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We know what to expect from Woody. I love Woody. I still talk to Woody. But when I go out there to face him, I won't be thinking of any of that. Albert Pujols


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Sunday 18 May 2008

'Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been'

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Carlos supports Barack Obama for President.

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This is so true that some people should think beyond the fears, think bigger, think of the possibilities..

Saturday 16 February 2008

Interview with Carlos Bernard about his return on 24.

"What? How? No Way!" Those were the words spilling out of the mouths and fingertips of 24 fans around the world last September when FOX officially revealed the return of the beloved, but, supposedly, very dead character of Tony Almeida in Season Seven. Audiences who mourned Tony's lethal injection death at the hands of the nefarious Christopher Henderson in the middle of Season Five were incredulous at the news that somehow that defining moment was all a ruse. Yet for all the sputtering questions and confusion from the diehard 24 devotees, there was just as quick a swell of support from fans screaming in joy that " Tony is back!"

It's no secret that if there's one absoulte about the fan reaction to 24's 5th Season, it's that Tony Almeida's death never sat well with them. Mere minutes after the closure of the episode, where he " died," message boards lit up with outrage at every aspect of his exit-how it happened, why it had happened and even the fact that he didn't get the honor of a silent clock. " Where is Tony's silent clock!?" fans howled in fury. Well, maybe there really was a reason for that clock not to tick, because sitting inside a van at the 24 sound-stage this Mid-October is most definetly Mr. Tony Almeida.

Granted, he looks a lot different. His hair is closely shom, he's sporting light scarring on his face and gone is the familiar CTU suit. Now he's dressed in all black, like dark ops, and the mood he's oozing on this devil's mission isn't exactly sunshine. He's working with the bad guys, and Jack and the FBI are all trying to figure out what exactly Tony has become. Just what is Almeida's mission now? To say more would be cheating, but it's big enough to shake up the entire series and do something the producers have never done before-bring back the dead.

And the credit for even allowing the producers the freedom to attempt so bold a move really goes to actor Carlos Bernard, whose five years on the series endeared him so much to the audience, that he's really the only character fans would even deign to consider having come back from the dead. Try this move with the villainous Nina or even the equally adored Edgar and the audience would cry foul. But Tony... well, he's always been in a different league.

But it wasn't an easy sell to get Bernard back on the show either. After a year-and-a-half break from the grind of television, the actor was able to enjoy some precious time to develop his own projects and explore new characters. Bernard even agreed that it was Tony's time to go when the writer gods snuffed him out in Season Five, agreeing that his story had been told. But perhaps not...

Taking a break from his scenes in the van, Bernard loses his new dour Tony expression and instead smiles an inviting smile as we take a seat in the new White House set down the hall to talk about the path that led him back to Tony Almeida, his inital doubts about the storyline, and what it's like to step into Almeida's skin in a brand new way.

We know the fans were floored when they found out you were coming back, but how suprised were you when you got the phone call from 24? Tony was dead!!!!!!!

Very. Yeah I was, because I had really moved on. I was producing my own project, so it was a pretty interesting phone call. But that was also last season, during Season Six. They had Jon Cassar call me to pitch the idea because we were working on this other project together.

That must have been the greatest pitch of his life! What did he say to sell you on the idea?

He called me and was like, " How are you doing?" And I said, " Okay." Then he goes, " Listen they are kicking around this idea for the finale and I always trust your opinion, so I wanted to fly it by you and see what you think of this thing they want to do." And I'm like, " Okay...." He describes this whole thing and says, " Jack turns a corner in the last five seconds of the episode and all of a sudden someone grabs him and throws him up against the wall and says, "I've been looking for you, Jack." He turns around and IT's TONY ALMEIDA, WHAT DO YOU THINK?!" It was just like that ( laughs) He's like a little kid, ya know? "What do you think?!!" So I go, " Umm, okay. I don't know. Let me think about it. It sounds kind of cool, but why?" He said they were thinking that they would have me back next season doing this proof of life thing where Tony is working undercover and he gets Jack involved. They wanted to get away from CTU and start a whole new thing. From there it went on to a few phone calls with Joel and Howard. I think finally it was everybody's feeling that it was a cheap shot to the viewers and just a mechanism, towhich I agreed.

But obviously the overall idea wasn't dead and they came back to you last summer?

Yeah. Then over the summer, Howard and I had been exchanging personal calls to check in one another and then he started to drop hints that they still wanted to bring me back, but they didn't know when. And then they were having trouble getting the idea for Season Seven. Of course, writing for this show, you can imagine trying to come up with an idea that will work for the whole season. I don't know how they frickin' do it anyway.

Exec. Producer Manny Coto told us that he initially came up with the idea of your character's resurrection. Did he pitch you again, too?

