24: Live Another Day’s Evan Katz and Manny Coto Set Up Finale!

Coto-Katz

24: Live Another Day (Mondays, 9/8C) has been a pleasant surprise for Fox, this summer. Bringing back an even more damaged than ever Jack Bauer has given the network some decent summer ratings and introduced some intriguing new characters as Bauer once more heads off terrorists – this time to ^prevent the deaths of thousands of Londoners.

24 executive producers/writers Evan Katz and Manny Coto spoke with a group of journalists/bloggers on Friday about the series, the challenges presented by the shorter format and how to go out on a shocker, thereby planting the seeds for a possible return for Bauer.

Please note: there is a huge spoiler in this Q&A. If you can’t trust yourself to skip over that part of the Q&A, perhaps you should hold off reading any further until after tomorrow night’s finale.

Hi, guys. How are you doing?

Evan Katz: Good. Good.

Manny Coto: Great.

Good. Great. Because of the title, we do know that there are 12 hours covered in the episode. Can you talk about the decision to kind of have that final time jump happen in the finale, and what is going on in it?

Evan: I’m sorry, the reasons for it? What was the question?

Marisa: Yes, the writing reasons. Because you had that 12 hour time jump for the first time, can you talk about the decision to hold it off until the finale?

Manny: This is Manny. We’ve always had, since pretty early on in the design of the season, the feeling that to do time jumps throughout the season didn’t feel right to us. We quickly found that it was easy to—while it’s possible to pause one story for a time jump; 24 is always telling multiple stories, and to pause them all became kind of unwieldy, and we found really slowed momentum. At a certain point we kind of realized where the season was building, and I’m not sure if you have seen the ending or not?

I have. Yes.

Manny: Given that tragic ending, we knew we wanted a Dame Dumont [ph], a sequence actor, that would take place after people had processed what has happened. We knew that that would be a good place for a 12 hour time jump, and it felt right to do the time jump at that point.

I’m wondering about the balance of Jack Bauer’s character. This season we’ve seen him get a little more—we know he’s been hard core, but this season with throwing the terrorists out the window and saying, “Wake the b**** up.” I wonder, what is the balance about making Jack a tough guy versus almost—and what’s the edge of being almost unlikable? How do you keep him as a hero versus someone who might become like [indiscernible]? Isn’t that, isn’t this going a little too far this time?

Evan: This is Evan. A couple things; ultimately what makes Jack a hero is, whatever he does he does for the greater good. He never does anything for himself or for his own reasons. He’s always the first guy to sacrifice himself. The other thing is, I think that the character exists in people’s minds with the character’s history, so I think there’s a lot of forgiveness in terms of his actions. But I also think Kiefer’s playing him very true to this battered, beaten up character who survived all these losses of people he’s loved, and has now been an on-the-run terrorist, according to his own government, for four years. I think what you’re sort of seeing is, everything about Jack is just—he’s just hardened and it’s harder to get through to him and everything’s boiled down to the bare essentials.

Did you ever question whether he should say—that scene about throwing her out the window; did you guys say, gee, would he really do that?

Evan: No. I mean, no. By the way, compared to other things he’s done that’s nothing.

Manny: This is Manny. I just want to reiterate what Evan said is that, this is not the same character that was in operation in Season 1. This is a haunted, damaged individual [indiscernible] who is working outside of the law.

Given that this was such a great success with everybody; fans have really liked it. What would it take for you guys to want to sign up to do more 24?

Manny: This is Manny. You’ve seen the finale?

I haven’t, actually.

Manny: Oh, okay. Well, all it really takes is a story that fires us up. That’s what kind of got us excited about doing this season, frankly; the fact that Jack was a fugitive and that we had a really fun and interesting place to start him and the fact that Chloe was also in a similar situation. I think what would draw us back, if that were ever to happen, and that’s definitely up in the air, would be; we or somebody presents an interesting take on Jack’s character and where he is, which would suggest a great season.

Jack and Audrey had a pretty intense scene over the phone in the last episode. Is there any hope for them to fully reunite eventually?

Evan: It’s very hard for us to answer that without you having seen the finale.

Okay. Well, a follow up; will the series end in a cliffhanger, or will everything be wrapped up?

Manny: I think the best answer to that; this is Manny Coto, is yes and no. Some things are definitely wrapped up, and I think the things that you want to be wrapped up are wrapped up, but there are also individuals whose stories aren’t completely closed, if that makes any sense?

Yes. Alright. Thank you, guys.

Manny: Thank you.

Hey, I wonder, Manny, what’s the thing you learned about bringing Jack Bauer back in this new setup, and what did you learn from this shortened season? Did it work better?

Manny: Do you mean learn as far as 24 goes or global—

Yes, as far as 24 goes.

