Playing a widower trying to connect with his mute young son in the new Fox TV drama Touch sounds about as far away as you could get from his action-packed 24/Jack Bauer role. But Kiefer Sutherland told me, although he was not ready to do another series, “a friend asked me to read the script and it was so beautifully written. Normally I wouldn’t think about something like this at all. I had made 200 episodes of 24, and I really wanted to set some time apart from this kind of amazing experience that I had with 24 and try some different things. But this character was so completely different. I just emotionally responded to the piece in such a strong way and I realized that if they would have me, this was certainly something I wanted to do.”
That’s how Jack Bauer transformed into Martin Bohm, a loving and concerned father of a possibly autistic pre-teen son in the unique hour-long heart-tugging show called Touch that has its world premiere Thursday, March 22, on Fox.
Creator of the show, Tim Kring (Lost) says, “He stars as a single father who discovers his 11-year-old son possesses an extraordinary gift — the ability to see hidden patterns that connect people all over the world. The script was not originally written with him in mind, but he has given life to the character. I see the show as more of a mystical or spiritual idea.”
The boy’s character is unique. He does not speak, and the only communication he has with his father is through numbers, and math. And each number is puzzling — it can be a phone number, address, a lottery ticket, etc., yet each number can lead to an exciting adventure for Sutherland, who has to find out what the numbers mean. It’s a most unusual television series brilliantly making the connections that brings everything together at the end.
Regarding his role in Touch, Sutherland explains that “the real driving force for my character is to really just simply communicate with his son, which I think every parent can relate to. My character knows he is never going to have the perfect, idyllic relationship with his son, where he will never completely win, and that is something, for whatever reason, I was drawn to, certainly as an actor.”
Speaking about his own family, Kiefer points out, “I have a daughter with two children. I don’t think anybody has a child and doesn’t want the best for them and doesn’t want to be the best they can possibly be for that child. I think the great pain and frustration of parenthood comes from when we feel we aren’t that.”
He says his character senses he was somehow responsible for his son being this way, “which gives him sort of a sense of failure,” Kiefer says. “So that is something I certainly responded to as a parent — wanting to do your best. And I hope and believe that other parents who watch this will as well. As for me, I have been really fortunate. I grew up with my mother and I have a very close relationship with my father now. And my grandfather, my mother’s father, Tommy Douglas, was someone I was very close to. My twin sister has helped me through a lot of stuff. My youngest daughter is 24, and my oldest is in her 30s. They have been an unbelievable support system. I’ve been very fortunate that way.”
On the personal side, Kiefer has a ranch in Montana and loves rodeos, having participated in roping contests. He also loves to go skiing when on vacation.
During his long career, Sutherland has done more than 70 films and numerous TV series. Playing Jack Bauer for eight seasons on the highly acclaimed 24 series earned him many honors including an Emmy Award for Best Actor. Looking back he says, “I’ve had moments in my career where I was making small, independent films, films that I would be proud of even if only three people were to see them, which is why I became an actor. I want people to see the work I’m doing.” That’s why he wants viewers to tune in his new show, “because I’m very proud of my connection with Touch.”