Q & A: Yvonne Strahovski Talks ’24’ and Being as Prepared She Can Possibly Be
24 is back on FOX, this time as the limited series, 24: Live Another Day. Set and shot around London, the new series brings back Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub and William Devane as James Heller, now President of the United States. The show also stars Benjamin Bratt, Tate Donovan, Kim Raver, Stephen Fry and Yvonne Strahovski
Strahovski participated in a conference call while on location in London where she talked about 24, filming in London, her time on Chuck and Dexter and more!
24: Live Another Day airs on Mondays at 9pm on Fox
Your characters usually seem to be as tough mentally as they are physically. As an actor, which do you find more inviting to play; action sequences or intense, emotional scenes?
Yvonne Strahovski: I think I’m more drawn to the intense, more emotional scenes. I like sort of exploring the human behavior that you have explore when looking at those kinds of scenes and I like looking at the reasons why people do things that they do because they’re often complicated and it’s not often just one reason as to why people do things the way they do. So I do like those more meatier scenes, but that’s not to say that I don’t love the physical stuff, too, because I do like that as well.
In just a couple of short weeks here your character has obviously become very popular, popular to an extent that we’re now actually starting to hear rumors about a spin-off. I’m wondering what do you like about this role and would you consider continuing on as Kate past this series?
Yvonne Strahovski: Oh, initially I liked the fact that we meet Kate at a low point in her life, you know, she doesn’t have it all together. She’s been demoted from her job, which means she obviously has professional problems going on as well as personal problems because her husband was found out to be selling government secrets to a foreign government. So I feel like at the time she had it really gave me a starting point with somewhere to go from and somewhere to go up from, which is what we’re seeing Kate do now in this journey.
As far as the spin-off stuff, I mean I don’t really know what to say about that. I’ve read a couple articles here and there about that, so I don’t really know. I’m just happy that people seem to like Kate Morgan and I hope that they continue to.
This series is more focused on your acting skills than anything else. When you have a top TV franchise of all time and you’ve got these top tier producers saying Yvonne is a talented actress, pay attention to her acting and not necessarily what she’s wearing or how she looks. I mean for you as an actress I would think that that has to be rewarding.
Yvonne Strahovski: Oh, I think that’s great, especially for something like this. That’s part of what attracted me to this role as well is because 24, it’s filmed in such a way that it’s really raw and really real and it forces you to sort of be very real. And on the same token not just with the acting, but physically I was adamant that I didn’t want her to be glammed up. I wanted minimal make up and the clothing had to be real, nothing fancy, you know something like what she would wear in real life, which was part of the draw for me because it is nice to just focus on scene work and something that has this much intensity in it. All of that drew me to this role.
Did you initially have any reservations about joining such an established series with so much history already behind it, and what was day one like for filming?
Yvonne Strahovski: I think my trepidation initially came just with the label that I would be playing a CIA agent purely because I’ve touched on something like that before in a previous series, but then obviously after that initial thought I realized this vehicle, this 24 is such a different show and not really something that I’ve been a part of before. It’s so unique in its own right, which is why it’s such a popular and widely known television show.
I guess only halfway through filming did I realize that it really is more of a wild card than I initially thought because it was such an established television show and extremely well received over eight years and then it was off the air for four years. So we, I think, collectively, even the producers, didn’t really know how people were going to react to this so the fact that the response and the ratings have been quite good has been a lovely surprise because you’re in a vulnerable position when you’re sort of throwing out this 12 episode series of something that’s already so well established and the bar is set so high.
Kate is sort of like the Jack Bauer of the CIA, so knowing how Kiefer portrays Jack did it hinder or enhance the approach you had with your character?
Yvonne Strahovski: No, I mean I definitely take inspiration from Kiefer. I definitely saw early on the similarities between the two characters and I think it’s important for me as an actress to recognize those particular similarities that ought to be there between Jack Bauer and Kate Morgan. That’s definitely a part of the storyline that we’re going in to. Obviously, I want to add my own flare to it, so that’s a whole separate thing, but definitely I take inspiration from Kiefer and I continue to as I see him work. He just really dives into this quite effortlessly. He’s been doing it for so long and he has so much to contribute to this as a series; not just as Jack Bauer, but he really is mentally immersed in part of the machinery that is this show from all different aspects.
What have you had to do on 24 that you haven’t done on Dexter or Chuck?
Yvonne Strahovski: Well, I think what I was saying before in answering one of the other questions, I think the style, the way that this show is filmed, the cameras are always moving. You can’t really lie in front of these cameras. They’re really with you in the moment and they linger and that’s what I like about this show; it’s that lingering on the activist as they think things through, which I love. I love that part of it. There’s also some scenes that I’ve had to do that I’ve never done before on anything, whether it’s television, film, or theater, so that’s always really great when I read a script and I see a scene and I think wow, that’s going to be challenging, I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but here we go. We’ll see some of those things coming out as the episodes continue to air.