Manny: 24 goes? I think the biggest thing that surprised me, and I think surprised Evan and all of us who were working on the show was, how much—and a lot of it was like riding a bicycle. I think when we first went in, at least, myself, I was very nervous about, could we recapture what we had; did we still remember how to write the show; could we do it the way we did; could we get back into this character? Evan had been off doing his own shows, and I had been doing Dexter, and both were radically different, and kind of the switch back, I guess, in my mind, was, is this possible; is this going to suck; is this going to be off?

I think what was fun was when we first got into the room and started working the story, the old storytelling fun we used to have and energy came back. Then, even more surprising, when we started getting dailies and seeing Kiefer back into the role, and then all of the new characters, which were new, but also felt like they could be characters in 24, it really felt like we were watching Season 9 of 24, which is kind of what we wanted to do. I think all of us wanted to do something that was fresh and original, but at the same time, could easily be Season 9 of 24; it’s not something weird and off and off, it’s not part of the show. I think that was my biggest surprise, is that the show felt like it had never gone off the air.

Can I also ask you about one scene in the finale? You give William Devane quite a memorable last scene, and I think that scene’s going to mean a lot to a lot of people.

Manny: Yes.

I’m just wondering if you can talk, without giving things away. It’s such a powerful scene, and congratulations on it, but can you talk about what’s behind that?

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Manny: Just on a personal level, myself, having come from a family that has lost a sibling and having seen how my parents reacted to such a tragedy; there really is almost no tragedy worse than to lose one of your children. We knew that Devane was in this position of having this disease that was going to take him over, and it just felt like that his mind would have to go there. This is not a kind of pain that is going to be solved, this is not a pain that’s going to go away.

Devane, his character takes comfort in the fact that he won’t remember, and that’s really the only way that this kind of tragedy ever gets resolved. The pain of something like that is never going to fade. He goes to this place, and it’s a very dark place; it’s a thought that’s tinged with even a greater layer of tragedy, the fact that he’s actually going to forget his daughter, but he’s going to forget the fact that she also died in this horrible way. It felt like an honorable way to touch upon his situation for the season. Devane played it beautifully, it’s one of his best moments in the season and we were very, very, very happy with the way it came out. Obviously, I think whatever you write, obviously, will come after the premiere, right?

Well, yes. I think you cleared up a previous question, too, along the way. Anyway, that was amazing, and congratulations on the season.

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The Jack and Kate partnership team has been definitely one of the highlights of the season. How did you come up with that idea to sort of have Jack have this sort or protégé rather than having him work mainly alone, or just mainly with Chloe?

Evan: This is Evan. We came into the season really wanting to bring a woman in in a way that we hadn’t seen. The show hadn’t used her before and, in fact, I think the first couple weeks of us breaking the new season was really all about that character. We knew we had Chloe, but Jack working with a peer was something we had never quite done. Once we figured out what her back story was and how she was really going to end up pursuing Jack and be the Tommy Lee Jones to his Harrison Ford, it all kind of clicked together.

Okay. Yvonne’s been fantastic. It’s really been a highlight to see them work together.

Evan: Very versatile. [indiscernible].

Manny: She’s a terrific actress that we’ve been having fun with. Wonderful person.

As a viewer, it seemed like the season’s streamlined episode count really provided some powerful forward momentum to storytelling that might not have been as easy to accomplish over 24 episodes. I was wondering how your approach was different with going with the 12 episodes as opposed to the traditional 24?

Manny: This is Manny. I have to be honest, Evan and I really kind of approached this season—if this season had been 24, I think it would have been just as action packed as the episodes you’ve just seen, only there would be 24 of them. I think Evan and I really felt that we wanted the show to return a little bit more to its action thriller roots, or thriller roots, and we made a conscious decision to keep every episode kinetic and thrilling and to not do any filler episodes.

That said, I think also in the back of our minds we knew we only had 12 episodes. In 24 episodes you can take a moment now and then, because you’ve got runway where you have an episode that sets up another episode; we knew that wasn’t going to happen this season because you only have 12. I do think, on top of what I just said, there was something in the back of our minds that made us understand that every episode had to be a peak; there was not going to be a down episode. I think it accelerated us that way, but a lot of it, like I said before, was a conscious decision on how we wanted to approach the season.

My question is, now that production has wrapped up, and the finale airs Monday; looking back, what were some of the challenges and differences of shooting this entire thing in London?

Evan: This is Evan. Well, we got very lucky. We sent our directing producer, Jon Cassar, to London. He was someone who was extremely familiar with the look of the show. We had to figure out the time zone issues; you can’t change a script at the last minute, but really was not difficult at all and it gave us access to a talent pool of trained British actors that was really exciting.

I also think that London, itself, is making a conscious effort to be very film and TV friendly and, as a result, we were able to shoot incredible places. In fact, we shot a Sunday to Thursday week so that on the Sunday we could close down more public places.

Interesting. Alright, thank you very much.

Evan: Thank you, again.

Manny: Thank you again, everybody

Photos by Chris Rap?ael/Courtesy of Fox

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