Yes, Manny had pitched the Tony story from the beginning and I saw him too over the summer and he said, " You know, I think we are going to figure that story out. I would be suprised if we didn't."

How did they finally offically make an offer?

Howard finally called me and spelled out the whole initial idea of the character and he was just like Jon, asking, " SO WHAT DO YOU THINK!?" I said it sounded cool. I've always said I felt like I was doing a film for the year ( with 24) and was done with it when it was over. But if they came up with a story for the next year that was good for my character, I would do it again. Obviously, I love working here. This group of people is amazing. The crew is unbelivable. It's such a tight group and were are all such close friends that obviously I would love to come back, but not as a gimmick. So I really liked the idea a lot and it's a whole new take on the character. I thought it was giving the audience what they crave, as the Tony/Jack storylines have always been fun for us to do and I think the fans do as well. After that, I think Joel then called me and said, "Nine lives, dude! Nine lives!" ( Laughs)

Was it strange walking back onto the sound-stage to work again when the last time you left it was so seemingly "final?

It was very surreal because it all happened within a week. From the time that they had called me, we finished up the dead and I was shooting was very quick. So here I was on set shooting it with Jon, and the first day was very strange. It was almost like when you break up with a girlfriend you've been dating for five years and you break up for six months or a year and then you get back together again. It was strange....comfortable, very comfortable, but strange. But then after three or four days, it was like I had only been gone a month. Literally after a couple of days, I asked" How long was I gone? Was it a year or a year and a half?"

You also look extremely different now from how Tony looked in previous years. You've got short hair and a very dark look-both physically and in temperament. Is the overal makeover from you, or is it producer based?

I had an idea. Howard had an idea that was really close. It was a combination, but they were pretty much dead on with each other. It all makes sense for the character and with what's been going on with him.

Does slipping into this very changed Tony feel alien to you, almost like a brand new character, or does he still feel like the same guy to you?

I think it's both. Definitely at the core there is a character that has been changed by circumstances. Again you know, it's not different from any other year, because the great thing about doing this show as opposed to most episodic shows that there is such a change in the characters over the years. The residual effects from what happens during the season you get to lump on and pile on the baggage. I think it's a more drastic change from year to year prior to this, but there is still that character at the core. He still has the memories and it's all based around what happened-in where he was and who he was with. So yes, it feels like the same character with more issues. ( Laughs)

Tony has always had an edge to him. All the way back to Season One, you even played him like he could've been the bad guy. Is it nice to really get to unleash that dark side that's been simmering for so long?

Well, you know, I've always sort of been drawn to darker characters anyway. Really until 24, most of the characters I played were darker characters. It's interesting fully tapping into that for this character. I remember the first season when I started out, I always thought, "who knows who anyone is on this show?" It's just the genre of the show. I think that a lot of the darkness that people suspected of Tony in the first season came from the possibilites that they saw. Part of it was me and the way I was playing the character, and part of it was the way the show was constructed. Every season I've allowed for him to maybe not be such a good guy, which I think is something that all of us have in us anyway. We all have that capability. I wanted to make that a real possibility for him. To now get here where he is-it feels very natural, actually. And then you actually have the flipside problem of now what is he? It's almost a flip problem of the first year.

In the initial block of episodes, is there a moment where you really felt like you were back in this world and feeling energized by the new storyline?

I think once Jack and Tony collide with each other.....that was like, "Okay.....we're back." There's something about these two characters that's really some of the most fun for both of us to play. There's such a history with the two characters that all of the stuff thats happened in the past rushes forward.

FOX announced your return to the series, last September, because they knew they couldn't keep it secret from the internet fans and the press.

Yes, it was out before they even called me. ( Laughs)

Are you suprised by the reaction and the huge buzz of excitement about your return?

Oh yeah, it's great. You hope that poeple like the stuff that you do. Whether it's acting, writing or doing any kind of storytelling, you hope people like it. So...I hope that people like it. (Laughs)

It's a huge jump for the audience to make, to buy into how and why you aren't dead and back to haunt Jack. Were you concerned about the initial fan reaction to the relevation of your resurrection?

I didn't really know how people would respond to it. I really have no control over it. What wer are trying to do, which is what we always do, is to try to feel it. it comes down to this.....what is so much fun about doing this show is that we are all, as a group, so intent on trying to produce the best thing we can. That involves making it believable and at the same time pushing the limits with it to make it exciting, entertaining, and hopefully thought-provoking. We really feel a great allegiance to the fans and making them happy, so we'll see. (Laughs)

by Tara DiLullo Bennett
24 Magazine

Copyright CLJ 2006-2008
Original theme by Stephane Sulikowski modified by CLJ

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