When you think of the showrunners who have revolutionised the TV landscape in Hollywood, Howard Gordon is among the names you will stumble across.
The 55-year-old Emmy award-winning writer and executive producer started with The X-Files, Angel, The Inside, 24, Homeland, Awake, Tyrant to Second Chance and, now, 24: Legacy.
He shares this creative space with other ingenious minds, such as Courtney Kemp Agboh (Power), Kenya Borris and Jonathan Groff (Black-ish), David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash, Blindspot and Supergirl), Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath (The Blacklist), and Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel and The Strain), among a host of others.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of chatting (albeit telephonically) to this TV doyen.
He was completely chilled during the interview, remembering fondly his time in South Africa – Cape Town, to be specific.
Gordon says, “We did Homeland season four there. I had a wonderful time. I thought it (Cape Town) was magnificent and the crew and people were wonderful.”
And he’s equally enthused about the resurrection of the 24 franchise with 24: Legacy.
Fans will recall the last instalment, 24: Live Another Day with Kiefer Sutherland reprising his iconic role as Jack Bauer in the Emmy award-winning series.
This time around, there are a few necessary changes.
Gordon explains, “Since the very beginning of the show, we asked ourselves the question: Is 24 about real-time or Jack Bauer? It really wasn’t until we were all really satisfied that Jack Bauer’s story was told that he allowed ourselves to have creative room to contemplate how we might do a spin-off or reboot of the series. And so we really took Live Another Day, which we did three years ago, and the character of Carter, which we marinated in our brains. We found Corey Hawkins and a hero worthy of taking the 24 franchise into the future.”
He continues, “Also, as writers and producers, real-time as a narrative story engine has always been very do-able and compelling. So we said, ‘Let’s try it again.’ ”
And so the challenge was in getting similar traction with a new protagonist.
Gordon acknowledges, “I always say Jack cast a very long shadow as a character. In some ways, I had the same challenge with Homeland. Carrie Mathison was created out of Jack Bauer’s rib. We made her a woman of a certain age. She was bipolar.
In the case of Corey, we wanted to have a much younger character. The fact that he is black is not an explicit difference. But it has a specific resonance in the course of this season with him being a black man in America who has been a soldier. It’s one of the things that distinguishes him as a character.”
This reboot comprises 12 episodes and the storyline takes place in real-time, with a 12-hour jump in one of the episodes.
Gordon reveals, “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel; we are just trying to tell a good, compelling story with vibrant characters.
“Corey is truly a star. I love working with him. He starred in Straight Outta Compton, a really excellent movie.
“We have an amazing cast, with Miranda Otto, who was on Homeland season five, and Jimmy Smit, who is one of the great stars in American television. There’s also Dan Bucatinsky.
True to the show’s tone, it’s fast-paced with plenty of suspense and action.
The writer-executive producer explains, “It’s funny how people always use the word ‘action’ with regards to 24. It’s not the way it was designed. The action is propelled by circumstance.
“It’s not about things blowing up but the people inside those scenes. It’s really about the emotional experience.”
This narrative is built around vengeance, with Eric Carter, a former sergeant in an elite squad for the US Army, finding himself pooling together a team of experts after a fatwa is placed on him by those who are upset about his involvement in the execution of Yemen terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid, six years earlier.