in fact done that. I donít really want to say who. For the people that are going to watch it, I would like them to see that.

There also might be characters that are way in the background on an episode that will come to the forefront in another episode. But it doesnít stop each individual episode from being its own complete little entity. And so thatís something I think Tim Kring has done a beautiful job kind of weaving in and out.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Cassandra Szklarski with The Canadian Press. Please go ahead.

C. Szklarski Good morning. Actually since that last caller mentioned your father, is there really a chance that he would be on or was that just saying?

K. Sutherland No, absolutely. Weíre working on episodes five and six right now, but I certainly have conveyed to Tim Kring, our writer, that my father is someone who I would very, very much like to work with. My father knows of this piece and I certainly have talked to him about it. We certainly do not have a script or a story or anything like that, but it certainly is open.

I think one of the things thatís so attractive about this piece is really Tim Kringís writing and character development. They give people an opportunity to show some stuff that they might not normally get and I would be honored to be able to do something like this with my dad.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Angela Henderson with The Herald Dispatch. Please go ahead.

A. Henderson Hello, Kiefer, thanks for taking the time.

K. Sutherland Thank you very much for coming on.

A. Henderson Could you talk a little bit about working with David and forming that on-screen bond with him when he doesnít talk back to you?

K. Sutherland Heís an amazing young actor and heís an amazing young man. He does something that is really I donítóI think it would be impossible to try and teach an actor to do. He has very limited physical response to anything that I do. He doesnít talk and yet I can feel his presence even if heís not looking at me. I can always sense that heís listening and I think that comes across to the viewer as well. Thatís a real gift.

He was the first boy out of about 25 young people that I read with and I remember thinking because I was doing the play at the same time, so I could only do five or six or seven kids a day. I remember thinking wow, this kid is amazing. If the other kids are going to be like this, weíre going to find an amazing kid.

And I remember it was around the tenth kid, I was still thinkingóand all of the kids I have to say were fantastic, but there was something really special with Ö and then obviously we should just hire the first kid and Iím thinking around 20, I say no, the first kid was still better. And then I read with close to 30 kids and I was finally like would you guys just please hire the first kid. He was just amazing and so that bond kind of started right away.

He works a lot of hours with us, and Iíve just been completely amazed by how focused and attentive he is and interested in it. I think thatís a big thing. Heís not being made to do this. I think he actually really does enjoy it and heís very curious about how to get better and itís been a phenomenal experience. I really, really do love working with him.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Kathie Huddleston with

K. Huddleston Hello.

K. Sutherland Hello, how are you?

K. Huddleston Iím doing great. Thank you for doing this.

K. Sutherland Thanks so much for coming on.

K. Huddleston What can you tell us about Martin and his journey in this first season?

K. Sutherland I could tell you a lot. But I think at the beginning of the story we discover Martin who has a son named Jake who in the course or our story we realize has been misdiagnosed with severe autism and in fact is actually just a truly, truly evolved human being that is years and years beyond where my character is and our society is at.

And in an effort to communicate with my son, I discover that he has this unbelievable skill set that allows him to interpret numbers and symbols in a way that kind of explain our past and to some degree predict our future and thatís where we start the show off. My journey, very much like the Chinese fable that the story is based on, which was called, ďThe Red ThreadĒ and the red thread is basically a red thread that is loosely looped around the ankles of all the people that are supposed to come in contact with each other over the course of a lifetime. This thread can stretch and it can bend, but it cannot break, and somehow in our society we have broken this and my son is taking me on a journey to try and put the thread back together.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Tara Bennett with SFX Magazine.

T. Bennett Hello, Kiefer, thanks so much for doing this.

K. Sutherland Thanks so much for coming on.

T. Bennett So because you only have a limited way of communicating with Jake, who are some of the actors, characters, that are really going to become Martinís touchstones, so that we really get to see emotionally how heís reacting with this new journey and being able to convert through this process?

K. Sutherland I think Danny Glover certainly is a character that is explaining his sonís condition to him, and then Goo Goo plays the worker at Child Services that is managing Jakeís case. Those are people that will be very important. Thereís Martinís wife who was killed on the terrible day of 9/11. Even though she is not with us, I think he speaks a lot to her. Then I think a lot is going to be between Jake and his father. I think already in the first five episodes their ability to communicate has grown exponentially. Martin starts to be able to read a lot of Jakeís physicality and understand what that is and the audience does as well even though other people might not understand it in the context of our show.

But I think one of the things, one of things that moved me the most about the piece was that I felt that Martin was terribly alone; and I think that thatís going to be an aspect of the character and certainly through the piece as well. So thatís going to play into it in a large way.

