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Dawn of a New Day

Day 5 of the hit Fox television show "24" promises another season of tension and unexpected twists and turns.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
"24", Jan/Feb 2006

(continued from page 2)

It's more than quality control. Surnow believes that everyone is deeply vested in the success of "24." If there was a common thread through more than a dozen interviews, from actors and producers down to the costume-department head, it was the sense of pride that if anyone has an idea, it will be listened to, and even incorporated if it's the right idea. To some extent, that ethos flows from the cigar room, arguably the creative heart and soul of the production offices, created by Surnow and Gordon at the show's inception.

"There's a very free flow of comments there. Everyone who is invited into the cigar room knows ideas are exchanged there," says Gordon. "Whether he's a prop master, a costume guy or an actor, the door is always open, and no one is too impressed with themselves to not hear a good idea. The whole idea is to make the show better."

Surnow recalls a scene from Day 4 in which a CTU analyst, Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), is shot at by a terrorist as she sits in a bulletproof car, a position she has been forced into by circumstance. "Originally, the script had Kiefer in the car, but then it was Kiefer, or maybe even a prop guy, who said, 'Why don't we put Chloe in there, a person who can't handle something like that happening, and Jack has to talk her through it,'" says Surnow. For anyone who watched last season, that scene, where Chloe has to drive to a safe-house location because no one else is available, is an incredibly powerful, character-altering moment.

"It's an example of how everyone thinks their ideas can get through," Surnow says. "No, we don't sit around and poll everybody. That wouldn't work. But in the context of when we put out a script and everyone starts to work on it, they know they put their ideas's not that we're such great guys. But we all appreciate that this is too big for one or two or three guys to do by themselves."

Even the show's actors feel as if they can throw in their two cents' worth and not get laughed off the set. James Morrison, who joined the cast last year as CTU official Bill Buchanan, says that the openness and the free flow of ideas is one of the most unusual aspects of the show. Morrison, who is also a cigar lover, says that he feels totally free to bring ideas to the table. "It is incredibly collaborative and synergistic," Morrison says as he relaxes and smokes a cigar in his trailer. "They are very open to ideas with dialogue and scenes...more so than any other place I've ever worked."

Roger Cross, who plays Curtis Manning, CTU's primary field operative, concurs. "They allow within the framework of the story to have some room to move. They expect you to do that," he says. "And they are not afraid to adjust and take your ideas. It's great."

Kim Raver, who plays Audrey Raines, the daughter of the secretary of defense and Jack Bauer's love interest in Day 4, also agrees. "It's very unusual, and it is genuine. And not to sound all corny, but there is something special. A lot of people set the tone. Joel, Howard and, of course, Kiefer," Raver says. "When the bar is set really high, everyone wants to come up to that level. And there's a level of trust, too. And people who are hired get to do their job, and do it as well as they can.

"It's also amazing. This isn't the first year of the show. It's been going on for a couple of years, and to still have that enthusiasm is amazing," says Raver. "But the format almost forces people to... keep it going because they believe so strongly in [the show]."

Cassar is quick to attribute the reasons for that collaborative atmosphere. "It's very easy to kill it. But it takes someone to keep that door open, and Joel always has. It keeps everyone involved as opposed to the 'I'm God and do it exactly the way I say' mode. Then it's not collaborative anymore," says Cassar. "I've directed over 120 episodes of TV and eight feature films, and I've never seen anything like this."

That such an open atmosphere exists on a show as complex as "24" almost defies reason. At any given time, between 200 and 250 people work on "24." Some days, an additional 100 extras come on set. Each has to look and dress the same for the entire 10-month production schedule.

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