‘24: Legacy’: OG Carlos Bernard on His Return as Tony Almeida

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Carlos Bernard (Credit: Guy D’Alema/Fox)
Carlos Bernard (Credit: Guy D’Alema/Fox)

As always with 24, going back to the original series, it’s not easy to get into the details of the story without getting super spoilery. On Monday’s new episode of 24: Legacy, we see the official return of original series character Tony Almeida, Jack Bauer’s oft-tortured frienemy, and a fan favorite, played by Carlos Bernard.

Bernard talked to Yahoo TV for a preview of his return to the 24 universe, and while he can’t say much, he does talk about Tony’s new gig that involves trying to get info from Gerald McRaney’s Henry Donovan, why he agreed to return to the series (again), and which of his co-stars proved to be a 24/Tony Almeida superfan.

It’s great to be talking to you about you being back in the 24 universe.
That’s sweet. I’m glad to be talking, period. I’m glad to be alive.

We need more Tony backstory, for sure. How would you describe what Tony’s job is now?
Well, he’s a guy who’s a pretty damaged individual from all he’s been through throughout the years, right? And I think he’s in a place now where he’s in self-preservation mode. I don’t think he really trusts the government, and he’s a gun for hire. That being said, I do think that this specific task of trying to get [info] before more tragedies happen definitely hits close to home with him. Even though he’s sort of a mercenary, I think this particular issue still touches him.

There’s still a definite core philosophy guiding him.
Yeah. He’d like to think that there isn’t, that he’ll do whatever for money, that he’s just about himself, but I think that’s really not true.

Do we know if he’s a free man or did he escape from prison?
Well, you find out in, I believe, in the eighth episode.

When we meet up with him in tonight’s episode, we find out very quickly that he has a very jealous associate, who we think is his girlfriend. So that’s going to be trouble.
Yes. That’s somebody he hired for a job, and they’ve had a relationship.

How deep into Tony’s recent backstory will we go throughout the rest of the season?
I don’t think we go too far into it. [We touch] on it lightly, with other characters talking about him, but I think that’s something to be played out.

Have you gone back through Tony’s history lately? He been good, he’s been bad, he’s been dead, we found out he’s not dead, he’s in prison, now he’s not in prison. Tony has nine lives.
It’s pretty crazy. Yes, I did sit down and go through all those different story points in his life, which is one of the things that makes the character so much fun to play. He’s been through so much, and all of that amassed experience and trauma comes with him. It’s all part of the package.

Before the Season 7 24 DVD extra feature that explained Tony’s prison situation, did you think you would ever be playing this character again?
Well, I didn’t rule anything out after what happened in Season 5, and then coming back in 7. I knew that Season 8 was going to be the last one. I knew the writers just needed to end it. They couldn’t really go on. I think everybody was exhausted. But I never say never with that character. Sure enough, as soon as Live Another Day came out — I’m friends with the writers, and they started pitching the idea of Tony coming back again. There were a couple different ideas of how that character would come back again. Then we shot the DVD to set up him getting out of prison for whatever the next story was to bring him back in. So at that point I knew they wanted Tony to return again.

Did you start talking to them right away when Legacy came about?
Yes, I see [24: Legacy executive producer and writer Manny Coto] all the time, and he started pitching the idea for Legacy. But I know enough from this business to not plan on anything until the checks have been cleared. I knew what their ideas were though.

Did you hesitate at all because it is a Jack Bauer-less, Kiefer-less 24? Did that give you any pause?
I am very protective of the character, so I would have paused even if Kiefer was in it. It depended on what the idea of the story was. I didn’t want to bring the character back if he just popped back into an episode and got killed. I wanted there to be a purpose to Tony coming back, whether Kiefer was in it or not. I was hesitant at first, but I heard the story and I was all right.

Carlos Bernard (Credit: Guy D’Alema/Fox)
Carlos Bernard (Credit: Guy D’Alema/Fox)

What was it like to be back in the new mix? You are the sole original 24 actor, and character, in this cast. Both Corey Hawkins and Jimmy Smits are self-professed fans of the show — they must have been so excited that you were there with them.
Jimmy’s such a sweetheart, he’s such a pleasure to work with. And I am a big fan of his. Corey was hysterical [laughs]. That guy, I loved working with him. He’s got such great energy, I think he’s a really great actor. He came knocking on my trailer the first day I was there. It was really sweet, he didn’t hold anything back, let all his fandom out… It was awesome. It was a nice welcoming gesture on his part, because it was a little bit strange, I have to say, coming into the set of the show, but no one was really there that I knew. It was all new faces, but me playing the same character. But it was a great cast, wonderful to work with. I really enjoyed them very much. I was a big fan of all of them. I really like Miranda [Otto’s] work on Homeland. Huge fan of Gerald McRaney, so it was a real pleasure.

We can’t get too far into it, but in your first episode, Tony is going to try to get information out of Gerald McRaney’s Henry Donovan, which may require some persuasive tactics. What was that like, being a fan of someone’s work, and your first time working with them is torturing them?
It was kind of like, “I love you… and take this!” He can joke around and tell stories, but then he just snaps right into it. He’s that kind of an actor. It was little strange torturing him right off the bat, though, yes. A little odd.

Have you had any experience with fans about the new series yet? At New York Comic Con, when the producers announced that Tony would be returning, you definitely got some of the loudest applause of the day.
That’s so nice. Yes, I have gotten a lot of questions from the fans. But I got trained through the first series not to say anything, so I give a lot of frustrating, vague answers.

Speaking of that… We are halfway through this season when Tony enters the picture this week. What can you say about Tony’s storyline and where it will go?
He and Carter are on a collision course, let’s just say that.

You have been acting in a lot of other shows, but you’ve also been doing a lot of directing recently, Hawaii Five-0, Criminal Minds, and The Inspectors. Is that something you always wanted to do?
I tried it in theater coming up as an actor. I always meant to get back to it. I finally had time after 24 to write and direct a movie, and then really pursue the directing, because it wasn’t something I was going to be able to do well with acting as a regular on a show. So that’s really where my focus has been the last few years, getting the directing going. I really love it.

Okay, one sort of weird question: several sites on the Interwebs, including a story in the Los Angeles Times, state that you have your own line of hot sauce called Carlos Almeida’s. True?
Oh, my God. I get that question all the time. No! And I can’t find a bottle of that stuff. I have been looking for a bottle of it, but can’t find it.

Since everyone already thinks it’s out there and is looking to buy it — and it is a great name — maybe you should create it.
Maybe I will.

24: Legacy airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox. Watch clips and full episodes of 24: Legacy on Yahoo View.

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