Warning: This interview for the Season 1 finale episode of 24: Legacy contains spoilers.
And the clock has ticked down to the end for the first Jack Bauer-less season of 24. Star Corey Hawkins introduced us to Army Ranger hero (turned, almost certainly, CTU agent) Eric Carter, who experienced a very bad half day that left him with some major deaths to mourn, the near destruction of his marriage, and new dysfunction in his relationship with his brother — but also, likely, a new career and outlet for his Bauer-like compulsion to fight the good fight against the bad guys, and a couple of powerful new allies.
24: Legacy showrunners Evan Katz and Manny Coto broke down the show’s first season for Yahoo TV, including the scoop on that big death — R.I.P. Rebecca Ingram — that was not in the original plan for Season 1, the character they had planned to kill off but spared, what the future holds for Eric, Tony Almeida, and (President?) John Donovan in Season 2, and, oh yeah, if there will be a Season 2.
We are left with several interesting things hanging in the finale. So, the first question: will there be a Season 2?
Evan Katz: It’s certainly a possibility. I think we’ll find out somewhere around May, but we’re certainly hopeful. We have plenty of ideas of what a second season would look like. The studio and the network liked the show, they think it was a good show. We’ll just have to see.
You both have been with the franchise since the original series. How similar did this new series feel to the original 24?
Katz: When we were developing the pilot and shooting the pilot, we really needed it to feel like 24. At the same time, in the very beginning years of the original — and I joined Season 2, so I wasn’t there for the birth — there’s just so much story we hadn’t done yet. And by the way, Season 1, the show was not a smash yet. It really took three or four seasons for it to become the phenomenon it did. So [24: Legacy] was both a new show and a show with much more expectation than 24 had at its own beginnings. Story-wise, I think we really tried to make it what we felt modern 24 would be. We’ve had a debate [through] the year whether we had too much story at a certain point, or too many stories going at a certain point, compared to other years. We just tried to do what felt right for what we were doing with this show.
Was it different, more stressful, to do just 12 hours as opposed to 24?
Manny Coto: Well, we had done a 24-hour season with 24: Live Another Day. It is a different experience. I mean, doing 24 hours, there are a couple of episodes here and there you kind of allow to become, not so much filler, but just episodes that kind of move the story along without being as good as they could possibly be, simply because there’s so much material. [With] 12 episodes, one bad episode can really cripple the season. Every episode has to be an “A” episode, whereas when we were doing 24, you understood that there was one or two that were going to get away from you.
Katz: We would call them “transitional episodes.” One of the original creator’s lines was, “Have you finished episode 10?” “It stopped episode nine and episode 11 from colliding into each other.”
And a big difference between Legacy and Live Another Day is that you had 12 hours to introduce all of these characters and tell the story.
Coto: You’re right. It’s harder. You have less time to really flesh things out. Things move much more quickly.
You had this amazing cast with Legacy. It really says it all that you have Jimmy Smits, and Gerald McRaney as his father. That is its own series. Was there any point during the season that you wished you did have more episodes, more time to delve into those characters, or into certain storylines?
Coto: I did. I’m kind of a purist. I think it should be 24 episodes. I understand the television landscape today is a little different from when you could run 24 episodes and have people actually stick around. I think the series would have benefited from 24 episodes. I think with a lot of episodes we really moved the story forward, and I think some of those episodes could have been told in two episodes. I think it would have benefited.
Specifically, Smits’s John Donovan and his dad — both of their storylines are left way open at the end, especially when John makes that sudden switch of decisions. President John Donovan would be an interesting character as a grieving widower, with all these secrets about his father and his dead wife. Would that be a part of a potential Season 2?
Coto: Quite intentional. We were really setting up for that, yeah.
Katz: We’re assuming that Donovan will be President. Things can always change when we dig in, but a President who has had to make a compromise to become President — we thought that was kind of a great launching off point.
Coto: [Donovan] is going on a journey, and one of the things that’s interesting in [the season finale] is when he tells the FBI agent the reason he was [visiting Simms], he’s actually telling a lie. You see in that moment two things: A), his decision that maybe he’s going to run for President, and B), someone beginning to go down a dark path that may or may not consume him in Season 2, or onwards.
Donovan definitely believes Simms’ assertions that Rebecca was involved in Simms’ plot to kidnap Naseri’s daughter?
