Series preview tonight at 9 p.m. following "American Idol"
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
By now, we've all seen trailers for Kiefer Sutherland's new FOX drama, "Touch." All signs suggest the series will be heart-warming, intriguing and acted out by a stellar cast that includes Danny Glover ("Lethal Weapon"), Gugu Mbatha-Raw ("Undercovers") and talented newcomer David Mazouz.
But, for those of us who loved "24," and are used to seeing Sutherland as no-nonsense action hero Jack Bauer, will it be enough? How do you convince "24" fans that "Touch" is going to be just as entertaining, equally captivating and sufficiently interesting?
"I don't know if there is convincing" Sutherland said. "I think that ultimately almost in the way that '24' started, people that are initially interested, whether they're a fan of ("Heroes" and "Touch" producer) Tim Kring or a fan of mine or like the trailer, they'll watch it and then, if they feel strongly about it, they'll tell friends - and we have to rely on that.
"For me, personally, I feel that there is a great deal of suspense within the context of the show, even in the not knowing what the numbers are and the narrative where the audience actually knows more than the lead character. So I think that even though we're not blowing things up, I think that there is enough excitement around the drama of this show, that people will not be that thrown by it who enjoyed '24.' And we really do rely on you guys telling people about it and hopefully it will be something that grows."
In "Touch," Sutherland stars as Martin Bohm, a widower and single father who is unable to connect with his son, Jake (Mazouz). The 11-year-old boy doesn't speak, he doesn't like to be touched, and his only connection to the world, seemingly, is numbers.
When social worker Clea Hopkins (Mbatha-Raw) takes Jake and places him in foster care, he reaches out to his father through his beloved numbers. With the help of professor Arthur Teller (Glover), Martin discovers Jake's ability to tie together more than just their relationship.
"At the beginning of the story we discover Martin, who has a son named Jake, who, in the course of our story, we realize has been misdiagnosed with severe autism and, in fact, is actually just a truly, truly evolved human being that is years and years beyond where my character is and our society is at," Sutherland said. "And in an effort to communicate with my son, I discover that he has this unbelievable skill set that allows him to interpret numbers and symbols in a way that kind of explain our past and to some degree predict our future, and that's where we start the show off.
"My journey (is) very much like the Chinese fable that the story is based on, which was called 'The Red Thread.' And the red thread is basically a red thread that is loosely looped around the ankles of all the people that are supposed to come in contact with each other over the course of a lifetime. This thread can stretch and it can bend, but it cannot break. And somehow in our society we have broken this, and my son is taking me on a journey to try and put the thread back together."
"We're embarking on the journey of a father trying to connect with his son, and trying to have as normal a relationship as he can under the circumstances," Sutherland noted.
He offered high praise for Mazouz, his on-screen offspring.
"He's an amazing young actor and he's an amazing young man," Sutherland said. "He does something that is really, I don't - I think it would be impossible to try and teach an actor to do. He has very limited physical response to anything that I do. He doesn't talk, and yet I can feel his presence even if he's not looking at me. I can always sense that he's listening, and I think that comes across to the viewer as well. That's a real gift."
So, too, is the show, itself. Sutherland hadn't necessarily planned to return to television less than two years after "24" ended. But, after "reluctantly" reading the script while doing a play, he said he'd be remiss to pass on the project.
"I had an unbelievable experience on '24,' " Sutherland said. "We shot 198 episodes and I was as excited about shooting the 198th as I was the first. So that experience, and I had a great relationship with FOX, both the studio and the network. And so that, combined with this script, it wasn't even really a choice anymore. It was something that I knew I had to do."
"When I take a look at what I think Tim Kring is doing with this show, I certainly haven't been a part of anything more creative," Sutherland added.
"Touch" debuts with a special preview Wednesday, Jan. 25 (9-10:07 p.m.), and then makes its series premiere Thursday, March 22 (9 p.m.), on FOX. Follow the show online at http://www.fox.com/touch/.