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Sunday 1 October 2006

Carlos Bernard Has High Hopes for More '24' Action (5/21/2004)


Carlos Bernard has a major role on a hit TV show, yet he's not sure he has a steady job. Bernard, who plays Tony Almeida on Fox's 24 is only too aware that the show's producers can be cold when it comes to killing off its characters.

"What characters will be alive to come back," he says after the Tuesday, May 25, finale that covers 12 to 1 p.m., "that's another story." Will he return?

"I'd love to come back," he says. "From season one, I treated each year like a film project, and that helps me to focus and not to worry about next season."

It sounds as if he has little to worry about. "Carlos caught everybody by surprise," says Howard Gordon, executive producer. "There was always a consensus of how much we liked this guy. He is really this unsung hero of CTU, this real interesting person. By default, he wound up finding a place season by season."

Actually, Tony came quite close to death early in the third season. Had Tony died then, Bernard would have had "21 episodes of sitting on the bench," Gordon says. But they kept him alive, because, he says, "We love the guy."

In the finale, Tony's relationship with his wife, Michelle, is tested. "It doesn't end well," Gordon says. "That doesn't mean he dies, but it doesn't necessarily end well. I came to this real strong conclusion that '24' is a tragedy, a Greek tragedy with guns."

The show deals with heavy issues, such as kidnapping, assassination and lethal viruses. As Reiko Aylesworth, who plays Michelle, says, "It should be taken seriously when you are dealing with issues we are dealing with, whether a nuclear bomb or a virus or a terrorist. You can't wink at the camera on this show, especially with our subject matter. It becomes exploitation if you don't approach it earnestly."

The gravity of the issues keeps the crew somber during taping, but once the director calls cut, Bernard is goofy. "He is the funniest person," Aylesworth says. "I can't believe he's not doing a sitcom."

Bernard enjoys playing jokes on cast members. Sipping bottled fizzy water at a cafe near Lincoln Center, he relays tricks played on colleagues, both coincidentally revolving around clothing.

In one that still has cast mates chuckling, Elisha Cuthbert, who plays Kim Bauer, arrives on the set with shopping bags from a spree in New York. She wants to model her new clothes for the staff, but a car alarm sounds and distracts everyone, Bernard recalls. During the confusion, he stashes her bags in a trailer.

He later distributes her new clothes among the extras. Meanwhile, Cuthbert goes crazy searching for her bags.

"In the middle of the shoot, she starts noticing all the extras' clothes, and goes up to them," he says, now laughing. "I had already told them to act indignant and pissed off."

Another time a friend of his lands a role on the show and Bernard persuades the costumer to outfit him in Shakespearean togs. Bernard fully expects to be paid back someday.

A few tables away his wife, Sharisse Baker-Bernard, spoons food into their adorable baby, Natalie. Natalie coos at strangers, and is one of those perfect babies who sleeps 10 hours a night and is so easy that she is lulling them into wanting a second baby, whom he figures, would be the opposite.

Bernard seems to figure the odds and not do things lightly, including chasing his dream.

He was born 41 years ago in the same Evanston, Ill., hospital as Aylesworth and grew up in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago. At the New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., Bernard was enchanted and intimidated by a production of "Our Town." Indeed, he cites its alumni include Rock Hudson, Ann-Margaret, Charlton Heston and Virginia Madsen.

Bernard was interested in acting, "but I was so intimidated I didn't tell anybody," he says. "I had grown up watching movies like 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and 'The Godfather' and it was such a wild dream that I didn't want to tell anybody because I knew the response would be that I was nuts and they would talk me out of it."

So he studied art at Illinois State University and became a graphics artist. He headed West, settling in San Francisco's bohemian Haight-Ashbury and resumed his studies. Though cautious folks warn artists they need a real trade to fall back on, Bernard is one of the few who used his artistic talents to pay bills as he earned his masters in fine arts from San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater.

Bernard worked on a magazine about musical instruments, designed logos, created brochures and kept going on auditions. "The Killing Jar" in 1996 was his first movie, after a few plays. He worked on "The Young and the Restless" and had guest spots on "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "F/X: The Series."

Working in plays interests him as does directing, but the overall lure is the telling of good tales.

"I grew up being really affected by stories I saw onscreen, and remembering that feeling of walking out of the theater changed," Bernard says. "My main goal is to work as a storyteller, whether my material or others. It sounds like a lofty kind of goal, but I believe the power of storytelling can alter people's perception. I've walked out of a play or a movie wanting to be a better person. My ultimate goal is to be a storyteller."

