TOUCH hero Jake Bohm is obsessed with numbers, and in a voiceover on this week’s premiere episode, the otherwise mute 11-year-old numerologist shares an interesting statistic: ‘‘Today the average person will say 2250 words to 7.4 other individuals.’’
An average person, sure. But not Kiefer Sutherland in recent weeks.
Sutherland (who plays Jake’s father, Martin) has lately been talking up his show all over the world.
‘‘I’m like the brainy student who blows the curve for the rest of the class,’’ he laughs. In sum: ‘‘I’ve met a lot of folks.’’
The biggest challenge, says Sutherland, is crafting the on-screen relationship between widowed father Martin and his son.
Jake is an emotionally challenged child who never speaks and recoils from any physical contact, even with his dad. Yet, in his seemingly isolated state, Jake is able to discern mathematical relationships between divergent people around the world (a ‘‘giant mosaic of patterns and ratios . . . hidden in plain sight’’, as he puts it) that help bring those people together in beneficial ways.
It falls to Martin to puzzle out Jake’s numerical cues and then follow through with the necessary legwork. Meanwhile, he struggles to forge a human connection with his son.
‘‘You have to make this relationship relatable to viewers,’’ says Sutherland.
‘‘When I read the script, I identified with it hugely: There was a time with my daughter between her 12th and 13th birthdays when, literally, there wasn’t a question I asked her that she didn’t answer with a single word.
‘‘But on our show, it’s a parenting experience to the power of 10. Which means that dramatising it calls for constant maintenance, making sure it feels real in the context of this fantastical idea the show trades on. It’s the thing I focus on most.’’
There’s an associated challenge for Sutherland, aged 45 and a veteran actor with hit TV series 24 and dozens of film roles to his credit. He must share scenes with a child who has no lines to volley back to him, and who displays little physical response to anything.
‘‘That was the thing I feared the most,’’ admits Sutherland. ‘‘But it’s now the thing I look forward to the most.’’
He showers praise on David Mazouz, the remarkable young actor who plays Jake with penetrating restraint.
‘‘In our scenes, he has to be so disconnected from me – doesn’t speak, can’t be touched, doesn’t look at me. But I feel something that radiates off of him.
‘‘I’m not a method actor. I believe in absolute objectivity when I’m working and I’m very conscious of everything I’m doing.
‘‘There are times with David where things get very cloudy and I feel things from my own life, and it makes me gasp. There’s a moment in the ninth episode where he actually does look directly into my eyes. A chill came over me.
‘‘These have been the only times for me as an actor where the reality of my own life has intruded on what I’m trying to do with a character. It was certainly very powerful for me, and complicated as well, and I’m so grateful to him.’’
Touch has a child-is-father-to-the-man theme that issues from a child with a gift for recognising life across the planet is preordained by mathematical probability.
It’s a cosmic view that Martin Bohm, led by his son, struggles to fathom. But what about the actor who plays him? ‘‘I don’t really go for that,’’ Sutherland says. ‘‘I’m far more cynical than (series creator Tim Kring, Heroes). But I think he’s really struck a balance.
‘‘When I read his pilot script, I found it uniquely hopeful. I believe that we are absolutely in charge of our own lives and responsible for what we do. But what I take from the show is that, if you become aware, just a little more aware, that everything you do might affect someone else . . . well, that might be a good thing.’’
Sundays, 8.30pm, Ten, Ten SC.
stars David Mazouz, Kiefer Sutherland and Gugu Mbatha-raw.