The Evolution of Kiefer
Fern, Maria Elena, Newsweek
Byline: Maria Elena Fernandez
With '24' and a bad-boy past behind him, Sutherland is finally at peace.
This is not the Kiefer Sutherland you remember.
Flanked by two boys, the actor is filming a scene for an upcoming episode of his new Fox series, Touch, in a downtown Los Angeles alley. There are no bad guys to apprehend, no threat to world peace, only two nervous kids in need of attention. In Sutherland, they find an unlikely ally.
The way Sutherland handles the guest actor, 13-year-old Malachi Smith--calling him "sweetheart" and assuring him his performance is "awesome" in between takes--is a far cry from the intense, repressed Jack Bauer he embodied for eight seasons on 24. In Touch, he plays Martin Bohm, a widowed father raising a mute son who is learning to communicate through a kind of higher power. His 11-year-old, Jake (newcomer David Mazouz), possesses a special gift to sort out number patterns that connect people and events across the world. Martin takes cues from his son, connecting the figures to the people whose lives they affect. It's a thought-provoking, magnetic performance.
Sutherland says he responded to Touch--the story of a father learning about the interconnectivity of people and how that can be used for the greater good--as a father and grandfather, and because of the helplessness he felt when his kids were young. The actor, 45, got married for the first time at 19 and has a 24-year-old daughter and 36-year-old stepdaughter from that relationship. His 6-year-old grandson hangs out on set after school.
"Any parent will relate to this script in the sense that there's a real feeling of inadequacy within the character," says Sutherland, snacking on some peanuts and smoking cigarettes during a break. "He's never going to win this. There's no miraculous moment where his son is going to start speaking or hug him, and yet he fights for it every day. I have a lot of respect for his courage. Those are the real moments as a parent when you realize you don't know everything. …