By Jacqueline Cutler


It's Just a Flesh Wound for '24's' Bernard (12/13/2003)

LOS ANGELES ( On television and in life, actor Carlos Bernard is used to bouncing back. It has been a tough day so far for his character, CTU chief Tony Almeida, on the Tuesday-night FOX espionage drama, "24," which spends an entire season recounting a single day, hour by hour. Of course, they've all been tough days for Tony.

In season one, Tony sported an unfortunate patch of hair under his lower lip all season (hence, his Internet nickname of "Soul Patch"), the result of Bernard's failure to shave before filming the pilot episode.

It turns out that this fashion faux pas could have been much worse.

"You should have seen what they were going to dress me in for the first season," Bernard says. "Oh my God, it was cargo pants and a big, floppy flannel shirt. I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? I think you got the wrong character.'

"Sure enough, executive producer Joel Surnow walks in the room and goes, 'What the hell is that?' I said, 'Exactly.' That could have been disastrous. I'd have been dead within the first two episodes if I'd worn that."

And Almeida found out that his lover, CTU operative Nina (Sarah Clarke), was an evil mole.

"I was duped badly, totally, hook, line and sinker," Bernard says. "I knew nothing. That's a scene I want to see, Tony and Nina together again. I have a strong feeling she's coming back."

In season two, Tony spent a good portion of the day on crutches, a result of a dislocated ankle Bernard suffered while playing basketball. This led to what the actor considers his most embarrassing moment so far in the series, a scene he shot with Kiefer Sutherland (as the beleaguered Jack Bauer).

"The lame fight with Jack was actually going to be a cool scene," Bernard recalls. "They'd written it with us falling down stairs, just a knock-down, drag-out fight. Of course, two weeks before, I dislocated my ankle, so we turned it into, basically, he sneezes and I fall down."

Despite his bad experience with Nina, Tony pursued romance with another co-worker, CTU operative Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth).

"I don't think he's lucky in love," Bernard says. "That's the thing, he does make bad choices, but that's what I love about the show. People make mistakes constantly -- it's great.

"How boring would it be if we were always right? I love that part of it, because God knows, in real life ... I chose to play basketball last year, didn't I? It was not a wise decision."

As season three opened, Almeida and Michelle were married and trying to decide whether Tony should take a job in Washington, D.C. -- and what Michelle would do if he does.

"The marriage part is interesting," Bernard says. "The underlying theme of this season is, can these people have relationships that do these jobs? I think we're going to find that answer eventually."

After a field promotion to head of the Los Angeles-based CTU last season, Tony now is firmly ensconced in that position.

"My take with Tony always has been that it's not a job he ever wanted," Bernard says. "He never aspired to be running CTU, and it's been three years now that he's been running it. There's a part of him that doesn't want to be a desk jockey."

In episode three, which aired Nov. 11, Tony finally got to get outside, as he took off to help Jack catch a teen (Riley Smith) that is the unwitting carrier of a terrorist virus. Unfortunately, Tony's little field trip ended with him getting shot in the neck, and he spent all of episode four in surgery, with Michelle forced to take over at CTU in his absence.

"It's the amazing healing powers of '24,'" Bernard says. "We had a little talk about it when I read the third-episode script. Joel, when he originally told me about it, said, 'You'll probably be in the hospital for about five, 10 episodes. I was like, '10 episodes? Are you crazy?' He's like, 'Well, it's probably not 10.'

"It's a pretty quick healing process that I go through -- not so much healing as mending, get myself put back together so I can get back into action."

As long as Tony didn't die immediately, Bernard likes the idea of his character going through this trauma.

"The injury really adds to what's going on with him. Once I get out of the hospital, the combination of exhaustion, the injury wearing down on my mind, what's going on which I can't tell you pumps up the pressure on me a great deal, because of certain decisions that were made.

"So, there are all these great forces playing into the character. It was great, the whole getting-shot thing, because it just adds fuel to the fire. After all, Jack died and came back to life. If he can pull that off, Tony can get off a hospital bed. I'm telling you, it's the whole cast, not just Tony and Jack. We're the fastest-healing characters in television history."

Bernard also points out that, in the show's backstory, Tony and Michelle have been married for a while now -- so what about the pitter patter of little spy feet?

"We're still waiting to hear, 'Do we have any children, by the way?' Listen, I know these writers better than to assume anything. Sometimes I think these guys go into a room and say, 'What could never happen?' Then they try to make it happen.

