He plays Tony Almeida, the CTU agent who came plunging back in a surprise twist on Fox’s last season of the critically acclaimed action/drama, “Twenty Four.” A day earlier, he was an alcoholic who was convicted of treason for trying to save his wife and CTU partner, Michelle Dessler (played by Reiko Aylesworth) from terrorists – only to have her dump him because of his burgeoning depression, fondness of alcohol and that rather large ink stain on his resume. Something you think actor, Carlos Bernard, could play on a daytime soap opera, right? Instead, we meet an ambitious theatrical, film and television actor whose commanding performances and abilities to win over audiences withformidable, yet subtle characters like Tony Almeida, has earned Bernard the status of a respected rising star in Hollywood. Carlos Bernard talked with us about some on and off camera tid bits that die hard 24 fans would most definitely appreciate. And those who are still virgin to this show, which publishes one of television history’s most impressive displays of guts and aptitude, will probably want to find out what the big fuss is about. Although he plays best friend to central character, Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland), Tony Almeida has increasingly become the mystified, always engaging character credited by rich performances each week by Bernard. My wife, Lisa, and I are glued to our television sets awaiting every perfect hour that ticks by on “Twenty Four.” Come, let us invite you to this compelling world, according to Carlos Bernard.

MT: You grew up in Chicago. What was it like getting adjusted to Hollywood? It must feel like a totally different world.

CB: Yeah, you know what it really is. I originally started off in theater in Chicago, and I decided that I wanted to get some formal training in a graduate program. So I applied at the American Conservatory Theater In San Francisco and went there for three years. When I moved to San Francisco, I immediately felt at home. It’s very much a city like Chicago or New York is, but when I moved down to Los Angeles, it took me about 2.5 years to get adjusted. At first, I couldn’t stand it. I’m used to cities, and it is just so spread out. It’s hard to build your life there, but now I love it.

MT: Now, with the success of “24,” and with it being such a high profile show, have things changed at all? Is daily life more difficult now that you are much more recognizable to the public?

CB: I don’t think so, not really. The great thing about this show is that people only come up and talk to you if they love it, and it has such a high IQ to it that people who watch it tend to be pretty well-educated. They just want to talk because they love the show, and there is nothing wrong with that. It beats the hell out of being on some piece of crap that I am embarrassed about. I’m very proud of the show so if people want to talk and I have time, I’ll definitely talk with them. It is part of the career that I have chosen. So I certainly can’t start complaining if people want to come up and talk to me in the streets. And for the most part people are very respectful.

MT: That’s a good point that you make about the fans of the show. My wife and I sometimes use the shows that we watch as a barometer of judging people. And if they like “24,” they are cool with us, usually.

CB: Yeah right…”You what?… you watch “The Bachelor?” (laughs). Some of these shows are like, “Different Strokes” you know?

MT: Definitely! Do you get to watch much TV yourself, and if so, what are some of your favorite shows?

CB: I don’t watch that many, typically, but I finally joined the 21st century by getting TIVO recently. I watch “Medium.” I used to watch “Six Feet Under.” I’m trying to watch “Rome” I just haven’t been able to watch enough to get into it. I love to watch Jeremy Piven on Entourage because he is having such a great time. Mostly I watch a lot of sports. I am a sports hound.

MT: We really make “24” and event at our house. We live and die by the twists and turns of the show, and being the way the show is everything is pretty much up in the air from week to week. You never know if your favorite characters are going to be killed off.

CB: laughs…They’re not…they’re not safe. That is how it goes on that show.

MT: When you showed up last season on “24” it was an exciting week for us. My wife cheered “Alright, Tony’s back!” Do you ever watch the show and get caught up in the action?

CB: No, I never watch the show. I can’t really watch it because, I’m not really big on watching myself, and also with this show, I get my viewing when I read the script and find out what happens. This show is a lot about finding out what happens, so it kind of ruins it for me to know everything that happens. Every once and a while I check in to see how a certain director did or to see how maybe a certain actor I like does with a role. I definitely appreciate the editing and the cinematography. I love the music that Sean Callery writes on it. He is fantastic. And I really appreciate the different elements of it but I rarely watch a whole show every once and a while I will be curious to see a little chunk of it, but that’s it.

