Kiefer Sutherland on Rabbit Hole, Playing America's Heroes, and his Old-Fashioned Existence

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Kiefer Sutherland stars in the new Paramount+ series Rabbit Hole as John Weir, "a master of deception in the world of corporate espionage framed for murder by powerful forces who have the ability to influence and control populations."

Creators Glenn Ficarra and John Requa always saw Sutherland as their John Weir, and Sutherland shares their enthusiasm for the role.

We caught up with him during the Rabbit Hole press day for an interview that shares that excitement and shows how different Sutherland is from his on-screen persona.

Kiefer Sutherland Rabbit Hole Lead Image

What were your first thoughts when you were approached by Glenn and John for this project?

My first thought was just how excited I was that they had even thought of me at all. I'm a huge fan of them as writers and as directors.

Stupid Crazy Love I still find one of the most well-balanced movies I've ever seen, and the script for Bad Santa is one of my favorites as well.

And the fact that they had this idea for a show that was kind of in my wheelhouse in the sense that I absolutely love the genre of the thriller, and they wanted to do something that kind of hearkened back to 3 Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, Parallax View, films like that. Those were the films that I absolutely adored growing up.

Rabbit Hole Poster 2

And then they described, as the modern update to that, dealing with the possibilities given technology in our world today.

And I'll be honest, I mean, I'm the last guy you'll probably ever meet that doesn't have a computer, right? I write my letters by hand. I don't have email.

So that took a minute for me to research and have a look and ask questions from people that were really sophisticated with technology about what were my capabilities and what were my parameters with regards to being able to manipulate situations. And it was frightening to me how vast that landscape was.

Now you just turn on the news, and you can watch it on the news with AI voices and this and that and the other. It's amazing how much technology there is out there to manipulate the truth and situations.

Rabbit Team at SXSW 2023 - Rabbit Hole

And I'm not talking on the broad spectrum of certain outlets have got profiles and information on all of its customers, and Netflix will know what you want to watch because you've chosen these four movies; we can figure out the next eight movies that you want.

I'm talking about software that's really designed to manipulate and allow you to control situations that can have very dire outcomes.

And so I was very excited that I felt that the show was kind of topical in that regard and that it was told by a character that was going to go from being the hunter to the hunted, and this kind of dynamic shift of 180 degrees and putting that character in an incredibly vulnerable position, which I've always believed makes that character very identifiable, and being able to tell the story through those eyes.

And John and Glenn were just incredible writers to do that.

Kiefer Sutherland Attends the Canadian Premiere - Rabbit Hole

How would you describe John Weir?

Well, John Weir is neurotic. I think he's incredibly intelligent. I think he has an understanding of math but not how math applies to science, but how math applies to solutions and problems.

I think he can find solutions through his ability to process information incredibly quickly. Having said that, if he can't find the solution, he starts to come undone, and he starts to have a nervous breakdown. It's his great Achilles' heel.

And in order to get through that, it requires, at least in the beginning of our show, the relationship that he has with a best friend that has known him his whole life, and someone who he trusts, which allows him to let go and surrender and find himself back out of the proverbial rabbit hole.

And for a variety of reasons, he needs to figure out how to develop those kinds of relationships throughout the season because he doesn't have enough of them for the situation that he's in.

Kiefer Sutherland Attends 2023 SXSW - Rabbit Hole

What is it about you that makes America love you as an action hero?

Oh, gosh. Well, if they do, I'm really grateful for that. Let's start with that. I think I got really lucky with 24, and I got really lucky to play that part and to be able to do it for a decade.

It was the closest thing I've ever had to a normal job. I got to watch both my daughters grow up because of it, and I'll be forever grateful for that opportunity.

And then television, just the landscape of television has changed so dynamically in the 20 years that I've been a part of it -- that it really is where the stories are being told.

Rabbit Hole Poster

Movies, for the most part, are just big action tent-pole kinds of events.

And they're very exciting and really cool, but if you want to tell the stories that I grew up loving to watch, whether that was Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment, Stand by Me, At Close Range, the eight to $12 million movie, those stories are being told on television now, and they're being told either in the context of a limited series or a series in itself.

And so it's the work that I've always been excited about trying to be a part of, and I'll always be grateful that there's been an audience that's let me do it.

People are going to come into this, and they're going to have Jack Bauer on their minds.

Yeah, yeah.

Kiefer Sutherland Attends the Canadian Premiere - Rabbit Hole

What do you say to that? What's different?

John Weir dresses a lot better. [chuckles] There's a lot. There's a lot that's different. And the dynamics of the show are vastly different, but they do have some similarities in the sense that the situation is for life and death.

But Jack Bauer was a character who was really in a struggle to save hundreds of thousands if not millions of people's lives in a given circumstance. John Weir is trying to save his life and the people that surround him and his friends. And so that just inherently makes it different.

John Weir's got a sense of humor. He's got a grasp of sarcasm that I'm envious of. And so I think there's a kind of humor to this that I think is very special.

Meta [Golding], who I play opposite of, has incredible comic timing. She's amazing. And John and Glenn have nuanced that humor into what is otherwise a very scary and desperate story, but they've done it so beautifully that it feels like it belongs.

So yeah, it's just, yeah, I get to run, I get to fight, but for very different reasons.

Rabbit Hole premieres on Paramount+ on Sunday, March 26, and we'll have reviews of the episodes weekly!

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Rabbit Hole Quotes

John: My father used to try and tell me that the people who you cared about most will be your greatest weakness. If someone was coming after you, they'd be the way in.
Crowley: You should have listened to your father.
John: Now, that's not the first time I ever heard that. Now you've got 'em, and there's nothing I can do about it. You've been waiting for this for a long time, and I'm in no position to beg or ask, but I would be really grateful if you would consider letting my ex-wife go. She's not a part of this.
Crowley: I'm not letting her go. She obviously still means something to you, and that's the point.
John: She doesn't know anything.
Crowley: What is your play here? Wasting time? For what, exactly? It's over.
John: My wife left me because she was kidnapped by one of my competitors. They threatened to kill her if I didn't do everything that they asked. They even sent me part of her finger to make their point.
Ben: The fuck's he saying? What's he on about?
John: So I had to hire a pro to get her back. A real badass. And it worked, but she never talked to me again.
Crowley: None of this matters.
John: You may be right about that. You see, 'cause the woman you've got isn't my ex-wife. She's the person I sent in to get her, so good luck with that, motherfucker.

Hailey: Hey, asshole. If you really thought I was going to blackmail you, why'd you sleep with me?
John: You're kidding, right?