Interview: Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland

So, where do I start!? Kiefer Sutherland, the son of iconic Canadian actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas, grandson of Tommy Douglas, began acting early. By 18 he had landed his first leading film role in “The Bay Boy”, which earned him his first Genie nomination. A few years later he would appear in some of the era’s most notable films; “Stand by Me”, “The Lost Boys”, ”Young Guns”, “A Few Good Men”…. Dozens of films, successful TV shows, he even made a cameo appearance in Zoolander 2! The last decade saw his debut on Broadway and his depiction of character Jack Bauer in the hit TV series 24. That role turned Kiefer into a household name and America’s highest paid TV actor. He is currently filming a new series “Designated Survivor” a political drama set in America. A distinguished film and television acting career spanning over 30 years, his latest role as country music singer songwriter and performer Kiefer Sutherland, maybe his greatest “role” yet. Performing songs about the moments in his own life, Kiefer gives us a glimpse of the man who we’ve only known as “an actor playing a part.” With his debut CD “Down In A Hole” moments away from release, he is out touring his tunes and sharing himself in a whole new way. I caught up with the, surprisingly approachable and down to earth,  Kiefer Sutherland by phone while he waited for sound check….

Mb: Hello Kiefer. How are you?
KS: Hi Michael. I’m great, how are you?
Mb: Thanks for taking time…
KS: Thanks for asking!
Mb: I bet you’re a busy guy, with your “brand new career.”
KS: (laughs) I don’t think of it as a brand new career, but we have been touring for the last few months. We’re playing a lot. As many dates as possible. I think we’ve managed to get 60 dates in, in a very short amount of time. Ya, I don’t think of it as a different career, just another way for me to tell a story. Which is what I’ve always loved about acting and I’ve approached it that way, especially in regard to the shows… and making the album. It’s just, in this case I’m not playing a character and the stories are mine, and quite personal. I liken it to the closest thing I’ve ever had to a diary. But so far, it’s just been an amazing experience.
Mb: And different from film or TV, you now have a live audience in front of you.
KW: I’ve done a lot of theatre, but very different from that as well. When you go to do a play, there’s a set decorum within the context of the theatre and when you go to live music show, you’re almost asking the audience to do the complete opposite. You’re asking them to get out of their seat! You’re asking them to move and interact with you in a very different way. When I started, I actually thought I’d have some understanding of what it was like to play live, I’ve been playing for the last few years, but I’m surprised at how little any of my experience, especially as an actor, translated to the band and the band playing live.
Mb: A whole different bag of hammers… and quite a pay cut, welcome to the music world!
KS: (laughs) Ya, it’s inverted. But again, what is interesting is… I’ve been shooting a show called Designated Survivor as well, and I was quite surprised at how much that experience, playing live for a month, influenced how I was working as an actor. I was very surprised about that. Again, the common denominator being, how do you tell a story and how do you communicate an idea. I was surprised. I thought it would be the other way around. I thought the acting would help me with the live performing as a musician and the fact is, playing out in all these little clubs helped me as an actor.
Mb: What’s it done for you? What’s the new insight?
KS: Well I think, again, as an actor I think you, at least I should only speak for myself, I spend so much time crafting the character and what that character is going to be. I think sometimes if you get too clever you can forget about the honesty and opening yourself up to a degree that makes you more accessible to the audience. I think with these songs being so personal… during a show I talk about where I was when I wrote them, and why I wrote them…. it kind of opened up that way, when I was playing with the band, it forced me to let my guard down a little as an actor and open up a bit there, if that makes any sense.
Mb: The new TV show Designated Survivor, it’s about politics and I know you’ve got political opinions…
KS: Politics played a huge part in my growing up, obviously with my grandfather being the Premier of Saskatchewan and ultimately…
Mb: (bursting in) One of the greatest Canadians of all time!
KS: …the federal leader of the NDP, that was the discussion at our table when I was growing up.
Mb: So what was Christmas like with Tommy Douglas?
KS: Well, I spent Christmas with my mom and also my dad, but every summer, I have a twin sister Rachel, and she and I would go up to Ottawa to my Grampa and Grandma Irma and spend about 4 days in Ottawa, which I would spend with my sister eating hot dogs at the top of the House of Commons and then they would take us to Wakefield where they have a summer home. It was just amazing. I don’t know how much you know about MP’s back in those days, but I think my Grandpa’s best friend in Parliament was a wonderful MP named Stanley Knowles. I was maybe 10 years old and there was this incredible sense of community, at least at that time, and we were taken care of. It was also amazing because from the time that my Grandpa passed when I was 19 years old… it was amazing to see how important the discussions were that they having not only in the House of Commons but in our own home, whether it was the desperate effort to protect healthcare on a federal level or whether it was the FLQ crisis in 1970 which I remember and I was only 5 years old… it was really heavy stuff. It was interesting at dinner knowing everything that was going to be discussed had massive ramifications for people across Canada. The was a very interesting thing to be part of, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of my grandfather and all he accomplished. So those memories are very special for me.
[publicist: “Michael time to wrap it up”]
Mb: Kiefer, thanks very much for taking time to talk with me, we look forward to you coming to Peterborough and your new CD. Continued success.
KS: Ah, bless your heart man, I’m so sorry, we’ve got to go do sound check in a minute. Hopefully we can have a longer chat down the road.
Mb: Well thanks again for taking the time, after all you’re a huge mega star and we’re just a little magazine in Peterborough Ontario…
KS: Dude, I used to play hockey up there and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be coming back to play!