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July 31, 2014

'24' Producer Howard Gordon on His Three New TV Series, First Novel and the '24' Movie

by Kim Potts, posted Feb 23rd 2011 3:00PM
Howard Gordon 24If '24' producer Howard Gordon isn't the hardest working man in show business these days, we don't want to see the schedule of the guy who is.

While finishing the final season of the hit Kiefer Sutherland drama last year, Gordon also penned his first novel, 'Gideon's War,' a fantastic political and military thriller that pits Gideon Davis, a pacifist negotiator (yes, the anti-Jack Bauer), against his brother, a special ops agent who's gone rogue and taken a multi-million dollar oil rig hostage.

On his current slate, Gordon is completing a Showtime drama pilot -- 'Homeland' -- starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, about a CIA officer (Danes), who suspects a Marine sergeant (Lewis) is planning a terrorist attack when he resurfaces after going missing in Iraq for several years.

There's also 'Legends,' the NBC drama about a CIA agent who's so adept at using "legends," aka secret identities, that he's not totally sure what his real one is anymore, and Gordon just confirmed that rumor that he's considering hopping onboard 'Lone Star' creator Kyle Killen's 'REM.,' an NBC pilot about a detective who juggles alternate realities after being involved in a car accident.

Somehow, Gordon found time to chat with TV Squad (early one morning from an airplane hangar in North Carolina, where he was working on 'Homeland') about his new book, his many upcoming TV shows, the '24' movie and how he remains close to his CTU cohorts and, yes, like the rest of us, how much he's missing Jack Bauer these days.


Kim Potts: I'm not a regular reader of this genre, but 'Gideon's War' is a great read. It does feel like a movie, or a great TV show.
Howard Gordon: That's sort of the little premise of the exercise for me ... to make it feel like an exciting, compelling read. So that's great to hear.


Is it more difficult to do that with a book than it is on a show where you've got actors playing out your words?
In a way it is. I think the whole process of television is such a collaborative medium and you have a lot of help along the way. Obviously, you have actors and directors interpreting your work, and then everything is imagined for you, too. So even the music is there to help make your pulse race or make you feel sad or make you feel scared. So you have a whole lot of things in your arsenal when you're telling a story in film and television, whereas on the page, it does require almost a more active grabbing of the audience ... In 'Gideon's War,' or any novel -- any thriller anyway -- you are casting these actors in your head. You're hearing the music. Whether you're actually hearing it or not, you're feeling the emotion that, say, the music would help you feel.

Gideon's WarWere you picturing certain actors as the characters in the book while you were writing it?
I really didn't see (Gideon), except for the obvious things about his eyes. It's more of a sense that conjured what he could look like ... 100 different people. But I know he would have these intense eyes, with a streak of violence, and yet he'd have a softness. But I didn't see an actor. It's funny, because we (later) engaged in some speculation about ... who might be that guy, and I sort of see someone like George Clooney, although maybe a slightly younger George Clooney.

Are there more Gideon Davis stories to come?
Yes. There's a sequel called 'Allegiance,' which is due in a year from now.

You were finishing the book during the last season of '24,' right?
(Laughing) I tell you, I am really tired ... (But) I've been on a high wire for a pretty long time and obviously I enjoy doing it, and I just hope I can continue to have the energy to keep doing it at this pace. But I also work with some great, great people. Like on 'Homeland,' I wrote it, and my old friend and my former fulltime writing partner, Alex Gansa, who I brought onto '24' ... we split up on 'The X-Files' 15 years ago, and I brought him onto '24' in the seventh year. He and I did 'Homeland.' He's doing a lot of the 'Homeland' heavy-lifting right now while I do the pilot.

Kiefer Sutherland Howard GordonYou have a quote from Kiefer Sutherland on the book jacket, Dennis Haysbert does the voice-over for the book trailer and Carlos Bernard is reading the audiobook version ... is it safe to assume that the '24' team is still close?
Absolutely. At my book party in L.A., I sent out invitations, or rather, my wife sent out invitations, for the signing at Barnes & Noble. Practically the entire cast came. I didn't expect Dennis Haysbert, and he came out from his house, which was an hour away, and Gregory Itzin and Marisol Nichols and Carlos came. And Peter Weller. I mean, truly, 10 or 12 cast members came. Mary Lynn (Rajskub) came. A lot of the crew and office people came ... It was an amazing group of people. And talented, hardworking people, and I think I have the humility to know that's not going to happen again. It was a "once in a career" type of thing.

