In anticipation of the May 5 premiere of 24: Live Another Day, EW talked to the franchise’s longtime executive producer Howard Gordon about his quest to return Jack Bauer to the grid.
Before we get into Live Another Day, let’s talk about the 24 series finale in 2010. Did you consider killing off Jack Bauer?
Howard Gordon: We had been watching Jack for nine years, so that image of the screen going to static was the one that made me feel really excited. Jack was getting to live another day. We knew that it would just be too much of a bummer to end the series [with his death]. We didn’t not want to piss people off or to make them angry. There was emotion with Jack’s exhaustion and that he was actually mixed about having to live another day. It wasn’t necessarily a blessing or a great relief that he was condemned to continue in this life.
How did you feel about the ratings?
“I was frankly disappointed. I think it ended gracefully but I feel like it was under-appreciated. We were quite happy with the way the last season went and the way it ended and I think, you know, at some level people had moved on at that time. I felt like it didn’t get the credit it deserved. I’ll use Breaking Bad as an example. It had just the right evolution in terms of its relationship to the fans, to the critics and to the audience. It peaked and ended exactly at the right time and in exactly the right way. But it was a different animal and had a shorter run. We went almost 200 episodes over nine years so it’s a very different kind of storytelling. I may sound like sour grapes but it’s how we all felt.
Do you feel vindicated with this comeback?
I really do. I think some shows end so egregiously they use up any goodwill they’ve earned. But we always maintained our contract with ourselves to put on the best show. We never, ever let our foot off the accelerator. Jack Bauer is a character who people have missed. It’s animated us. Time only made our hearts grow fonder toward him and then fortunately, there turned out to be a story that we wanted to tell.
Kiefer Sutherland says that when you first approached him about doing Live Another Day, he didn’t believe you.
Well, I wasn’t sure I was serious either. I don’t even think [Fox Networks Group CEO] Peter Rice remembers this but I was having dinner with him and he mentioned just idly, is the movie ever going to happen? I said, I’m not sure, I don’t think so and he mentioned maybe doing it as a limited series. I told him I’m having dinner with Keifer. I wouldn’t presume to ever do the show without [many original writers and some stars] and the fact that everybody was available … it became like the Wizard of Oz.
How did you figure out which characters would come back?
Well, it is a forward and backward process. If you really look at it like a novel in a way Jack has had so many people who have been important in his life. It’s a tragedy in many ways — there just aren’t that many people who mean something to Jack who are still standing. So there’s only a limited number of people who haven’t either gone crazy, in jail or, you know, dead. But everybody who is still alive can come back and is fair game. That includes Chloe, Audrey, Heller. Of course we were also aware of the potential hazards of bringing people back just for the sake of bringing them back. We don’t want the tail wagging the dog.
If it goes well this spring, can you see it coming back next year with another 13 episodes?
I think we’re open to it. Everyone’s having a really, really good time so far. No one is counting on it by any means.
For more on 24: Live Another Day, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now. And be sure to tune into EW Radio’s Inside TV on April 8 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET to hear Executive Producers Manny Coto and Evan Katz talk about Jack Bauer’s return with host Lynette Rice!