MT: I guess it is anti-climatic once you already know what is going to happen.

CB: Yeah it is…Also, I don’t know how other people are, but I feel like my work is done once I shoot it, and I am not one to site down and watch it once it is on the air. It’s kind of hard for me to do.

MT: We understand, I know you probably can’t confess to any plot twists next year, but frankly we’d rather be surprised any way.

CB: Yeah, I’ll tell you what man, this season starts out like gangbusters right off the bat, it’s crazy…that much I’ll tell ya.

MT: Can’t wait to see it, I’m assuming the way things left off last year, the show will be changing quite a bit.

CB: Yeah, it changes a little bit every year, and this year is no different. No doubt about that. Definitely for my character as well..things change for my character.

MT: What’s it like when the cameras are not rolling? Do you goof around on set at all? Any pranksters?

CB: Yeah, that would be me…I guess I like to screw around, and screw with people. Hell, I like to screw with people when the cameras are rolling. It is a very loose set. When we are shooting certain kinds of scenes it is pretty intense, the atmosphere has got to be focused and it gets pretty intense. But at the same time, when we break from that, the crew and Kiefer and I have been together for four or five years now. Most everybody else has come and gone. But the crew is pretty much the same and John Cassar, who is our main director, has been around since the first season, and so there is a lot of goofing around and giving each other sh*t…pulling pranks and stuff like that.

MT: Any one prank stand out as being a really good one?

CB: We were shooting up in Valencia I think, somewhere north of LA, and I got to work with the actress who plays Mandy (Mia Kirshner). She comes up to me in the morning and says “ I feel mischievous today”, and I say, “Really?” and she says, “Yeah,” “Ok, do you want to play a practical joke on someone?” I ask her, and she says yes.

So I call the police over who are blocking off the street for us and I ask them if they would be willing to play a practical joke on our director, and they say “Yeah, Sure”. I tell them that right around 3:45 p.m., I want them to come up on set where we are shooting by this garage and arrest her for buying drugs in the parking lot. So when they arrest her, I am going to start arguing and I want them to arrest me, too. Well, the whole day was basically scenes between she and I so basically production is screwed if we get arrested. I mean that would cost thousands and thousands of dollars! So, anyhow, right on cue at 3:45, he walks in with his partner goes up to her after the cameras are cut and pulls her aside and says, “Can I talk to you ma’am?”

“Yeah.”

“Our undercover officer told us that you bought some marijuana from him?”

And he starts cuffing her saying “I need to place you under arrest”. Suddenly everybody is like what is going on here. Nobody knew except for myself her, and I told Kiefer because he was in the scene as well. Now all of a sudden John Cassar comes flying over and is like “uh, uh, uh….”

Right before this happened, three producers showed up on set and they are never there. They never come, and it was just perfect, they show up and they don’t know anything about it. They start talking to the cops. And I come over there shoulder and say “What’s going on?”

The officer says, “This lady had admitted to buying marijuana in the parking lot, and we are placing her under arrest.”

And I go “For that? She got arrested for that? This is all you have got to do with your time is arrest little girls for buying marijuana in the parking lot?”

They say “Sir you better step back right now, and the producers start pushing me back, “let us handle this.”

I say “F**k this, you’re screwed, you are going to tell me that you are arresting this girl for buying pot and this is where our tax dollars are going?”

“Sir you better step back right now or I am going to place you under arrest.”

I’m like, “Screw you! You’re an asshole!” (laughs) And we started shouting back and forth, and five guys are pulling me back. Including Cassar, and the place in like, nobody knows what the hell is going on, one producer is on the phone calling back to the studio like “uh we have big problems.” And then finally I tied to pull a camera out and take a picture of John Cassar. And he saw the camera and was like “You, you a**hole” (laughs).

Anyhow, it was really great because after that everybody was in a great mood and joking around. The cops had done such a great job, everybody was like giving them t-shirts and hats, and they were sort of like baptizing them into the group. It was a lot of fun.

MT: I’d never be able to keep a straight face…So you mentioned a little about the demanding schedule is it hard to balance your family life with your work schedule? CB: It’s hard at times. I have a 2 year old daughter. There are times when I will not see her awake for 2 or 3 days in a row unless she is asleep. And that’s hard, but like anything else you get used to it. At the same time I do have a good amount of time off here and there that I can spend with her. I just had about a month off and I was with her constantly, so you just find your time to spend with her, and just make sure that you make that quality time.

