3 Ways Fox’s 24: Legacy is Resetting The Franchise

The cast and creatives behind Fox's new series tell us the connective threads from 24 to 24: Legacy compliment a refreshed storyline.

As far as revivals go, 24: Legacy falls somewhere between inevitable and a shock. Fans were into return of Jack Bauer in the 2014 event series, 24: Live Another Day, but it didn’t overwhelm Fox to the point where the network was asking for a more permanent revival.

At the time of the LAD finale, I wrote this

I saw enough to make me want this show to return in some form. Hell, my emotions were so twisted; I wanted Jack to return in some form too. But part of me wanted them to pull the trigger.

For many 24 fans, the show’s later seasons were done in by the same format made it appealing in the first place. Four years removed from the supposed series finale, Live Another Day felt like a celebration of all that was loved and loathed about 24. Still, it couldn’t match the intensity of its network sibling The X-Files, whose fandom spent years campaigning for a second chance on a forgiving medium after a poor feature film outing.

The 24: Live Another Day ratings held strong, and the event series paved the way for The X-Files revival, which gave Fox confidence to further explore the business of nostalgia. Together, 24 and Prison Break will be reborn in 2017, but only the former will hit the reset button and separate itself from the network’s other legacy plays. Essentially I got what I was asking for after LAD: A refreshed 24.

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Corey Hawkins, who right now is best known for his turn as Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton, spent the summer answering questions about how he’s the “New Jack Bauer.” It’s a delicate line for Hawkins to balance, knowing the show’s name triggers one iconic character and a fast-ticking clock, yet he’s selling a new character totally removed from Kiefer Sutherland’s CTU agent. 

Before debuting footage at San Diego Comic-Con, Hawkins’ costar Jimmy Smits leans over to assure Hawkins he won’t go undetected after the show premieres. “Next year the whole thing about cosplay, all these people are going to dress up as his character,” Smits says. 

Hawkins’ military veteran Eric Carter is lacking the name recognition of a Jack Bauer at the moment, but he’ll be in the spotlight in the most coveted time slot on television come Super Bowl Sunday. 

“Before the pilot was finished, Fox said we’re going to put it on during Super Bowl Sunday,” Smits says. “That’s nice when you go to work. It’s a huge vote of confidence.” 

“No pressure!” Hawkins joked.

It’s also a safe bet that the 24 brand will deliver the results the Fox suits want. From the creative side, the goal of 24: Legacy is to tell a new story with all the visual and emotions trimmings that made the original series worthy of a revisit. At San Diego and New York Comic Con, we spoke to the cast and creatives behind 24: Legacy to find out what to expect when the series premieres February 5th. 

A New Idea For a New Age

The braintrust behind 24, including executive producers Manny Coto, Howard Gordon, Evan Katz (the other credited series creators, Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, were not on hand) made it clear that they came to Fox first with a concept that was fresh and wouldn’t reboot the previously established 24 universe.

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“Fox was not clamoring for us to do this,” says Coto. “They thought it was an interesting idea. We had this idea for the pilot and we thought it was make a great real-time series. We’re not remaking 24. This is a 24 expansion. It’s not like we’re restarting the Kiefer story. That’s where a lot of franchises over stay their welcome. We’re starting a new story.” 

They knew Kiefer Sutherland wanted to move on from the role of Jack Bauer, at least for now, and they had a seed idea for a story based around a new character that blossomed into a pilot script. 

Hawkins’ Eric Carter is a solider returning home from war who needs to deal with what happened on the battlefield, the effects of PTSD, and a new terror threat back home. 

“I think Jack Bauer was already a hardened, seasoned veteran,” Hawkins says. “We’re going to go on this journey with this young man with his family and watch it evolve. We’re going to watch him make moral decisions, that’s the difference.”

Hawkins says it’s not a total departure from Bauer, however. 

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“I think he does [have similar traits to Jack Bauer],” Hawkins says. “You sort of have to. He’s a hero, an American hero, a soldier. He exemplifies the best of that. Because he’s a soldier, the rules are different on the homefront. Over the course of the season, you see him adjust from being a soldier to civilian life.”

The Realities of PTSD and Global Terrorism

Giving a military veteran the keys to the series’ real-time format will allow 24 to explore storylines they simply didn’t make time for during the original run. Hawkins tells me it will help round out the character, flaws and mental health challenges included, which was a major reason why he took the role. 

“I have members of my family who are in the military. I have friends who are in the military. Classmates who served in the military. I value their service and I value telling this story and doing justice to it,” Hawkins says. 

Returning to normalcy after military service is a constant battle for soldiers. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sends ripple affects through veterans lives and the lives of their families.

“It’s not just Eric. It’s other members of his squad that are suffering from PTSD and withdrawals and they’re both trying to figure out what it is to live civilian life once you get out of the military,” he says.

Carter, like Bauer, will work with CTU, which is undergoing major changes as well. Miranda Otto plays Rebecca Ingram, the former head of CTU who puts her career aside for her husband’s (Smits’ John Donovan) political aspirations. Ingram is pulled back into a world she thought she left to face a threat that is far different from the early days of CTU.

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“The show reflects the fact that the face of terrorism has changed,” says Otto. “That was one of the things that drew me into the script. I felt it was a real representation of what is actually happening at this moment.”

Adds Hawkins: “In 2001, terrorism was fought in a completely different way. We didn’t have the technology we have now for surveillance, for counter-terrorism. CTU in turn looks very different than it looked back then.”

The Clock Is Still Ticking

Visual and energetic continuity are the connective threads from 24 to its spinoff. 

“I don’t think the creators are shying away from [the original series] by the title,” Smits says. “It’s 24: Legacy and the show does have this kind of iconic visual style that changed the way we watched television in so many ways. Real time, multiple boxes, and the clock ticking. All of that visualization really engaged fans on so many levels. It’s not really a reboot, it’s a reinvigoration, and an expansion of this particular universe.” 

Despite it being a new story, it was easier for Otto to step into a seasoned production. 

“It’s more pressure to be on a show that doesn’t know what it is. I’ve been on shows where they’re just setting it up and they’re trying to find the tone of the writing and performance. That’s always a really chaotic period on shows,” Otto says. 

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“It’s so great to come in and do something where you know how strong the format of the show is and you’re working with writers and directors who worked on the original show. It feels like you’re going into a well-run ship already. Then it’s just a matter of creating these new characters.” 

The best way they put it: The series is the CSI to the CSI: Miami for the 24 universe. New story. Same feel.