Tonight's two-hour 24 "event" (beginning at 8 pm/ET on Fox) will host a parade of faces new and familiar, including Elisha Cuthbert's return as Jack's beleaguered daughter and the debut of C. Thomas Howell as Kim's (overdue, if you ask me) therapist. The evening also introduces us to Vice President Hal Gardner, who has been choicely cast with Ray Wise, a star of the Oscar-nominated Good Night, and Good Luck and who is familiar to TV fans as Twin Peaks' very bad dad, Leland Palmer. TVGuide.com welcomed the chance to ask Wise about his 24 VP, working with George Clooney and, yes, what it was like to kill Laura Palmer.
TVGuide.com: Gregory Itzin's President Logan is not the most competent leader of the free world, and far from the quickest thinker. How would you liken VP Hal Gardner?
Ray Wise: He's a very decisive leader.
TVGuide.com: The yin to Logan's painfully clueless yang?
Wise: Yes, I would say so. He's the perfect bookend for Logan.
TVGuide.com: Is there anyone you're basing your portrayal on?
Wise: Who do I have in mind as I play him? Hmmm... there might be a little bit of Dick Cheney in there, I suppose.
TVGuide.com: Do we first see Gardner as he's returning from a quail-hunting trip?
Wise: [Laughs] No, he's not a hunter, I can tell you that. In fact, he's probably not like Dick Cheney in any way except that he's very decisive. Gardner is a good politician, and I believe he's a good man, too.
TVGuide.com: Does he have the "stuff" to one day be 24's president?
Wise: Oh, definitely, yes. Definitely.
TVGuide.com: In the real world, the president and vice president often travel separately, for security reasons. So where is Gardner when he first appears?
Wise: I don't know that I'm allowed to say that, but I am with the president when I first show up. Wherever [Logan] is, that's where I am. I believe that's because it's an extraordinary circumstance, an emergency situation. We have to not follow the rule book because the vice president at that moment has to be with the president.
TVGuide.com: How many episodes do we have you around for?
Wise: Well, so far I've done six, so that's a good start. And so far a lot has happened. A lot has happened. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: How have you been liking 24? It's a pretty tightly run ship over there.
Wise: Very much so. They really know what they're doing. It's like clockwork of course, it has to be, as those seconds tick away. They're very precise, they're very exact and they don't fool around. The actors are a real joy to work with. It's a dream job, really.
TVGuide.com: Besides Itzin, with whom do you have scenes?
Wise: Let's see, there's Jean Smart and William Devane [returning as Secretary of Defense Heller]... quite a few people.
TVGuide.com: Changing topics, I feel horrible because I have not had the chance yet to see Good Night, and Good Luck....
Wise: Oh, god, yes. You should feel horrible! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: How was George Clooney as a producer and director?
Wise: I couldn't speak more highly of anyone. I went in a little apprehensive I didn't know what to expect from George, who's one of the biggest stars in the world and he turned out to be a wonderful guy, a down-to-earth person with a great sense of humor. He's very serious about his work, but on the other hand he keeps the set very relaxed and lighthearted.
TVGuide.com: What kind of research did you do for your role as Edward R. Murrow's colleague Don Hollenbeck?
Wise: There wasn't any newsreel footage of him everybody else, but not Don so I just read all of the material that was available on his career and family life. Then I talked to Joe and Shirley Wershba, the reporter duo represented in the film by Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson. They were very good friends with Don, so they filled in all the blanks for me.
TVGuide.com: What feedback have you gotten from people who knew Hollenbeck?
Wise: I received a letter from one of his nephews, who complimented me on the job that I did. He said that it was right on and he felt good about the way I represented his uncle. He felt that his uncle would be proud.
TVGuide.com: Of course, I loved you on Twin Peaks, one of my favorite series. What do you remember most about that whole phenomenon?
Wise: I remember the camaraderie of the actors, and David Lynch was a marvelous director and a great cinematic mind. But what I remember most is the great writing it was so precise and layered. Every line had a double and triple meaning. It was a puzzle that we had to figure out along with the audience.
TVGuide.com: And we also remember Sherilyn Fenn in her sweaters and saddle shoes.
Wise: Oh, my goodness, yes. The women on that show it was a joy to be around them. Sherilyn Fenn, and Sheryl Lee as my daughter... Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna....
TVGuide.com: It's a testament to Twin Peaks' casting that only a few from its ensemble "dropped off the face of the earth," that most everyone has enjoyed fruitful careers. Lara Flynn Boyle, Kyle MacLachlan...
Wise: I just ran into Kyle at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards, and of course he has his own new show [ABC's In Justice] on the air. He doesn't look like he has aged very much! He could still do Cooper in a minute, I think.
TVGuide.com: How early on in the series' production did they tell you that Leland killed Laura?
Wise: They told me the day before I shot the reveal. [Laughs] They kept us all hanging. In fact, in that particular episode, where Maddy is killed a pretty brutal scene for television at that time she was killed by three people that day. By me as Leland Palmer, by Richard Beymer as Benjamin Horne and by the guy who played Bob. Sheryl had to "die" three times that day, and after about 14 hours of shooting, she was a wreck!
TVGuide.com: Regarding the reveal, were you like, "No way!" or "I guess it kinda makes sense... "?
Wise: I was dreading [the prospect of] it for weeks beforehand. Killing my own daughter? Even though it wasn't me but the "Bob" personality, it was still a rough go. I didn't want it to happen, I wanted to stay around for a while. When David told me, my first reaction was "Oh, no." But he said, "Don't worry, Ray, it's going to be fine. The last scene you do, you're going to be with Cooper, and he's going to help you make the transition from life to death, and in that transition you will see your daughter and she will forgive you. It will be very redemptive." He made it more palatable to me.
TVGuide.com: Film-wise, what's next for you?
Wise: The Substance of Things Hoped For is a film that I did last summer with Vanessa Lengies (American Dreams), in which I play her father. That was a beautiful script. I also finished a movie called The Flock, in which I play the supervisor of a big-city public-safety department, and Richard Gere and Claire Danes are two of my agents. The story revolves around a girl's disappearance and tracking several sexual offenders who might have had something to do with it.
TVGuide.com: What about Jeepers Creepers 3? You were in 2, and fans seem to want you back for another.
Wise: [Franchise writer-director] Victor Salva wants to do a third one, I'm pretty sure, and we have had some talks in the last couple of months. That's definitely on the front-burner.
TVGuide.com: You're not like, "[Scoff-scoff] I've done Good Night, and Good Luck...."
Wise: I'm not like that, no. My basic thing is just to keep working and support my family. I don't play any of those games!
TVGuide.com: Well, I'd like to wish you "good luck" at Sunday's Oscars, and hopefully Vice President Gardner will be around for the next season of 24, as well.
Wise: I hope so, I hope so.... You never know, though. Everyone at 24 walks around on eggshells because they never know if their character is going to get it the next day or not. [Laughs] Nobody is assured of a job.