MT: So tell us what you can about the upcoming mini series “10.5 Apocalypse.”

CB: It’s a miniseries for NBC that will be airing around Thanksgiving time, it is a sequel to 10.5 that was done last year which was the biggest ratings the network had gotten in about 10 or 15 years for a television movie, and it was actually really well done. And there is a great group of actors in it like Kim Delaney and Beau Bridges. It is basically a what if story, what if a massive earthquake hits the USA? It deals with different parts of the nation being hit by earthquakes where there are fault lines, they are just not active right now. And it is pretty frightening, it’s pretty cool the way they shoot it, it looks pretty wild.

MT: You seem to do mostly very serious dramatic roles, As an actor Is there any particular genre that you like doing better than another?

CB: Yeah, I love doing comedy, I have done a lot of comic in theater, I haven’t done much in TV or film, because once you start doing certain types of roles that is what people think of you for and those are the offers that you get. Really my favorite is, I am developing a script, a film project right now that is sort of a heist movie that is very funny, but very dark, that’s my favorite, a sort of nice blend…you’re never gonna see me on a sitcom. It’s just not my bag.

MT: No, “Everybody loves Carlos?”

CB: (laughing), right exactly… no, never gonna happen . I really am drawn more to film, and that is what I love about 24, because it feels very much like a film the way we work on it. It very much the way you work on a film. And that is the process and material that I am drawn too. But at the same time I like screwing around, I like laughing and having fun. And I love comedies. And who knows, I wouldn’t mind having a career like Gene Hackman - where he does them both you know. I’d love to have a career like Gene Hackman’s. He is definitely one of my heroes. That is a guy who can do everything.

MT: Building on that, who are some of your other heroes in acting?

CB: I love Al Pacino, he is one of my heroes and someone I loved to watch. Denzel Washington is one of the actors today who I will watch anything that he does. Gene Hackman, Paul Newman, I mean “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” that whole era of Paul Newman movies I loved. But those are the main ones.

MT: My wife wanted to find out how it felt to be named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People In America?

CB: Well, that was a lifetime goal of mine, I have always wanted to be on the 50 most beautiful people list…that’s it. (laughs)

MT: Did you flaunt that around set?

CB: You know what, I don’t know. I get a lot of grief about it mainly.

MT: Are you going to be involved with the video game that they are doing for “24”?

CB: Yeah, we have been working on it for about 2 years. It should look really cool. I have seen pieces of it, they have shown me little parts of it as we have gone along and it looks pretty cool, it looks like it is going to be fun.

MT: Is that coming out this winter?

CB: I think I heard February.

MT: We can’t wait to get our hands on that.

CB: Are you a video game player?

MT: Not hugely so anymore, timing wise we don’t have a lot to devote to it but I like to when I can, and that one in particular looked really cool, and my wife and I want to get our hands on it.

MT: Do you get to play your own character from the show?

CB: Yeah you get to be, Jack, Tony or Kim

MT: Oh, okay.

CB: You’d probably want to be Kim

MT: laughs…no comment.

CB: laughs

MT: Are you involved with any charities that you would like us to mention

CB: Yeah I am…One of them is an organization called PS Arts. They raise money for arts programs in the inner cities. Most of these schools in the inner cities have had their arts programs cut, that is the first thing to go, and this is a organization that I have been involved with for a couple years called PS Arts.

MT: Does the cast of “24” ever get together to do any type of charity events?

CB: There is talk of going down to Louisiana over Thanksgiving and taking the whole construction crew down there to work with Habitat for Humanity.

MT: We noticed in your bio that you are a big sports fan, are you able to find much time to play golf etc…

CB: Not really, A little golf here and there.

MT: We noticed that you were on the World Poker tour home game recently. How well did you do?

CB: I won it. I got lucky and I won. The tragedy of it is that I won a $25000 buy in to the World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio, but I couldn’t go because I was working that weekend.

MT: Thank you again for your time today.

CB: Sure, it’s my pleasure.

Be sure to watch “24” in their 5th season on FOX, starting in January, 2006. “10.5 Apocalypse” is in production. Check your local listings for air dates.