Carlos Bernard Talks the Pain & Pleasure of '24'
Today's cuppa: chai spice black tea
In mid-December 2008, I hit the road to visit the San Fernando Valley headquarters of Fox's thriller "24," inside a former pencil factory. The occasion was a visit with executive producer Howard Gordon and a long-promised preview of the first two hours of season seven.
After a Mexican-food buffet lunch with Gordon, actor Carlos Bernard (who plays Tony Almeida) and members of the production staff, I settled into a big leather couch in the writers' room -- in case you're curious, there was a copy of Reason magazine in the bathroom -- to watch the first two hours on a big-screen TV.
Suitably wowed, I then had a chance to chat with Bernard. Some of our conversation is in a story that's part of the Inside the Box blog at Zap2it.com -- click here for that -- and the rest I'll share with you here. If you don't know Tony's history, you can click here; for information on this season of "24," click here.
On bringing Tony back after his apparent demise in season five:
Yeah, they called me towards the end of the sixth season. They had an idea of bringing Tony back. Then the more we talked about it, the more we weren't really thrilled with that idea. But after that sixth season, I think that initial idea from the sixth season got them thinking about, "Maybe we should bring the character back."
But over that summer, leading into the seventh season, we had conversations about how it might happen, where he might be at. It's been very organic, this place that the character's gotten to, given all the trauma that he's been through in prior seasons.
On how Tony is kind of like you and me:
One of the purposes the character serves is to say, "What would an average person react like in a situation like this?" Yeah, he's trained at his job, and he's not going to react exactly like a normal Joe would, but the emotions get to him more than they would a normal, average person.
(Photo shows Bernard on right, with James Morrison, as Bill Buchanan, on left)
On how it all began:
Tony was a real tech geek in the pilot episode. They sent me the pilot script to read when they were casting, and I was doing a show down in Texas. I read it, and I was like, "Well, it's not really my casting. He's a tech guy, right? I don't get it."
And his name was Andrew Geller. I'm like, "I'm really not Andrew Geller the tech guy. I don't understand why they want me to read this." It all started changing when I came in to read for Joel (Surnow) and Bob (Cochran) and Stephen Hopkins.
Even before we started shooting the pilot, at the table read, we started changing the name, because we knew that the character was not going to be what was written. But that's what the show is. The show presents these people, and all the characters aren't exactly what you think they are when you first meet them.
Think of Chloe (O'Brian), when you first met Chloe. So that's what I like about this show.
On whether he could justify Tony's motivations for temporarily going over to the dark side:
Oh, yeah, absolutely. In the final episode that we're shooting right now, it all kind of comes full circle. It's not that I think he's right, but yeah, I didn't have a hard time justifying, not for the character.
On how the ghost of the slain President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) has hovered over the show:
You know what's funny about that? Again, here we are shooting the last episode, and it pops up again. Tony actually brings him up. It's interesting.
Think about fallen presidents that we've had. They pop up in our consciousness more than presidents who just fade away. The Kennedys and the Lincolns keep coming back.
It's like, you lost something, you lost whatever was going to take place for the rest of the years that Kennedy was president or Lincoln was president.
We lost those years, and we'll never get them back. That loss stays with you.
Programming note: last Friday, I participated in a conference call with Gordon, much of which focused on the plot details of the two-hour block of episodes airing Monday, March 2. So, I'll wait until after you've had a chance to see the shows to share that. UPDATE: And here it is.