While this is now hailed as the “golden era of TV”, pioneering shows like 24 were instrumental to it since its build-up in the 2000s. After a successful eight-season run, which ended four years ago, fans thought they had seen the last of our James Bond-esque action hero. But he is back, albeit for a shorter story arc, in 24: Live Another Day, writes Debashine hangevelo.

WITH 24: Live Another Day, the playground has shifted from Los Angeles to London.

Instead of hunting down terrorists, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is being pursued as a terrorist. But his Delta Force and tactical training make him a slippery agent for the CIA.

Interestingly, he was immediately on board for the new season after a chat with executive producer Howard Gordon (of Homeland fame).

Sutherland, who was seen in Pompeii and has had quite a full schedule including doubling as executive producer for Touch, says: “Howard Gordon called me up and said: ‘Look, I think I’ve got a really interesting idea for a 12-episode arc, would you even consider doing it?’

“I said: ‘Do you feel really strongly about, not only the idea, but the ability to execute that?’ I mean, he’s got Homeland going and he had a couple other things. And he said: ‘Yeah. Very strongly. I wouldn’t be bothering you…’”

Having inhabited the character for eight years, it wasn’t hard for him to slip into Jack’s psyche again.

Of course, for a veteran like Sutherland, substance and scope have always been cornerstones.

Given all the personal losses he has suffered while doing his job, Jack has, understandably, evolved.

Shedding light on the person we now see, the actor says: “He’s harder. I think the natural evolution of the character from the first season… I remember getting ready to start this again and I watched some of them. And I didn’t really watch a lot of them when we were making the show because the continuity was intact so I kind of knew where I was coming from. But I saw a scene from the very first episode between Leslie Hope, who played my wife, and myself in the kitchen talking about our daughter, not knowing that she had snuck out of the house and was soon to be kidnapped. He was this nice happy guy trying to fix some family problems, you know?

“And then the second year, he’s lost her, and you see him (with) an empty bottle on the floor and he’s passed out on the couch. And the third year… it’s even worse, and the fourth year it’s even worse.

“And now this time, he was still always working under the guise of some kind of capacity of what his job once was. But this year he’s completely estranged from his country, he’s completely estranged from his family. He’s being lauded as a criminal, and he’s had to hide underground for four years.

“He’s hard, and that comes out almost immediately in his interaction with Chloe (a system analyst). He doesn’t trust her, he doesn’t trust anybody. The loyalty thing seems to have gone out the window, so he’s very hard and very self-motivated. And that’s a big difference for the character, for me.”

As for the shoot in London, he offers: “It’s exotic to us, you know. You stand at the mouth of the Thames, and that’s where the boats went out to fight the Spanish, that’s where our perception of the Western world was kind of anchored. A lot has happened up and down that river over the past 1 000 years. And, you know, it’s iconic, and there’s a kind of symbiotic relationship between America, Canada, and certainly England. They’re like your older brother, if not your dad. I think that will be appealing to audiences.

“And, I think, we touched on it lightly, but the political structure in the context of our show, it will be interesting to see how that works between our perception, as a make-believe drama, behind closed doors. And I think that’s going to be interesting.”

On returning to the TV show, given how the industry has evolved, Sutherland reveals how he tackled the character.

“Jack Bauer is an a-political character. Jack has always operated on an objective – diffuse this bomb, save that president, save this, do that. And in the course of that effort, he has to make some terrible decisions about, ‘l’ll save these 100 people, but in order to do that these 10 are gonna die’. And that’s where the drama is created, that dynamic is not going to change in the context of this show this year.

“The reasons why all of these things take place will change, but the core structure of what is inherently dramatic about the show has been the same since the day we started. It has to be.”

Amid his mission, while trying to evade capture, there are also many emotions that haunt him.

He offers: “I think that is one of the reasons he’s as hard as he is. His hope of ever going back is non-existent; his hope of ever seeing his daughter is non-existent. So you’re dealing with a guy who has nothing to lose. Absolutely nothing to lose. And yet he feels a very strong moral obligation to do this thing because of a debt, because of something that happened before. So he’s highly motivated, he’s incredibly pissed off, and he’s lonely. And he’s not drinking.”

While the future of the series, be it a transition into a movie or a follow-on, is yet to be decided, Sutherland says: “I’m not shut off to anything right now.”

Visibly older, Sutherland remains agile in the field and retains his title as a titan in the action scenes. Fans won’t be disappointed, especially with Benjamin Bratt, Kim Raver and Yvonne Strahovski forming up for the lead cast.

• 24: Live Another Day airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursdays at 7.30pm.