Kiefer Sutherland talks new series ‘Rabbit Hole’ and future of ’24’

In Rabbit Hole, Kiefer Sutherland plays corporate fixer who becomes ensnared in a massive conspiracy when he’s accused of murder

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Kiefer Sutherland is smack-dab in the middle of another twisty new conspiracy as he takes the lead in the Paramount+ series Rabbit Hole.

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But unlike the hero he played for nine seasons on 24, this time around, Sutherland, 56, is slipping into the role of John Weir, a corporate fixer who’s forced to flee when he’s implicated in a far-reaching conspiracy.

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“John Weir and Jack Bauer are vastly different characters,” Sutherland says with a smile. “Jack is a blunt instrument, whereas John is like a surgical scalpel.”

Created by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (directors of Focus and Crazy, Stupid, Love), the Toronto-shot adventure finds Sutherland back in the thriller genre. But Weir isn’t trying to stop terrorists. “Jack will run towards a fight and John will run far away from that,” the British-born actor says.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as John Weir in the Paramount+ series Rabbit Hole.
Kiefer Sutherland stars as John Weir in the Paramount+ series Rabbit Hole. Photo by Brian Bowen Smith /Paramount+

Inspired by thrillers from the 1970s, Requa and Ficarra wrote the role specifically for Sutherland, pitching him on the idea of a corporate spy whose life spirals out of control when a seemingly easy job goes south and ends in the murder of a government official.

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“I had an overall idea of where we were going. But it was exciting to see what they came up with,” the two-time Emmy winner says.

After the first two episodes were screened in advance for critics, it’s safe to say that the unfolding conspiracy will leave viewers questioning everything they think they know about technological manipulation.

Sutherland, who admits to being a bit of technophobe, says the series pulls back a “frightening curtain” on the types of threats people face online.

“But there is so much great stuff that is coming out, too,” he cautions. “Navigating it all requires you to have some knowledge and I think we address that to a degree in this show.”

During a mid-afternoon chat in Toronto, where he was raised, Sutherland spoke more about the eight-episode series (premiering March 26) and looked back at a career that started in 1984 with a Genie-nominated role in The Bay Boy.

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Rabbit Hole is a thriller, but it’s different than what we’ve seen you do before. How are you describing this one to family and friends?

“It has some similarities to 24 … but the template for a thriller is pretty simple. You take a main character and turn them upside down and slap them around a bit and throw them into the street and say, ‘Now let’s see you fight to survive.’ That’s the germ of a thriller. How you fill in the rest of it is unique to its own story. Jack Bauer and John Weir are dramatically different, and the worlds that they live in are different.

Kiefer Sutherland as John Weir in the Paramount+ series Rabbit Hole.
Kiefer Sutherland as John Weir in the Paramount+ series Rabbit Hole. Photo by Marni Grossman /Paramount+

“But it’s something I’m really excited for audiences to see because the truth of it is we, as a society, are going through an incredible technological revolution and I think it’s going to take us decades to adapt to everything that implies. We address that in our show. We show you how easily someone with some skill can manipulate your own information against you.”

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Glenn and John, the series creators, have said this is a nod to ’70s thrillers. Is that a genre you’re a fan of?

“For as long as I can remember watching movies, those were the ones I wanted to one day make. So when I think of films like Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, Parallax View, All the President’s Men, Don’t Look Now, a film my father (Donald Sutherland) made with Nicolas Roegg, I just identified with those characters kind of fighting this fight against insurmountable odds and still going through with it. Maybe that’s what I wished I would be like as a person myself. ”

I’ve watched two episodes of Rabbit Hole and I have a lot of questions. Am I going to get all the answers?

“Never. Just like human beings, all our questions are never answered.”

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It’s been almost 10 years since we last saw you as Jack Bauer on 24. Since then, you’ve gone on to do Designated Survivor, Touch and now Rabbit Hole. Was breaking away from that character easy to do?

24 is kind of entrenched in the marrow of my bones. I did that for 10 years … I just know that character … He was a big part of my life, and exploring new characters like John Weir is refreshing and exciting. But it doesn’t mean I don’t have great affection for Jack because I do and I always will.”

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24.
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24. Photo by Anthony Mandler /FOX

24 ended on a cliffhanger. Will we ever get resolution on that?

“I don’t know. I think eventually you will, but I might be too old (laughs). I’ve always felt that 24 as a show was something that could go on … I would be saddened to think that someone wasn’t going to do something with that.”

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When you’re flicking around the TV and one of your old movies comes on, which one do you always stop to watch?

“Probably an old one because it’s like looking at a yearbook and saying, ‘Ah, that’s what you looked like back in Grade 9 (laughs).’ So there’s something very nostalgic about seeing Lost Boys or Young Guns — and all those guys are still friends of mine. Those are memories we’re never going to forget because we were so young. So those put a smile on your face.”

Kiefer Sutherland in a scene from The Lost Boys.
Kiefer Sutherland in a scene from The Lost Boys. Photo by Warner Bros.

So what would young Kiefer think of where he ended up?

“He’d be really grateful. I often think that if I was going to talk to my younger self, I’d tell him not to worry so much. There’s great panic when you’re young because so many things are brand new … A lot of moments that I might have had that were special when I was younger, I didn’t acknowledge very much because I was already worried about the next thing down the line. So, to young people, I know it sounds scary, and it probably feels scary, but if you can, take a moment and enjoy the ride.”

The first two episodes of Rabbit Hole premiere Sunday on Paramount+.

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