Kiefer Sutherland: In ’24,’ ‘I Got To Do All the Beating’ and in ‘Rabbit Hole,’ ‘I Get Beat Up All the Time’

“To all the people that I had fight sequences with before, my hat’s off to you,” the actor says of taking his lumps in his new Paramount+ series

Kiefer Sutherland Rabbit Hole Paramount+
Kiefer Sutherland as John Weir on "Rabbit Hole." (Paramount+)

“Rabbit Hole” stars Kiefer Sutherland as a corporate espionage consultant who must go on the run after being framed for murder by a shadowy but powerful group, a character that is used to being on the receiving end of punches, quite unlike the character he’s best known for on “24.”

The Paramount+ series pairs Sutherland with “Crazy, Stupid Love,” “This is Us” and “WeCrashed” writer-directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. When they pitched him on a series that’s a throwback to ’70s conspiracy thrillers “Three Days of the Condor” and “Marathon Man” and “The Parallax View,” he was fully on board. “I’m so lucky that they called me first,” Sutherland told TheWrap ahead of the series premiere on March 26.

“24” fans will be pleased to see the actor back in thriller territory, but his “Rabbit Hole” character John Weir is very different from Jack Bauer. For one thing, it’s been 22 years since “24” first premiered and Weir is not the action dynamo that Bauer was.

TheWrap: It’s great to see you back in action. But your character isn’t very happy about it is he? Like in the scene where he’s being chased by the policeman on horseback. He’s kind of like, “Oh, do we really have to do this?”

Kiefer Sutherland: That just comes with age. (Laughs) In “24,” I got to do all the beating, and in “Rabbit Hole” I get beat up all the time. At first, I thought, “Well, I guess I had that coming.” And then there is a real technical difference. Usually, you don’t see the first punch coming. So for most of “24,” I threw the first punch. And the first big fight sequence I had in “Rabbit Hole,” I get hit from behind. And obviously, I can’t see that. So, all the people that I had fight sequences with before, my hat’s off to you. It’s so hard to not flinch knowing that you’re gonna get hit from behind, but you don’t know when. That was a bit of an education for me.

You get hit with a skateboard in one scene. How does that play out when you’re filming that? Does he actually hit you?

Oh, he hits you. You just hope you only have to do it once. We did it three times. But that’s only because I flinched. (Laughs)

I love the scene where he just brazenly infiltrates the police precinct with basically nothing but the suggestion of a badge and a lot of attitude. That must have been fun to play.

It is. It’s almost as fun to do as an actor as I would have to believe it is to do as a real person. And if you ever watch these crazy videos… I was watching the other day where a woman was stealing a leaf blower and she put it in the back of her pants. And two feet of the leaf blower is still popping the back of her pants, she can’t quite get her jacket over it and she gets away. She confidently walks out the door with half a leaf blower sticking out of her pants and I’m like, “Well, I guess confidence does make up for a lot.”

Weir has an interesting relationship with Hailey, played by Meta Golding, where he’s forced to take her with him after he’s publicly accused of being a murderer and they don’t trust each other. It’s funnier than I thought it would be.

John Weir starts to fall in love with a girl he knows he should not be falling in love with. He does everything he can to not fall in love with her. And she’s like the tractor beam on the Death Star. There’s very few things that are more charming to watch than two people falling in love when they’re desperately trying not to. I think there’s something very kind of innocent and sweet, and kind of almost grade three about it. John and Glenn are incredibly funny guys. Yet they do it with such a deft hand, but also so delicately. It was an absolute privilege to be able to do some of that stuff.

Meta Golding as Hailey Winton and Enid Graham as Jo Madi in “Rabbit Hole.” (Marni Grossman/Paramount)

The situation with Hailey is kind of taken out of “Three Days of the Condor.”

Yeah. Except if you take a look at Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway in that movie, she really is a victim. And the reasons that she starts to help him reminds me much more of the relationship in “The Bourne Identity,” where it is a semi-attraction and Stockholm Syndrome kind of wedged into one. This is approached with a much more deft sense of humor. And [in “Rabbit Hole”], they kind of hit it off out of the gate and yet they both know they shouldn’t because this is a really screwed-up situation.

And then with Enid Graham’s FBI character, they have this adversarial, but almost fond relationship.

Right. You’ve got two people that absolutely hate each other, but they think it’s so fun. That’s hysterical. Enid is just an extraordinary actor. And she’s got one of the greatest senses of timing, and one of the greatest deadpan looks I’ve ever seen. And who thinks of having a cop driving around chasing down a criminal who has her 15-year-old daughter stuck in the back of her car because she got kicked out of school? That’s one of the funniest scenarios I’ve ever seen. Enid handles that part of the show phenomenally.

What’s your take on conspiracy theories?

This show isn’t dealing with conspiracy theories as much as we’re dealing with the manipulation of information that’s simply not true. This could possibly have happened. Technology is allowing us to manipulate information in a way that will make you think something’s different than it in fact really is. And that’s potentially really dangerous. We certainly use it as a tool in the context of our show.

How paranoid are you, personally, on a daily basis?

I’m too old to be paranoid. I don’t care, I’m on my couch with a bowl of popcorn. (Laughs)

The first two episodes of “Rabbit Hole” are now streaming on Paramount+.