If you’re a fan of ‘24,’ (Fox Monday 9pm) then you know that the Counter Terrorist Unit (or CTU) isn’t exactly the most stable place to work. Way back when, Jack Bauer was the Head of Field Ops at the Los Angeles branch of CTU and despite saving the country three times from terrorist plots, even he was canned. Since then CTU’s had a revolving door of directors, managers and underlings, from the adversarial George Mason (Xander Berkeley) to the beloved Bill Buchanan (James Morrison), either assisting or thwarting Jack’s effort to save the day. Most of them have had little patience for Jack’s methods which in turn have translated into plenty of verbal fireworks and fiery confrontations between Bauer and CTU brass. The smarter ones were eventually able to swallow their pride and work with Jack, but plenty of others learned the hard way and were lucky to make it out of CTU with a job, much less their lives.
For ‘24’s’ eighth season, yet again there are new CTU faces, this time guiding the New York division. Over the next few weeks we’ll talk to some of the movers and shakers tearing up the screen with Jack this season. First off we’ll introduce some newbies: CTU Director Brian Hastings played by Mykelti Williamson and NY Head of Field Ops Cole Ortiz, played by Freddie Prinze Jr.. Together with Bauer, they’ve already thwarted the assassination attempt of Middle Eastern leader Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor), but rest assured there’s still a mess of trouble waiting for Hassan, President Taylor (Cherry Jones) and the country as the hours tick away.
Williamson and Prinze Jr. talked to Fancast about joining ‘24’ and what their characters bring to the mix.
Mykelti Williamson: Brian Hastings
Was ‘24’ a show that was on your radar before you got cast?
This project has always been on my radar as a show to watch. I Tivo’d the show. I have the box sets of every available season. When I was asked to join the cast it was a no-brainer.
Being a fan, did you feel more pressure joining the show and adding to the pantheon of either beloved or detested CTU directors?
It was exhilarating at first but then it became almost immediately scary because I love the show and I don’t want to be responsible for screwing it up. It sounds funny but I am very serious about that. Kiefer is also a dear friend. His work is always at the highest level and elevates the rest of us all the time and that is still the case even on ‘24.’ So it was fun to know that I would back into that and get to work with a friend of mine that I love so much like a brother and just to be a part of the ‘24’ legacy because that is television history.
Brian Hastings is the director of NY CTU and as we have already seen, he’s tightly wound. Was it tough shaping the character so he stood out from others that played that position?
You know who I actually talked to? [Executive producer] Howard (Gordon) and I would just check in but the person that I did a lot of soul searching with is [executive producer/director] Brad Turner. Brad helped to shape the character that you see on the show this season. We had so many heart-to-hearts, almost on a daily basis, because I didn’t want to repeat beats of previous heads of CTU. He reassured me that we were not going to do that so he was really instrumental in guiding me along this entire season. I tip my hat to Brad.
So who is Brian and what can we expect from him as day eight goes down?
There are a couple of things I don’t want to give away but I can tell you that Brian Hastings is a control freak. He’s a pillar of strength but he is afraid that he may be found out because he feels like he may be out of position and not the right man for the job. You will watch that unfold with his head bashing with Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) because he thinks she is useless. But he will see that he has a great learning curve ahead of him as it relates to Chloe.
Freddie Prinze Jr.: Cole Ortiz
Most people know you from your comedy work. How is it working on a drama now – better or worse?
I don’t know if I have been doing it long enough to accurately compare. As far as something I have wanted to do but never had an opportunity to; I chomped at the bit. I auditioned for this. It wasn’t something that came my way. They were casting in LA and I read for this in New York. I didn’t see anyone else in the lobby and told the casting director “Look, there is nobody else in there so we are doing this until we get it right. I want this job!” She let me do it a few times and sent the tape. I sent her some cookies and that was it. (Laughs)
We’ve come to see that Cole is in a relationship with fellow CTU agent Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff) and problems are already a foot?
Yeah, they are engaged and there is a past to her character that he wasn’t aware of, so as it comes to light it constantly intersects with the main storyline and it affects his relationship with her, Jack and his boss.
Speaking of Jack, a lot of people are already speculating if Cole is the heir apparent to Bauer, but we’ve seen similar characters before with Agents Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale) and Mike Doyle (Ricky Schroder). How similar or different is Cole from them?
They are always going to have certain things in common just because they always have a lot to learn. Jack’s been burned and these characters usually haven’t so in that regard you are stuck within those confines. What you really try to do is personalize it and have discussions with the writers and really try to figure out what makes this guy tick.
And what makes Cole tick?
Well because the show is taking place in New York, when I went and auditioned I played him as a local boy, a New Yorker that was inspired by 9/11 events and joined the military for the right reasons. And even if that was sort of motivated by revenge it was quickly replaced by discipline and the ability to effectively execute a game plan. So the foundation that has failed Jack for the last seven seasons hasn’t failed Cole. It’s shaped Cole and built Cole.
Is he going to help or hinder Jack this season?
They have a lot of similarities in the fact that they are both ex-Marines and Cole holds the position that Jack held in season one – he is the head of filed operations for CTU. Where they differ is that the government has failed Jack numerous, numerous, numerous times. Cole is proud of who he is, so they butt heads a lot.
Ha! They always start that way but by midday the newbies yet broken. Is Cole in for a rude awakening?
Yeah. They told me they would destroy that suit of amour by the time the season is over to see what makes him tick. As his foundation starts to get chipped away and you see this kid’s morality get challenged he has to make choices all of a sudden that he’s never had to make and that’s what shapes you. They never tell you how it’s going to end; they just tell you it’s going to shatter. (Laughs)
In two weeks, Fancast talks to the new chief of staff Rob Weiss played by Chris Diamantopoulos and the President of the Islamic Republic of Kamistan Omar Hassan played by Anil Kapoor.