Mykelti Williamson of '24': Not His First Time at the Rodeo

Today's cuppa: Bag Ladies English breakfast tea

24_WalkingNYCstreet_Kiefer_Sutherland_crop.jpgFans of "24" may know that Kiefer Sutherland, who plays anti-terrorism agent Jack Bauer (left), is an experienced and celebrated actor, an action star and a man who occasionally gets in trouble with the law while out on the town, but they may not know that he gave up acting for rodeo riding for a while in the late '90s and is a two-time winner of the national team roping championship title.

Furthermore, fans probably don't know that Sutherland is not the only member of the cast who knows his way around horses and cows.

In this season of "24," airing Mondays on Fox, Mykelti Williamson (below) plays Brian Hastings, the head of the New York office of the Counter Terrorist Unit. Jack Bauer used to work out of the Los Angeles office, but owing to some circumstances, he's now trying to save a peace treaty -- and probably the world -- from the Gotham location.

Hastings is an Ivy League-educated guy, but his background is a bit of a mystery, and Williamson's history has some surprises as well. When I dropped by the San Fernando Valley sets of "24" late last year, I sat down with Williamson and learned, among other 24_Mykelti_Williamson_1.jpg things, that he and Sutherland had the rodeo in common.

"I've known Kiefer a long time," said Williamson. "Twenty years ago, he was a team roper, and I used to do a little bulldogging (also known as steer wrestling) , but I never ran across him in the rodeo stuff, never. He was a lot more serious about it than I was. He and his partner actually won Arizona as team ropers. So he's the real deal. He's a real cowboy, not a movie, TV cowboy.

"And I'm a bit of a roughneck. It's cool, I like it."


Asked how he got into rodeo, Williamson said, "I had an opportunity to work at a horse stable when I was a kid, so that I could ride the horses for free. So I was a scooper and a wiper and a washer. That's what I did. One thing just sort of led to another, and I was asked to ride with some guys, and I did.

"Then I saw some guys bulldogging, and I met a gentleman named Woody Strode, the character actor. I met Woody Strode when I was a teenager, and I watched him do it. It hooked me. I was hooked.

"I took an interest in bullriding, but I'm too tall. I'm six-three, and it's a little rough on a guy my size. You get slung right off, just schwing ... and wind up in the audience. But If I were of a different stature, I think I would have liked to try being an all-around cowboy, like Larry Mahan.

"I've been a fan of rodeo for years. My first rodeo job was given to me by a gentleman named Cotton Rosser. I was 16. I met him at the Forum, and I asked him if he needed more cowboys. He looked at me and said, 'What do you do?' I said, "Well I work at a horse stables in Gardena
(Calif.) ,' and I started talking to him.

"He said, 'Come on, we'll find something for you to do.' So I would clean up at the rodeo, actually sit behind the chute with the cowboys, all that stuff."


24_Mykelti_Williamson_2.jpgAt this point, I said I could see Sutherland and Williamson together in a Western movie, and Williamson said, " So could I. We actually talked about that. A friend of ours is writing a Western right now, and we were just talking about that."

Williamson also knows another veteran actor who's part of the horse world.

"There are a few actors that are rodeo guys. Do you know who Glynn Turman is? Glynn owns a ranch, not too far from (the amusement park, Six Flags) Magic Mountain, and he has a kids' camp every summer. I always throw him a little bread for his Camp Gid D Up, for his kids."

Finally, as to whether Hastings and Bauer might find themselves on horseback during this season of "24," Williamson said, "There are horses in New York, so maybe this year. You never know. Anything can happen on '24.'"

Coming up next week: Williamson talks about accompanying his "Forrest Gump" co-star Gary Sinise to visit the troops in Afghanistan. Click here for that.