James Morrison, 24: CTU's Boss Teases the Next 22 Hours
James Morrison, 24
To hear James Morrison sum up his 24
alter ego, "Being Bill Buchanan is like trying to romance a beautiful woman in a crowded bus with a love poem about the Terrorism Index, while a pit bull gnaws its way up my leg." In other words, this guy really knows what his character is about. TVGuide.com welcomed the opportunity to chat up Morrison about Buchanan's wedded bliss, the new day's first two hours gone by, and what lies ahead for Bill, Chloe, Audrey et al.
TVGuide.com: So, when did this whole Bill-Karen Hayes romance happen?
James Morrison: It started to happen at the end of the last day. I invited her to breakfast, she asked for a rain check, and sure enough, we ended up going out for a few breakfasts. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: He pursued her ardently?
Morrison: He did, yeah. Once Bill decides that flowers grow wherever a woman steps, he has to pursue her.
TVGuide.com: Did you like that they took their relationship that far for the new season?
Morrison: I thought it was an amazing idea. Jayne [Atkinson] and I had a chemistry, so we in our own way sort of pushed for it, but not in an overt way.
TVGuide.com: It provides extra stakes for the two characters.
Morrison: It's also an interesting statement for both of them. That a woman who comes into a situation like [she did last season] and wrests power from a man — and to find that they both can be attracted to each other in spite of that — is actually a compliment to both their characters. It also speaks to a level of integrity and honor — that they would place the country's well-being before their personal needs, and then make a circle back to, "We're human beings, let's explore this."
TVGuide.com: Is Bill fully aware just what an ass Peter MacNicol's character [presidential advisor Thomas Lennox] is being to Karen?
Morrison: Yeah, there's a history there that will be fully explored in episodes to come.
TVGuide.com: But being on opposite coasts, Bill won't get a chance to wipe the floor with him?
Morrison: You never know. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Watching the first few minutes of the new season, the 24 viewer had to be rather taken aback by the sacrifice that Jack was being asked to make, to give up his life for the country. Were you similarly wowed?
Morrison: Interestingly enough, I wasn't, because when you're in a position like that, you know it's in the job description. You know when you sign on that you may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. When Jack asks me if I know what it means to die for something versus nothing, of course I do, but at the same time I've never been asked to do that. Jack certainly has, because that's the nature of his job in the field, [whereas] I'm more of a bureaucrat. But we all know that ultimately the job might ask us to make that sacrifice. What did Martin Luther King say? "If you haven't found a thing you're willing to die for, you haven't lived." That's the problem, frankly, with public servants and politicians today — they're not willing to sacrifice anything. They weren't willing to sacrifice themselves when they were asked to serve. This is not another subject, because this show examines this stuff every day. It asks the audience to take a deeper look at themselves and what they are willing to ask of themselves. That's one of the brilliant things about the show — it examines those subjects on a real, human level. We don't just take apart the Terrorism Index and say, "OK, this is what causes people to do this." We actually look at the relationships and feelings that are involved.
TVGuide.com: In the current TV Guide cover story, Kiefer Sutherland says 24 "hugely" and "definitely" feels the pressure to outdo itself each season. Is that how you feel?
Morrison: Well, not that I disagree with him, because you always are faced with the challenge of exceeding yourself if you are the kind of person who challenges themselves moment to moment — Kiefer certainly is, and we all are as artists. But in relationship to what is real and important in this life, the biggest thing is that we are ultimately only privileged and grateful to be doing what we love, on this level. Whether or not it's going to be as important or earth-shattering as last time we did it is not ultimately the issue. The issue is, can we bring 110 percent of our hearts and our souls into this moment? That's the thing that's going to draw the audience back to us.
TVGuide.com: On a lighter note, a little continuity question: Is Bill Buchanan a barber? Because when grizzly Jack went to clean himself up at that airport-hangar sink, he came away with a salon-quality haircut.
Morrison: Yeah, I guess it's only appropriate that if you're going to ask Jack Bauer to give up his life, you at least give him a good haircut. Before Buchanan became an expert in terrorism, he probably did a few coifs here and there.
TVGuide.com: How has your life changed since being part of the 24 phenomenon?
Morrison: I was thinking about that this morning. In terms of the things I used to do before and the things I do now, I'm the same guy. I have the same concerns as an artist. The same things drive me and my work. It's just that for years and years, no matter what you do, you sort of float on the periphery. Sure, we have excursions into the mainstream to make a living, but now, it's a visibility issue. Mary Lynn [Rajskub, Chloe], was in New York City the other day for Letterman, and she said people will holler at her from across the street, "Hey, Chloe!" They may have known her before, but they just couldn't put a name to her.
TVGuide.com: Is Bill Buchanan going to have a bit more job security on this particular day? It'd be nice to see him stay at the company for a while.
Morrison: I'm going to be there for a little while. There's no guarantee of anything — regardless of what your contract says, even, as we have found out in a lot of instances.
TVGuide.com: Who is your favorite new character? I'm really liking Chloe's "boyfriend," Morris.
Morrison: Oh, Carlo [Rota] is great, and they're a great foil for each other. He certainly brings a new sensibility to the room. You know that there's a world outside of CTU when he's around, and that's a great quality. And it also reveals a lot about Chloe, that she would [have] actually be married to a cat like this. Marisol [Nichols, Nadia] is great, Eric Balfour is back [as Milo], Ricky [Schroder, field agent Mike Doyle] is great; we're having fun.
TVGuide.com: When I spoke to Kim Raver in November, she hadn't started shooting scenes, but said that she definitely would. Has she been to the set yet?
Morrison: It's not exactly clear how that's going to happen. Did I tell you that we're at like [Episode] 16 now?
TVGuide.com: And when Kim's The Nine went on hiatus, you were already halfway through the season.
Yeah, I'm not even sure that [Audrey's appearance] is going to happen.
TVGuide.com: It'd be nice for her to show up, if only because her name was the first freakin' word Jack said after more than two years!
Morrison: Yeah, no kidding! But these guys... not only will [the powers-that-be] off somebody unexpectedly, but they'll also [bring them back] unexpectedly.
TVGuide.com: Worst-case, she shows up at 23:55 to give weary Jack a hug.
Morrison: It'd be nice to see her no matter what.
TVGuide.com: As a yoga teacher, do you think Bill ever decompresses in his office with some meditation?
Morrison: No, but I thought about what the yoga background would be for these characters. We have such bad days, you think they would have been doing yoga for the previous 18 months just to prepare for the next one! [Yoga] might be the reason that Bill remains so calm and stalwart and down-to-earth. But it's like eating or going to the bathroom or any of the things they claim these people don't do during the day: If you put that in this  world, it would be incongruous. We just have to assume that the yoga is there, whether you're seeing it or not.
Pick up the Jan. 15 issue of TV Guide for lots more exclusive 24 Season 6 scoop.
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