Suther­land shows a com­mon ‘Touch’

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY FRA­ZIER MOORE

Touch” hero Jake Bohm is ob­sessed with num­bers, and in a voiceover on this week’s pre­miere episode, the oth­er­wise mute 11year-old numerol­o­gist shares an in­ter­est­ing statis­tic: “To­day the av­er­age per­son will say 2,250 words to 7.4 other in­di­vid­u­als.”

An av­er­age per­son, sure. But not Kiefer Suther­land in re­cent weeks.

Mr. Suther­land (who plays Jake’s de­voted fa­ther, Martin) has lately been a chatterbox, 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 said with a laugh. In sum: “I’ve met a lot of folks.”

It’s Mon­day, the morn­ing af­ter a “Touch” world-pre­miere screen­ing in Man­hat­tan, which came on the winged heels of a global blitz that took Mr. Suther­land to London, Ber­lin, Madrid and Moscow. In a cou­ple of hours, he’ll be on a plane to L.A., where, with the pub­lic­ity cam­paign now just about over, he’ll re­sume shoot­ing “Touch” full time.

But right now, he’s got a few more words to voice about the show (which de­buts at 9 p.m. Thurs­day on Fox).

For in­stance, how the univer­sal fo­cus of “Touch” (cre­ated by Tim Kring, ar­chi­tect of the like­wise far-flung se­ries “He­roes”) is re­flected in its launch strat­egy: It’s pre­mier­ing in sync with the U.S. mar­ket in more than 100 other coun­tries. Con­ven­ing a global TV au­di­ence that way is un­prece­dented for a weekly drama se­ries.

“If ‘Touch’ can be the con­duit for a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween 150 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide on a web­site — talk­ing about things they have in com­mon, as op­posed to their dif­fer­ences — that would be amaz­ing,” Mr. Suther­land mused.

But as “Touch” has got­ten un­der way, it has touched on Mr. Suther­land’s mem­o­ries of his first sea­son do­ing “24,” the ac­tion-in­trigue show where he played in­trepid coun­terter­ror­ist Jack Bauer for eight sea­sons start­ing in 2001.

“I’d for­got­ten what it was like to build the frame­work of a new show,” he said. “It’s the most ex­cit­ing part of do­ing a show, but it’s also the most dif­fi­cult. The pi­lot script for ‘Touch’ was beau­ti­ful, but if it isn’t fully re­al­ized as a se­ries, I’ll feel cul­pa­ble. So there’s a kind of panic I had for­got­ten about since we started ‘24.’ ”

The big­gest chal­lenge, Mr. Suther­land said, is craft­ing the on-screen re­la­tion­ship be­tween wid­owed fa­ther Martin and his son.

No won­der. 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,” Mr. Suther­land said. “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. I think all par­ents have com­mu­ni­ca­tions is­sues with their chil­dren.

“But on our show, it’s a par­ent­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to the power of 10. Which means that dra­ma­tiz­ing it calls for con­stant main­te­nance, mak­ing sure that it feels real in the con­text of this very fan­tas­ti­cal idea the show trades on. It’s the thing I fo­cus on the most.”

Of course, there’s an as­so­ci­ated chal­lenge for Mr. Suther­land. At age 45, he’s a veteran ac­tor with a hit TV se­ries and dozens of film roles to his credit. But now 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,” Mr. Suther­land ad­mit­ted. “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 just do.”

FOX VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kiefer Suther­land is the fa­ther of a son, played by David Ma­zouz, who is mute but has an out­sized abil­ity with num­bers, in the new TV se­ries “Touch.” It de­buts Thurs­day on Fox.

Carl Reiner

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