How different is it to play a CIA agent in a very dramatic show versus a dramatic show like—or dramedic show, you know drama-comedy show like Chuck?
Yvonne Strahovski: It’s very different. I feel like with Chuck, because it was a comedy based show it was more cartoonish, if you like. It was just more playful. We had a lot more fun with it. There was a lot of silliness in there. There were serious moments as well, and there was a lot of heart in that show, but its baseline was comedy. So it’s just sort of a complete opposite with something like this where we don’t really see a lot of comedic moments in 24, in fact I haven’t seen all of it, but from what I have seen I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed at anything that anyone has done on 24, so it really, it flips the coin and you have to try to make things as real as possible, even the circumstances are still quite extraordinary and it’s obviously you’re not watching someone in their everyday life. You’re watching people in heightened circumstances, but it’s reality for these people in 24, so you have to try to make it as real as possible.
Can you talk a little bit then about how the gloom and darkness of London has maybe contributed to the drama of this show?
Yvonne Strahovski: Yes, that’s interesting. It’s definitely contributed to my mood, personally. So I think, yes, it definitely adds to the show. It’s an interesting flavor. I think London as a city is adding a completely different flavor to this show and especially visually. I think that it looks great on camera and it offers up a whole new platform for different types of characters, English-type characters, you know Scottish with different types of accents on the show. So I think definitely the weather as well is adding to that whole general vibe.
I guess I want to talk a little bit about your chemistry with Kiefer. A guy like that who you know that character is so intense, how do you go in there each week and try to match his intensity?
Yvonne Strahovski: Well, I mean I don’t really think about it that way. I sort of think about it more what would Kate do? It’s about being as prepared as you possibly can be as an actor, know the script, know the scenes, know what’s going on in the scenes and be ready for anything to change. So, yes, I’m prepared as I possibly can be, which I think pays off in the end because we do shoot at any extremely fast pace. The show, especially when we’re working with director Jon Cassar and when you’ve got Kiefer and Jon Cassar on set then it works very fast, which I like. That’s the energy of the show and I feel prepared for those days when we do work that fast. So, yes, I hope that answers your question.
How come the writers didn’t work in your own natural accent into this?
Yvonne Strahovski: I’m not sure. I think that’s more a question for the writers, but I would assume just purely because it is the CIA, which is American and they just wanted an American character. God, it would be so weird to do something like that in my own accent. I’m really not used to doing anything in my own accent any more so it is actually more normal for me to put on an accent. I feel more comfortable doing that than doing my own, which is odd at this point.
There’ s a fair amount of violence in 24 and Dexter of course has gruesome scenes, do you have any qualms or concerns about being in violent shows?
Yvonne Strahovski: I’m not opposed to being in those types of shows. TV, film, theater; it’s considered art and art is a reflection of life, and what happens in life includes violence, unfortunately, and that’s the world that we live in today. So I think to steer clear of that, I mean that’s the purpose of art really is to reflect human nature in the world and the life that we live in and some of it is horrific and absolutely awful and some of it is really amazing. So I hope that answers your question.
What would you like to do next since you do sort of have now this track record of agent and agent and serial killer-type. Are you looking to do something really different for your next role?
Yvonne Strahovski: Well, I do, I mean up to this point I feel things have been pretty different. I think the serial killer was different to the CIA character on 24. They’re on different sides of the law there for one. I think so far I’ve been lucky enough to explore other things outside of those roles as well like when I did my Broadway debut, it was probably about a year and half ago now, which was a period piece from the ‘30s where I got to play a Jersey girl. So it’s been pretty good so far, I mean I know some of those roles are less known than something like 24. But I do feel blessed to have had a variety of different roles and I hope to keep exploring different types of roles in different types of mediums like theater, film, and television.
You have said in the past if it scares you, you should do it. What about 24 scares you?
Yvonne Strahovski: Yes, I’m going to go back to that thing that I keep bringing up is that role quality that this show has. Because I think some or most things that I’ve done have been quite stylized or just a little more, how do I say, TV-esque. I don’t know if that really, I think by TV-esque I just mean more stylized and a little bit more heightened, perhaps, whereas even though the circumstances in 24 are heightened I believe that the style of performance that you have to bring as an actor is not heightened on 24 and that’s the challenging part of 24 that I like. I hope that makes sense.
What’s the difference between the style that you might have used in Dexter versus 24, in the way, in that context?
Yvonne Strahovski: Well I think Dexter, if I’m going to say what was the most similar to 24, I would say it was Dexter. If I was going to say what was the most different, it would be something like Chuck where that was sort of more heightened. As I was talking about the show before, it’s sort of ridiculous circumstances where we get to be silly because it’s a comedy.
Dexter was sort of more similar to 24, but it’s still sort of felt like because of the character that I was playing, because it was so far removed from my personal self, playing someone who is capable of taking another person’s life, I think that’s why maybe I felt less real about that role than I do about the 24 role, if that makes sense?