The first January in a decade with no '24' just passed. Are you missing the show as much as fans are, or is it nice to have a break?
I miss it, but I'm really glad it's over. Because I'm so sure that it had run its course and it was time to end. So there's really no regrets. But that doesn't mean I won't miss it. I actually had lunch with Kiefer not that long ago, and he and I mixed it up quite a bit over the years, and we both looked at each other and said, "I miss you, man." It was really nice.


It seems like there's a different rumor about the '24' movie every day, including one recently that Ron Howard would be directing the movie. What's the latest news on the movie?
The '24' movie is on hold for now, although conversations are ongoing. Beyond that, there is no news -- at least as far as I know.

What's the biggest challenge in taking '24' to the big screen?
The challenge is just not making it a movie for the sake of making a movie version of '24,' but really having a compelling story ... simply making it good, frankly. I know that sounds non-specific. But nobody's interested just to do it as an exercise. If it's going to be out there, it has to be out there for a good reason.

Jack Bauer Do you still feel compelled by that material and subject and characters?
I feel compelled by Jack, that Jack is still out there. I feel like I miss him. I mean, it's that simple ... And I think there's a way to see him on the big screen ... The 24-hour iteration of '24,' I think, is done. But I think that there's life left in Jack.

On to 'Homeland,' with Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. Would you describe it as more of a psychological thriller than an action thriller?
Yeah, very much so ... '24' always had a kind of heightened reality. I think it had a nice emotional integrity, but always in a heightened kind of context. This really does feel like it's happening in the real world, because it has that kind of slow, observational, very human storyline. So it is more of a psychological thriller. I think in some ways, it's taking some of the same material, obviously, and looking at it in an entirely different way.

You're working with Showtime for 'Homeland.' How is that experience different from working with a network, the things that you can do, the pace that you can employ to tell the story?
Showtime feels to me like the difference between ... a major studio movie and independent film. There's a kind of fearlessness there, to be nuanced and to be slow ... to take your time, I should say. Slow is not a good word. But, just the medium itself. The fact that there are no commercial breaks changes the rhythm and changes the whole experience. And of course, the latitude you have in terms of material.

Claire Danes HomelandWhat's the timeframe for it? Is there a planned premiere date?
The idea would be in September. Nothing is written in stone. We have to finish this (pilot) first, and they have to like it, but I think it would come out next September.

And now, 'Legends' ... are you working on that at the same time?
I am, but ... this may be the last that we ever talk about it.

Is it based on the Robert Littell novel?
It is. It's a very, very compelling story, although, I threw out a lot of the source material. So it's been re-imagined pretty significantly.

Is there still a humor aspect to it, in the TV version?
There is a humor aspect. But it is the sort of gallows humor, or rather, the very dry spy humor. I actually like it a lot, and I'm hopeful for it, but again nothing official. You'll probably hear in the next week or so, I hope, one way or the other, that it's been ... that they're going to shoot it or not.

And, as if that isn't enough, New York magazine reported you may be working with 'Lone Star' creator Kyle Killen on the 'R.E.M.' pilot for NBC. Is that true, and what would be your role on the series if so?
I am actively considering coming on board as executive producer for the pilot, and will run the show should it get ordered to series. I was really impressed by Kyle Killen's pilot script, which has a high degree of difficulty, but which has a truly original premise about the adjacent realities of the main character.

As we discussed, you haven't had a lot of downtime recently, but I'm always interested in what people who are making great TV are watching on TV, so what's on your list?
It's a great question. I don't watch nearly enough television, but I'm catching up now. During '24,' I watched almost no television. What I've discovered since is 'Dexter.' I've become a big fan of 'Dexter.' Also 'Breaking Bad.' I love 'The Office' and 'Modern Family.' And I watch 'Glee' with my daughter.

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Ed N

I really enjoy the show "24", but it would be a thousand times better if they would lose the annoying background music. It is distracting and takes a lot away from the show. It also drowns out the dialog frequently. If I wanted to listen to music I'd listen to music. When I'm watching a television show though, I just want to see what's happening and hear the actors. Please turn of the horrible background music!!!!!

June 30 2014 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Enos

"The first January in a decade with no '24' just passed."

Forgot about the writer's strike already? The 2008 season was cancelled, so there was no 24 in January 2008.

February 26 2011 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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