Interview: '24: Legacy' Producer Howard Gordon Talks Tony Almeida, Story Arc, And Easter Eggs

When the final clock ticked away on 24: Live Another Day, I don't think anybody believed that was the end of the 24 saga. Now the producers have created a new 24 series to begin a new day of real-time action with new characters in the world of CTU. Corey Hawkins plays Eric Carter, an Army Ranger on the run who turns to an old, retired CTU head (Miranda Otto), dragging her back into the fray too.

At an early screening of the first hour of 24: Legacy, we spoke with Howard Gordon, one of the original executive producers of 24. Some spoilers from the pilot follow, so if you don't want to know about classic 24 characters who are referenced or what hour begins the day, here is your spoiler warning. 

After doing 24 for nine years, was this like doing the tenth season or starting a brand new show?

It was like doing the tenth and starting a brand new show. It was both. At every step, I would've bet that when we did season eight, the finale with Jack looking up at the sky and Chloe saying, "turn it off," that you'd never see Jack Bauer again. It took three years to miss Jack enough to try to do Live Another Day. And then it was only after telling that story and really feeling very good in our own hearts that Jack as the center of the series had sort of ended, which isn't to say that he can't be in a movie or in some fashion in this new iteration. But Jack as the center of an ongoing 24, his story had really largely been told. Maybe not the end, but the ongoing story. So once we sort of reconciled ourselves with the fact that Jack wasn't going to be in it, I think it freed our imaginations up to consider creating another character who could live in the real time format.

24 was so Jack Bauer and Kiefer Sutherland-centric, did it take that to make it possible to start with a new character?

I think it was the thing that actually kept us away from even trying for a long time, because Jack has such a strong shadow. In some ways, Eric Carter, Corey's character, was born out of the sort of rib of Jack Bauer too. How do you create a character who's significantly different from Jack but who at the end of the day has to operationally do a lot of the same things in the real-time format? He's a lot younger than Jack was. Jack was a father of a teenager, a veteran CTU agent. Eric Carter's a story. It's very much an origin story. He's in his mid-20s. He's not a CTU agent so hopefully the show lives in a place that we get to grow up with this character.

Was Joel Surnow around to pass the baton?

Bob Cochran is here. Bob co-created with Joel. Joel's giving his blessing from the 15th hole of some golf course. Kiefer's as involved as he can be, very much blessing the project which is wonderful.

How so is that? How involved can be if he's not in it anymore?

Kiefer's not going to lend his name [to just anything.] He really had to read the script and think about it.

So he's an involved producer.

Yeah, for sure.

Was it significant to start the day at noon?

Yes, because we're only doing 12. Plus, by the time we get around to the nighttime, there'll only be about eight hours of daylight. In the shooting schedule, nighttime rolls around.

So by eight o'clock?

Seven-ish.

Corey Hawkins in 24: Legacy / Howard Gordon interview

When you were doing 24 episodes, by necessity you had to make it up as you went along. When you're doing 12 is there more of an ability to arc it out?

24 is just too far to ever posit. Because we posted the last episode May first and picked up the writers room May 20th, there was no possibility of seeing that far ahead. On this and on Live Another Day and Homeland too is an example where I experienced wow, you can actually see the end. You're not sure how you're going to get there, but you can sort of know where there is.

What came first, "let's pay homage to Edgar" or "we have this character, she could be Edgar's cousin?"

It was a little of both. For instance, like the Enterprise on Star Trek, CTU is a character. You really look at what 24 is. 24 is Jack Bauer. It's also real time. It's also CTU. Once we recognized institutionally that CTU is a character, we thought about how do we pay homage to that fact. That's one example, hiring Edgar's cousin who's very different from Edgar. Also Tony Almeida coming back.

Could there be a relative of Bill Buchanan somewhere down the line?

Why not?

Or another Palmer?

I was thinking about Palmer's daughter. I miss them so much.

You announced Carlos Bernard returning. How soon might Tony Almeida show up?

I think episode six.

Over the summer there were comments about Jack and Chloe still existing in the world of 24. Kiefer was quick to clarify he's not going to appear. Was there a miscommunication and is it clear now?

First of all, I'm so happy for Kiefer on Designated Survivor. Again, I really can't speak for Kiefer and part of it is, and I'm not speaking for him, we would love at some point for Jack to find his way. He's in Russia somewhere and what he's doing and what's happened to him, it would be great at some point, whether it's a movie or whether it's a crossover with this show, to tell the rest of that story. No plans on our part or his to make that happen.

Coming back to television twice now, did you learn that 24 just works as a show? It wasn't supposed to be a movie?

I think so. Our couple of attempts to do it, at least for me, showed me that one of the things about 24 is it really lives in this very broad canvas that TV allows. Ultimately you're competing with Bourne or Bond or Mission: Impossible so the show is, 24 is 24. Part of it is a long story, a big mosaic, a big canvas with twists and turns and reversals. That takes time. A movie is a pretty abbreviated experience.

John Donovan [Jimmy Smits]'s day is just getting started. What's the political side of 24: Legacy?

Well, I would say what I really like about this year is that Jimmy and Miranda have this very modern marriage where he deferred his earlier campaign so she could capture Bin-Khalid and do her thing. Now she's deferred her professional life to join him in his campaign. So you have a very modern marriage in which both people have these high-profile, very powerful jobs and they need to be in sync, but as we'll learn and find out soon, they're not entirely in sync. What I love about 24 is it's that day where everybody's life takes that chapter. For a lot of people, and us, every day is sort of like yesterday and roughly like tomorrow until it's not. 24 is the day where everything changes."

Is it an exciting time in television that shows can evolve and find new ways to exist?

I think the people who are hung up on the Jack part of it will give it a chance. I think they will. I think once they do, I think they'll like it. There's a whole audience of people who never saw 24 too. Hopefully they'll see it for the first time and then go back to the original.

Do 24: Legacy and Homeland complement each other if people are watching both?

They're very, very, very different shows. On one hand, Homeland owes such a tremendous debt to 24 just as I cut my teeth on it and Alex [Gansa] obviously joined me on it. I don't know how they speak to each other. They're very, very different shows. They are connected in that we're fishing in the same pond but using very different bait.

Does setting the ending of Homeland inform the last three seasons?

Yeah. Alex Gansa's running the show. He's doing an amazing job but now there are some ideas about how we're going to end it.

Will we be able to tell in the sixth season that it's starting to wrap up?

I don't know. We're not there yet.

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24: Legacy premieres February 5 after the Super Bowl on Fox.