Kiefer Sutherland: ‘Rabbit Hole’ turns the tables on a master of deception


"Rabbit Hole" premieres Sunday. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

“Rabbit Hole” premieres Sunday. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

NEW YORK, March 26 (UPI) — 24 and Designated Survivor icon Kiefer Sutherland says he wanted to play corporate espionage operative John Weir in the high-tech thriller, Rabbit Hole, because the role allowed him to explore what it would be like to suddenly go from a position of great power to one of extreme jeopardy.

“It’s fantastic any time a character makes a dynamic shift,” Sutherland told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

“Once that character has been exposed and been made vulnerable, it’s very easy for an audience to identify with that character and then attach themselves to that character. It’s just something that I’ve been aware of in my career that those are great opportunities.”

Premiering Sunday on Paramount+, the show is from writer-directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra and co-stars Charles Dance, Meta Golding, Enid Graham, Jason Butler Harner, Walt Klink and Rob Yang.

Sutherland described Weir as “an absolute expert in deception,” who is hired by companies to manipulate situations to make rivals behave in certain ways that allow Weir’s employers to take advantage of them.

“He lives in a world of manipulation and, In a matter of moments, he goes from the hunter to the hunted, makes 180-degree shift and literally is being outscammed to the degree that he is literally fighting for his life and has to do everything to not only protect himself, but also the people he cares about,” the 56-year-old Emmy-winner said.

The show is packed with action and plot twists, but it’s nuanced and even funny at times.

“There’s still a beautiful sense of humor and a kind of understanding and sarcasm that the character has,” Sutherland said.

“He’s very witty and you have a story line that is ‘life or death desperate’ over here and then he’s falling in love with someone he knows he shouldn’t be, but he can’t help himself.”

Asked if working on the show made him rethink his relationship with technology since it can be easily hacked and exploited by those who know how, Sutherland laughed and replied, “I have NO relationship with technology.”

“I’m the last person you’ll know that doesn’t have a computer. I still write my letters with a pen. I write in cursive,” he added. “I work in a profession where I don’t need to do that. I’ve got a little library card and I can get through my day the way I always have. I don’t struggle with it the way I’ve watched my children and grandchildren struggle with it.”

To prepare for the role, Sutherland spoke to the filmmakers and experts about the pros and cons of technology and data collection.

“There’s an incredible amount of data being collected on you, so that it can then tell you what it thinks you want to hear and watch. That’s what I think is the really scary part,” he said.

“Our news is being broken down and re-disseminated based on what we want to see and what we want to hear, NOT on what’s actually happening. That’s on all sides of the political spectrum. It’s not gender-specific. It’s really for the gamut and it’s something we really need to be aware of.”

Sutherland thinks technology will ultimately turn out to be a power for positivity, however, right now it is a little like “the wild west.”

“Just like the Industrial Revolution 100 years ago, it took us decades to adapt to, I think it’s going to take a minute for us to catch on [to technology],” he said.

“It’s not going to be without a few bumps in the road and I think Rabbit Hole, as a television show, kind of illustrates what some of those bumps can be,” the actor added. “In the right hands, technology can be really, really dangerous as well as it can be really helpful and really good. The more informed we are, the better off we are and I’m probably going to have to get a computer now that I said that.”

Although he has been one of the world’s most famous TV actors for most of the 21st century, Sutherland started out as a teen idol and movie star, appearing in 1980s and ’90s classics like Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns, Flatliners, The Three Musketeers, A Few Good Men, The Cowboy Way and A Time to Kill. He also has been recording country music and touring with The Kiefer Sutherland Band in recent years.

It’s not the career he expected to have when he began acting.

“When I started, there were eight studios making 50-some-odd movies a year and when I started out, if you were making feature films, you would never dream of doing television,” Sutherland said.

But the entertainment landscape changed with movie studios closing down and producing less projects, while cable television and streaming services exploded.

“There was just this shift of where the work was. The $8 million movies — the Stand By Mes, the Terms of Endearments, The Ordinary Peoples — those kinds of smaller dramas were getting made in television,” he said.

“If you had a cape and some tights, off you went, and if you wanted to do the other stuff, television was where you had to go.”

Sutherland felt fortunate to have “stumbled into” 24 in 2001 because the show became a global phenomenon.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never done a television show before. I was just happy to have a job and then just incredibly happy that it lasted a decade and I could watch my daughters grow up,” he said.

“It had a profound positive effect on my life. But I also just couldn’t get over how excited I was to work that much. If you’re going to train for the Olympics, you train every day. You don’t get there by running a couple of races once every three years. I really love what I do. All of a sudden, I was the guy who liked doing 24 episodes a year. It worked out great for me.”

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