Katz: Yes, I think part of him can’t deny it. I think there’s a moment in there when Simms says, “You were supposed to call me a liar.” That was not John’s first instinct, and it was because of what he already learned about Rebecca that his first instinct was to believe it and be horrified. He does ultimately say, “You’re a liar,” but you really sense, I think, that deep down he understands it’s true.
We have to acknowledge here what a badass Jimmy Smits is. It’s not his character when we first meet him, but in the final three or four episodes, as he learned more and more about the kinds of things Rebecca had done and was capable of doing, he got right into that game. When I talked to Jimmy earlier in the season, around the time you were filming these episodes, he said he had to take a lot of ibuprofen while filming them. Was that something that you had planned from the beginning for the character, that he was going to be a pretty physical kind of hero in some of those episodes, or was it something that evolved as the story came together?
Katz: I feel like we mostly talked about compromising him morally once we realized the father was involved in this and that [John] would have to cover it up. The actual physicality, really, it just came out of breaking the story, as the stakes on the other side of it rose with his wife abducted. You know, he has this wonderful expression after he pistol whips Simms. He looks kind of horrified.
Miranda Otto is another amazing actress in this stellar cast. Was it always the plan to kill off Rebecca?
Coto: Not at all. I don’t think we really, especially when we started the season, ever imagined that she would die. I think the death knell began to sound when Tony Almeida’s appearance happened. We realized it would be interesting if Tony and Rebecca had some sort of a past. Then that kind of morphed into, “Well, what if Tony had been doing covert things for Rebecca?” Once it was revealed that Rebecca’s past was not as shiny as we were led to believe, I think we started going down a road where it was going to be a story about a woman coming to terms with her dark past and her husband having to understand who he’s married to, and that affecting his decision whether or not to become President. Also, her having to pay, kind of atone, for what she has done in the past. It developed gradually throughout the season. It’s a tough choice. We really loved her, and it’s a loss. I enjoyed working with [Miranda]. It’s a hard thing to do, but that’s just the world of 24.
Katz: These secrets of hers… John kind of has them under control in this minute. But there are so many things left hanging out there: his father and his situation, the things that he’s done. Uncle Luis, we don’t know where he is.
The last time we saw Uncle Luis (Daniel Zacapa), he was on the run with a laptop full of secrets. These are all things that would have to come back into John’s life, during a campaign and if he becomes President, big things he’d have to face?
Coto: It’ll be fun finally dealing with Uncle Luis.
Katz: We have plans. We had plans that were replaced by better alternatives, but there’s a whole Uncle Luis saga in the recycle bin that we can pull in.
Is that an example of a storyline you could have played out with more than 12 episodes?
Coto: That’s exactly right. We would have done that.
You mentioned Tony (Carlos Bernard). Especially for original series fans, it was a treat to have him back in the mix, and in a big way in the last part of the season. He had some heroic moments, and good chemistry immediately with Eric Carter. That fight in the finale: they’re both capable, and now I think we want to see them working together. Is that something that’s possible? Can Tony redeem himself further, maybe become a part of CTU again, or in some other way work with Eric regularly for a Season 2?
Coto: It’s hard to imagine Tony actually being brought back into CTU, but what isn’t hard to imagine is Tony beginning to serve the same function for Eric that he served for Rebecca. You know, when Eric can’t get something done through CTU, he turns to Tony for his help. Tony becomes kind of an outside agency that Eric can use. That could be an even more interesting relationship.
Katz: I don’t know that we want to classically redeem Tony. Part of the strength in the character is his ambiguity.
Coto: As we all know, the government will employ unsavory individuals to get what it needs done if it has to. Tony doesn’t have to be redeemed to have a role in this. [Eric and Tony] did have a little exchange in the finale where they played off each other: “You broke my arm” and “You didn’t give me much choice.” Just those two little lines, and you immediately say, “Well, these guys would be great together.” It’s a great tease for Season 2.
There is an irreverence about Tony that adds a little bit of levity, and that’s always welcome in this tense world of 24.
Coto: What’s interesting is that Eric Carter is very earnest and very straight forward and everything is what it is, whereas Almeida looks at everything with a sardonic mask. I think that the two of them together, because of those interesting differences in personality, could be electric.
Coming in and playing this new hero, there was an incredible amount of pressure on Corey Hawkins. He was very likable and compelling to watch from the beginning. What did you feel was the most important thing that you all had to do in creating Eric Carter?
Katz: One of the premises we started with was we couldn’t create another Jack Bauer, that we needed to be original, or the character would never break free of people thinking about Jack. Having him be from a different background came out of wanting him to be different, and that suggested him having a brother, and that suggested the whole storyline. It was really evolutionary rather than listing a bunch of stuff.
