This Monday from 8 to 10 pm/ET, Fox's 24 wraps up its latest wild day with Jack compelled to set free his fallen friend, Tony, lest daughter Kim get killed. In this TVGuide.com Q&A, Carlos Bernard previews the surprise-filled season-ender, takes some issue with Tony's "bad guy" status, and also shares his take on Kiefer Sutherland's recent scrape with the law, saying the whole situation "smells bad."
TVGuide.com: At the start of the season, did they map out for you the whole "Tony's bad/No, he's good/No, really, he's bad" arc? So you could prepare as an actor?
Carlos Bernard: Going into the season, we knew we wanted to make him "the antagonist" — I can't really get on board with the "bad guy" thing — and one of the things explained in the finale tonight is what he's up to. That being said, they have a loose idea of what the season's going to look like, but once you start writing it goes in different directions and takes on a life of its own. We went where we always thought of it going, just taking a different path than we originally though.
TVGuide.com: Of course every actor likes having a job, but did Tony's arc track for you?
Bernard: Yeah. They had come to me to come back in Season 6, and that [storyline] idea just didn't make a lot of sense. It was a little bit manipulative of the audience. But when they came to me about this season, it felt very organic. Tony's stuck in a place of a lot of anger, resentment and distrust.
TVGuide.com: Are we going to get a final showdown between Jack and Tony?
Bernard: The thing that's going to be really satisfying for fans is that we definitely get a face-off between the characters. We just screened [the finale] for, like, 1,200 people, and they went bananas. It's probably my favorite finale in the seven years.
TVGuide.com: This season has been particularly strong. Is that something the cast came to appreciate as you started filming it?
Bernard: We really did, we felt that right off the bat. The show is most effective when it's told on a very personal level, as opposed to giant events.
TVGuide.com: Right — Season 1 was almost quaint in how it was in essence about Jack, his wife and daughter.
Bernard: Exactly. It really reminded me of Season 1 in that way. You know, we're probably the only show that benefitted from the writers' strike because it gave us a lot of time to go back and redo things. We halted production a couple times to go back and rewrite scripts, at points where the show was heading in the wrong direction. There was one specific point where we shut down and I tell you, it made the season. It's expensive to stop production, but they had the guts to bite the bullet and fix it.
TVGuide.com: Is it safe to say Tony won't be coming with us to New York City next season?
Bernard: [Laughs] Well, I can't tell you that. But I think it will be cool for the show to be shooting in New York. It will be great for it.
TVGuide.com: Watching Kiefer convulse during Jack's seizure scenes gave me chills. As his scene partner, what's it like standing there, laying witness to that?
Bernard: He's pretty fantastic, and so great to work with. When we have scenes together, we know it's going to be a great day. We really push each other to new levels.
TVGuide.com: Brooke Shields is saying that she can't fathom the frenzy surrounding her, Kiefer and this head-butting case. [Sutherland was charged with misdemeanor assault after he was accused of head-butting fashion designer Jack McCollough, following an argument at a New York City night club.] How is Kiefer himself reacting to the media circus?
Bernard: He's doing really well, considering. It's out there how I feel about it — he's a good friend of mine, and I've got to say I'm amazed by how patient and courteous he is with people coming up to him. I've never seen anything but that. I've never even seen him have a cross word with anybody. He filled me in on what happened [that night], and the situation just smells bad to me. I'm going to be completely honest with you — I think [McCollough]'s looking for publicity, and he got more than he was hoping for.