Moderator Our next question is from the line of Michael Moore with Please go ahead.

K. Sutherland Hello

M. Moore Hello, Kiefer, how are you today?

K. Sutherland Good, thanks, how are you?

M. Moore Doing well. Iím kind of surprised that weíve gotten this far and nobody has mentioned The Confession because I thought that was fantastic.

K. Sutherland Oh, thank you very much, thank you.

M. Moore So I have a little bit of a two-parter here. One is do you think weíll ever any time down the line get a second season? And can you talk about the difficulties or the challenges that come into play when youíre doing an Internet series, and then you kind of transition to network television, which might haveóitís positive, but certainly you might have to be a little bit more restricted regarding creativity because of certain demographics that are at play ... the viewership and everything like that.

K. Sutherland Okay, to answer the first part, yes, I would love to do a second part of The Confession. There certainly is a story there that Brad Mirman, who wrote and I have discussed. John Hurt had a wonderful time on the show as I did and so we would both love to do that.

I think the real challenge, because I think The Confession was from a production standpoint was quite high end with regards to a lot of things that have been produced for the Internet. The real difficulty is trying to figure out how to galvanize and pull in an audience because the Internet is so fragmented that there is no real kind of central post, if you will. The movie business has theatres. Television has set scheduling. The Internet is kind of when you want it, how you want it and trying to really corral an audience was what we found to be the most difficult. But I think that thatís starting to explain itself. The more things are produced for the Internet, the clearer it becomes how to go about finding that audience.

With regards to transferring back into network television from an experience like that, I donít find any real shift in creativity. When I take a look at what I think Tim Kring is doing with this show, I certainly havenít been a part of anything more creative. Certainly there are language issues that prime time television might restrict you for, but in all fairness, if you canít convey an idea and an emotion within the vernacular that is provided for you by network television, then I think you have a problem in your ability to tell a story. So itís never been a real issue for me.

The one nice thing about coming back to network television whether we do it or not is you certainly can corral an audience and as long as your product is, as long as what youíre presenting is worth an audience seeing. So thatís an exciting part when we were making Touch is that we knew that if we did a good job that people would see it and thereís something very exciting about that. Itís why we do it.

Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for one more question, which will come from the line of Reg Seeton with The DeadBolt. Please go ahead.

R. Seeton Hello, Kiefer, how are you doing?

K. Sutherland Good, thanks, how are you?

R. Seeton Not too bad man, itís a big thrill since Iím from Nova Scotia.

K. Sutherland Where in Nova Scotia?

R. Seeton Iím from Halifax.

K. Sutherland Oh, fantastic.

R. Seeton Yes, I went to school with two of your cousins. Let me ask you this. How do you feel that Martin allows you to mature in new ways as an actor, given what the material calls for emotionally?

K. Sutherland I think again I kind of referred to his loneliness earlier in one of the earlier questions. Thatís a tricky thing to play because I donít want people feeling sorry for Martin, yet I want them to understand that the further he is able to communicate with his son, the more enlightened and enriched his life will be; and he might be able to move past some of the pain that heís experienced from the loss of his wife and his sonís condition.

Those are all real subtle narratives to play. Theyíre not actually written. Theyíre tonal qualities and thatís something that Iím trying to focus on a lot with Martin and itís also something that I felt I really learned at least how to do better through my experience on 24. I think a lot of the things that I learned were trying to focus on little small changes within Jack Bauer, whether it was from season to season or even over the course of one of those days.

What I learned in that process is something that I am trying to bring to Martin; and so that thereís a lot going on, or a lot more going on than what is simply written on the page or what one scene might simply require. That there are through lines within the context of the character that are going from episode to episode. And if we are lucky enough to do multiple seasons, that weíd connect those as well. So thatís really an extension of a technique that I really hadnít focused on or thought of before my experience on 24; and Touch is a perfect kind of show and Martin is a perfect character to try and weave those things in.

So I hope that thatís an aspect of me maturing as an actor over the course of these experiences and I hope that answered your question. In fact to all of the people that asked questions, itís very odd not to talk to you after Iíve answered the question hoping that Iíve actually answered what you were looking for.

I think that was the last question, so I just wanted to again thank you all so much for taking the time. This is something that certainly obviously Iím very passionate about and care a great deal about and really appreciate your help in getting it out.

J. Governale Thank you very much. As a reminder, the Touch special preview airs this Wednesday night after American Idol at 9/8 Central on Fox. Kiefer, thank you very much for your time; I know production is waiting for you.

K. Sutherland Okay, Josh, thanks again and everybody thank you very, very much for taking the time this morning. Have a great rest of your week. Okay.

J. Governale Thanks, bye, bye.

K. Sutherland Good-bye.

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