"We were saying that next year, I'll probably be like the guy in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' with no arms and legs, hopping around. It's a rough job, but somebody's got to do it.

"As long as you live, it's good."

By Kate O'Hare


Fit 24/7: being physically active keeps Carlos Bernard at the top of his acting game ( Oct-Nov 2003)

As Counter Terrorist Unit chief Tony Almeida on Fox's real-time thriller, 24, Carlos Bernard is in tiptop shape to take on the bad guys.

"Yeah, I'm a real tough guy," Bernard laughs.

In this spy fantasy TV show, being involved in rescues and fighting terrorism has taken on real meaning.

"We get to live the fantasy of what might have been," says Bernard.

However, dislocating his left ankle brought the 36-year-old into real-time reality and pain. "I screamed; it was pretty brutal," recalls the 5'10" actor of his recent basketball injury. "I was going up for a breakaway lay-up and a guy pulled me down from behind. It felt like the bottom half of my leg snapped in half when the tendons popped." It was a not so gentle reminder, to this sports enthusiast, that he's no longer a teenager who can recuperate from injuries in a matter of days. "I took a lot of coral calcium and something for ligament repair," Bernard confesses. "I still take the calcium."

Born and raised in Chicago, Bernard received a Master of Fine Arts from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. However, sports have always played a big role in his life.

"Baseball was my big sport in school," he reveals. "I played center field all four years of high school and then started playing it in college. But, I realized I was out of my league, so to speak. We had a great high school baseball team that made it to the state finals, but college was a whole different story. Three guys on my college team actually played pro ball and one made it to the majors."

Today, in between 13- to 14-hour workdays and being father to a newborn, Bernard enjoys pick-up baseball games, fly-fishing, judo and golf.

"I have a 10 handicap," he admits. "Sports give me the fun of competition regular workouts don't, an extra focus and something I can improve upon because it's about skills." Although basketball has been sidelined, it hasn't kept Bernard on the bench.

"I still lift weights about five times a week, but when I'm working, it's a matter of fitting it into my schedule," he says. "I try to get cardio through basketball, but lately it's been a challenge, so the stationary bike for 20 minutes has been the best thing. I also run on the treadmill." In addition, he does bicep/tricep curls, chest lifts, sit-ups and crunches. "I also do a few different leg lift machines for the entire leg," he adds.

Not only do regular sports and exercise keep his body toned, but they also help maintain energy levels.

"For an actor, it's really important to maintain your focus and stay sharp, which higher energy levels do for me," he explains. "When you have long days and the last shot might be the most important, stamina and focus are imperative."

Although voted one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People this year, Bernard doesn't take the praise too seriously.

"I think it was a payoff for years of dedication, but don't really think about it that much. You can't control what people think about you," he acknowledges. "Hey, I'm not perfect--I still drink coffee and have a muffin with it. I shoot to eat half of it, but usually eat the whole thing."

Despite the coffee and muffins, Bernard's diet is pretty simple. "First of all, I don't diet, really. I've cut down on bread and I LOVE bread!" he exclaims. "So I try to eat as little as possible." Instead of sodas, he mostly drinks water. Bernard also enjoys fruits, vegetables and meat. While not a fat gram or calorie counter, he says, "I just try to stay away from fries and stuff I know will put on the weight."

However, all those rules fly out the window when he visits Chicago, which is often since his family still lives there.

"Oh, the food there is something else," he asserts. I'm a huge fan of barbeque ribs, so I eat them almost the minute I get there. The pizza, of course, is spectacular. There's such a wide variety of restaurants and they're all open past 1 a.m."

With the clock continuously ticking on his show, the actor does like to enjoy downtime with a good book, some Dave Matthews Band or Elton John music or any chance to be outside in nature.

On an occasional day off, does he cook dinner for his wife of four years? "Yeah, right!" he laughs loudly. "Right now, honestly, I would be bringing food home."

Bonnie Siegler has covered celebrity fitness for American Fitness since 1990. Based in Playa del Rey, California, she is an internationally known writer whose work has appeared in McCall's, Redbook and InStyle.

by Bonnie Siegler


An other 24 hours of twists (10/24/2003)

CTU good guys back — or are they bad guys?

Tony Almeida looked like he was going to be a bad guy. He turned out to be a good guy. But you never know when he or just about anybody else on "24" could take a turn that might make him a bad guy.And Carlos Bernard, the man who plays Tony, wouldn't have it any other way. "Are you kidding?" he said. "This show is everything an actor could ask for."