Coto: This particular series was born out of the idea of a group of Army Rangers who took down a Bin Laden-type character and are now being taken out themselves. That idea was the genesis, it suggested a character almost immediately. He had to be fairly young, and not a CTU agent, which we thought was interesting. … because in a way, the season is an evolution and a growth of a CTU agent. You see him slowly begin to learn the ropes of what’s involved in being a CTU agent.
Eric will join CTU in Season 2?
Will he become less earnest then? Or is that something that you want to try to maintain for the character, if that’s even possible for someone in that position?
Coto: It’s hard to say. The character does have a little bit of an irony. “You didn’t give me much of a choice” is one example at the end. It’s there, but I think that kind of irony comes from a lot of experience and a lot of world weariness, which he isn’t going to have in Season 2. I think Season 2 is still someone who’s not given the most choice assignments and who is still the freshman on the block. I think the irony would be more interestingly reserved for a Tony Almeida, who has seen it all. That’s part of the fun of this, if this show can continue through multiple seasons — we really could enjoy seeing this character take a journey. Will he become Almeida or what will he become?
Eric said it when he was talking to Nicole: he really is going to find out firsthand just how difficult it is to manage your personal life and the safety of your family while doing that job.
Coto: Right. That’s what’s been set up. The Rebecca storyline was a way to tell that story for Eric to see what the consequences can be, and in the end he chooses CTU anyway, fully expecting Nicole to say, “Well, that’s it,” but she sticks with him. How that will turn out will be one of the interesting challenges for the next season.
We don’t get to see Isaac (Ashley Thomas) again at the end. Do we assume he’s gone back to his life, or has this experience getting close to Eric and Nicole again changed him at all?
Katz: He’s lost his gang. He lost his business. The guys that weren’t killed, he essentially gave the business away to them. I think in our minds, Isaac is starting fresh as well.
Coto: With that said, Season 2 could see him in a worse place, without his gang, but still trying to live the life. He has been rejected by Nicole, obviously, at the end. He made his pitch, and she, off screen, said, “No, thanks. I’m staying with Eric.” So how that affected him is a really interesting question. He did give up everything only to end up with nothing. Part of him is still in love with her. What does that do to him? Second season could find him in jail, having done something foolish and crazy, or finally having been caught for something he did, and the story could start from there. There’s infinite possibilities. I mean, it’s more interesting for Isaac to still have a lot of demons, and he didn’t end in a very happy place.
Katz: He did a good thing. His men helped save the country, helped stop the attacks. Then in the end, he personally ends up with nothing.
Did he get a sense, though, that he is more capable than he may have thought he was, to do anything other than run a drug business?
Katz: Sure. We’re actually starting to get into the writer’s room, and I would argue that he may, for a while, try to find something else. If you’ve lived a certain life and are used to a certain lifestyle, and that adrenaline rush… it’s like getting off of drugs. For a little while, it’s fine, but then when the crisis hits, you go back to what it was.
Which is sort of Eric’s situation, but with fighting against bad guys.
Katz: That’s right. I think it’s interesting, and Isaac could be in a number of different situations for next year. He could be in prison, but he also could have made good. He could be struggling to make a new life. There was a wonderful character in the movie Heat — which was played by our (24) President, (Dennis Haysbert) — who had just gotten out of prison, and was trying desperately as a dishwasher to start his life. He just couldn’t do it. It was just too enticing, and he ends up going back off with the gang to do their robbery, and he ends up getting killed. I think that’s interesting, this idea that, “I can just go back to the life I had.” Henry Hill [the real-life mobster and Goodfellas inspiration] experienced the same thing when he went into the witness protection program. He immediately formed a gambling ring in the local high school. It’s not possible for a lot of people.
Ashley Thomas was great, another standout in this cast. Is Isaac a character who evolved into a larger part of the story than you planned?
Katz: In the beginning of the season, our original idea was that Isaac sacrifices his life to save his brother, and save the country. He was not supposed to survive. I think he was too interesting, and the triangle between him and Nicole and Eric was too enticing. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to kill him.
Watch clips and full episodes of 24: Legacy on Yahoo View.
Read More from Yahoo TV:
‘Girls’ Series Finale Review: Hannah Grows Up
‘Fargo’ Season 3 Preview: Bridge, Brothers, and Ewan McGregor in Spanx
‘Famous in Love’: I. Marlene King Previews Her New Hollywood Cinderella Story