Fra­zier Moore

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY TV -

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.

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