Kiefer Sutherland Is ‘Pitching Ideas Directly’ for the ’24’ Legal Thriller Spinoff

TCA 2018: Fox Broadcasting entertainment boss Michael Thorn wants future of franchise to play out like James Bond or Jack Ryan

24 Jack Bauer
Chris Raphael/FOX

It’s hard to do “24” without Kiefer Sutherland as the leading man, but Fox keeps trying — with Sutherland’s help.

And this time they are doubling down on their efforts, with two projects in development — a Jack Bauer prequel series and a legal thriller spinoff. While Sutherland may not return as Jack Bauer for either, he’s backing both as a producer. And the franchise star is so into the latter project that he’s actually getting in on the brainstorming.

“I can tell you he loves the idea of the legal thriller [spin-off],” entertainment president of Fox Broadcasting, Michael Thorn, told TheWrap during the Television Critics Association press tour Thursday — just a few hours after the network announced that project was in development. “And he’s been pitching ideas directly to [longtime ’24’ showrunner] Howard Gordon.”

“He’s involved as a producer on both shows,” Thorn added. “He is part of the fabric of those shows. Our hope is that like James Bond has had different versions of James Bond or Jack Ryan has been played by different people we can expand it to feature other signature characters. But I know that’s not easy, because Kiefer is an incredible actor that broke the mold with Jack Bauer. And so it’s a high bar.’”

The original “24” premiered in November 2001 and ran for 192 episodes over eight seasons until 2010. A made-for-TV film, “24: Redemption,” aired between seasons six and seven. In 2014, Fox revived the series for a limited run of 12 episodes called, “24: Live Another Day.”

Fox first rebooted the franchise with “24: Legacy,” which aired for one season in 2017. The series, which featured actor Corey Hawkins (Eric Carter) taking over for Sutherland as the lead, failed to catch on and was soon canceled. At the time of “Legacy’s” cancellation, the network had been considering other ways to keep the franchise on the air in some form.

Earlier this week, news broke that the network had a Jack Bauer prequel series in the works from Gordon and co-creators of the original series, Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran. And during Fox’s executive session at the TCA press tour Thursday, Fox TV Group co-chairman and CEO Gary Newman spilled the beans about the “24” legal thriller.

“The idea of moving the franchise from terrorism and security into the legal world is something we talked about as far back as season 3 or 4 of 24 where, from time to time, there would be discussions of spinoffs,” Newman said. “You have to look for an arena where the stakes are high and time matters. [The legal version of ’24’] deals with an execution of a prisoner and there are just 24 hours left until the execution is supposed to take place. So the stakes are high and it potentially has a lot of the same values of the original 24. Regardless of the political climate, the time’s always right for a show of that type.”

Thorn says Fox thinks “real time is a powerful storytelling mechanism” they want to keep pursuing, and that’s why they keep coming back to “24.”

“It’s something that’s so tied to ’24’ that our feeling was that, in addition to stories that feature CTU, that we could apply that storytelling device to other thrillers,” he added. “So the other one, which is with Howard Gordon, Brian Grazer, written by Jeremy Doner, is it’s a legal thriller that is dealing with the 24 hours before an execution. And so we’re hoping we can expand the franchise to tackle other worlds, but still deliver on thriller, conspiracy and a signature hero. And unlike the prequel our hero in this one is a female attorney. I haven’t read it yet though!”

So does Fox’s desire to “expand” the 24 universe with new heroes mean there is room for both shows, or will they have to pick the prequel or the spinoff?”

“They’re not mutually exclusive,” Thorn said. “We could do both. We haven’t read either script, so it’s hard to know which one might go first, or how we might approach it. But they are wildly different. And our hope is that the brand of ’24’ will allow us to do more than just one. Especially since they feature different heroes in different stories.”