And everything viewers could ask for, too. In its first two seasons, "24" became one of the best shows on television.the format keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Centering on CTU (Counter-Terrorism Unit) agent Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland), a season takes place in one particularly eventful 24-hour day; each episode runs (more or less) in real time and, at the end of each hour, there's a cliffhanger.And the stakes are high. Season 1 found Jack fighting to prevent the assassination of presidential candidate Sen. David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert)— a plot that turned out to be a huge conspiracy. In Season 2, he had to stop a nuclear device from detonating in Los Angeles and prevent the overthrow of now-President Palmer. As for Season 3, "I think it's the best setup yet," Bernard said.

(On Tuesday, Fox will air the hourlong season premiere of "24" without commercial interruption.)

The action picks up three years after the end of Season 2. President Palmer, it turns out, survived the assassination attempt in the Season 2 finale — although he's not necessarily fully recovered. He's back in Los Angeles, about to debate his opponent in the upcoming general election. His evil ex-wife isn't around — she's presumably in prison at this point. Although rumor is that Sherry (Penny Johnson-Jerald) might show up later this season. And it's not like the president lacks for female company. . But, as it turns out, L.A. isn't exactly a safe place to be. Jack, it seems, has spent the past year infiltrating a drug lord's organization because of the man's ties to terrorist cells. The drug lord is in prison, but his brother is demanding his release — or he'll release a killer virus into the general population, and in a week, more than a million people will be dead. "I think they've done it again," said Bernard, who, like the other actors, entrusts himself and his character to the whims of the writers. "And they're flying by the seat of their pants. You never know exactly where they're going." (Which is true. In neither of the first two seasons did the writer/producers know where the story was going to end up when they wrote the first episodes.) "How can you not trust them?" Bernard said. "Look what they've given us to this point."

Acting in "24" can be a challenge, however. The actors are given "some general idea" of what's in store for their characters, but they don't really know what to expect until they get each script. And they never know when they might suddenly discover that, yes, they're a bad guy instead of a good guy. Or vice versa.Bernard's character looked for all the world like a bad guy in the early going of Season 1. "But I didn't really think so because that would have been too obvious. But I did start to wonder later in the season if they would circle around after making it look like he was one of the good guys," he said. In Season 2, Tony ended up running CTU and sided consistently with good-guy Jack. He's now firmly in charge of CTU and still seems firmly on the side of Jack, who's running a special field-operations division. "But you never know," Bernard said. "I never know until I see those scripts." Not that he's complaining, by any means. With the exception of Sutherland, most of the "24" stars weren't exactly household names before the show started. But now, "People recognize me all the time," Bernard said. "It's always, 'Hey, Tony!' "

How high has "24" raised his profile? Well, Bernard found himself on People magazine's most-beautiful people list. Albeit somewhat reluctantly. "My publicist called and said, 'You've got to do this.' And she never says that. But I sure heard about it from my friends and my family. They had a great time with that one."

Not that "24" has been perfect by any means. You've got to get past the fact that the possibility of everything that happens on the show actually happens in a single day is wildly unlikely. It's a show that has more than its share of twists, turns and coincidences.

And even fans of the show have found the adventures of Jack's daughter fairly ludicrous — The Perils of Kim, as it were. Last season, in the space of those "24" hours, Kim dealt with a homicidal boss, kidnapping charges, a serious car accident, multiple murders in a convenience store, a cougar, a wacko survivalist and, oh yeah, that nuclear bomb that she thought killed her dad. This season, "She's working for me," Bernard said with a laugh. "We'll see how that works out." Yes, Kim is now a computer expert working for CTU. Which does seem to integrate her into the story more naturally. (Assuming you forget that she's gone from nanny to computer genius in three years.) And she's got a love interest — a CTU field agent, Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale), who is Jack's protege. Not that Jack is really happy about the relationship. But viewers should be very happy. Bernard was right when he said, "You're in for another great ride."

By Scott D. Pierce


Carlos Bernard as Tony Almeida (10/27/2002)

Like so many characters on "24," a cloud of suspicion hung over glowering CTU agent Tony Almeida last season.

"Quite frankly, just keeping my eyes out for people I didn't trust or trying to figure out whether they were telling me the truth as a character probably is going to make me seem suspicious,"Carlos Bernard said. "I thought Tony was the one person who was doing his job the right way."

Tony, who was dating Nina Myers when she turned out to be the mole, takes over her position at Counter Terrorism Unit headquarters this season.

"I know for myself, being burned like I was is obviously going to play into everything that happens," Bernard said. "It takes a while to get over something like that, especially the magnitude that I was burned."

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor


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