With New York City providing the backdrop for ‘24’s eighth season (Fox Monday 9pm), a lot of the diplomatic action is taking place at the United Nations where President Allison Taylor (Emmy winner Cherry Jones) and President Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor) are trying to hammer out a peace agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Kamistan. While Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has had plenty to keep him busy in the field, the internal diplomatic machinations are proving to be just as dynamic.
For one, President Hassan has already survived an assassination attempt, and now he’s got to deal with his underhanded brother Farhad (Akbar Kurtha) covering up his inappropriate relationship with a journalist and a wife that loathes him. Meanwhile inside President Taylor’s camp, the administration is also reeling from the attempt on Hassan’s life and possible errant nukes in play but Chief of Staff Rob Weiss (Chris Diamantopoulos) is determined Taylor pursue the peace talks with Hassan.
Over the next few weeks we’ll continue talking to some of the big players in season eight and on deck today is Anil Kapoor and Chris Diamantopoulos. Moviegoers know Kapoor from his role as the slimy game show host in the Academy-award winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ but in his home country of India, Kapoor is also a Bollywood megastar. For Canadian son Diamantopoulos, ‘24’ is another role in his long resume of well received television projects from ‘The Starter Wife’ to ‘State of Mind.’
Preview tonight’s all new episode below:
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Anil Kapoor/ President Omar Hassan
In your homeland of India, is ‘24’ a popular show?
In Indian, cricket is our national sport. People love it. But with [American] football, the youngsters are catching up. So ‘24’ is like football because the teenagers and youngsters are slowly and steadily becoming great fans of ‘24.’
President Hassan is a very juicy role and one that is very topical in the context of real Middle Eastern relations. Did you model your character on anyone specific?
No, but I have looked into real life leaders and that helped me because as you said, it is topical. I had to go into the lives of people and what politically is happening in different parts of the world. I especially looked at the relationships the United States of America has with Middle Eastern countries. They haven’t seen peace for centuries and this is what [Hassan] wants to do and both of the leaders want to achieve – peace – with a Middle Eastern country and the United States of America. I think that is the real key to all peace.
What makes Hassan different from other Middle Eastern characters that have appeared on ‘24’ before?
I think this guy is completely different from all the other characters that you have seen on all the other [seasons]. All of the other Middle Eastern characters people have criticized as very stereotypical. In this [season], he is very heroic, human and very real. He has his own flaws and they are very modern. He is thinking ahead of his time and I think it’s phenomenal the way he is written. I give full credit to the writers who have given me such a great role.
Chris Diamantopoulos/ Chief of Staff Rob Weiss
Considering the topical nature of your storyline on ‘24’ this season, did you model your character on anyone in particular?
I think he’s fashioned around [Obama Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel[. He’s the kind of guy that’s not going to back down and won’t take ‘No’.
Were you a political junkie at all before you got the role?
No, but my wife [‘Ugly Betty’ actress Becki Newton] jokes and introduces me to people like, “This is my husband Chris, and he’s in politics.” I’m barely reading the New York Times! But I do try to keep abreast of things. It’s always fun when I am reading the paper or watching CNN and shooting an episode at the same time and notice I just did something just like that. It’s such smart fantasy in this show, in that they take current events or create events that end up becoming fact. It’s almost precognitive and strange. The first African American president [President David Palmer] is just the tip of the iceberg of things they have brought to us before they happened [for real].
What’s your understanding of how Rob got the job?
Rob Weiss was essentially handed the position from Ethan Kanin (Bob Gunton) who became the Secretary of State.
So far would you say Rob is turning out to be President Taylor’s advocate?
Yeah, and often times he is trying to be a step ahead because she is dealing with so much and that makes his job so much more varied and complex. He’s got his hands full this year.
How is Rob a different Chief of Staff from Ethan?
He has a great reverence for President Taylor and respects her policy but at the same time wants to add value. And like any young guy that wants to add value, he wants to assert himself and make sure that’s it known by the President and the entire administration that he needs to be there because of dot, dot, dot. It’s kind of the antithesis of the way Kanin was her Secretary of State. He was calm, reasonable and methodical. I think Rob Weiss is aggressive, forward thinking and not going to be stopped by any road blocks.
Is one of those road blocks Jack Bauer?
Well it’s funny; Bauer can either be a roadblock or a ramp. It’s Rob’s job to manipulate him to be what he needs him to be. It’s no secret that Jack has a job to do and often times that job may be different from what Rob thinks is the job to be done. There are some interesting moments between Jack and Rob this season. (Laughs)
How is it working with Cherry Jones?
She is a bit of a revelation, as an actor getting to work with her. She’s the best of the best. The humanity you see in President Taylor is Cherry Jones’ humanity. She is such a centered and peaceful and kind lady. Yet she brings a gravitas as well with her being such an accomplished actor. All of those elements add to create a very magnetic president.
So can you give us a hint about the likelihood of Rob making it through Day 8?
When I got this show, the first question everyone asks is “When do you die?” (Laughs) I love my job but that’s a valid question because they weave these stories so well and to make an omelet you’ve got to crack some eggs.