As counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer in the hit FOX series “24,” Kiefer Sutherland played a man who had to keep his feelings inside in order to save the world. In his new FOX series, “Touch” — which had a preview on Jan. 25 and has its regular time-slot premiere on Thursday, March 22 — Sutherland’s character, Martin Bohm, is still having a global impact, but his methods couldn’t be more different.
Calling in from a location near Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Sutherland tells Zap2it, “Jack Bauer, as a character, is so repressed; that was his job. His job was to be able to pocket his emotions, so he could take on what was seemingly an insurmountable task.
“Martin is almost the opposite, where his emotions are very much out front. He has a very simple desire, which is to develop, as he perceives it, as normal as possible a relationship with his son. What he finds out, as soon as he starts to forget or let go of what he perceives as a normal relationship with his son and starts actually engaging with his son on his son’s level, or making an effort at that, that’s when the relationship just starts to grow.
“That is a very outwardly emotional process for him, so, yeah, from a character standpoint, it’s a wonderful change to have that opportunity.”
Bohm is the widowed father of an 11-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz), who is emotionally challenged and refuses to allow himself to be touched, but who is obsessed with numbers and busies himself with rebuilding discarded cellphones.
Caring and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything he can think of to get through to his son, but he comes to discover that Jake has a unique ability to perceive patterns in the world unseen by most people, invisible threads that connect seemingly unrelated individuals and events.
Jake is trying to put back together pieces of a world that has become fractured, and his father is drawn into that quest, with the help of social worker Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and professor Arthur Teller (Danny Glover).
Tim Kring (“Heroes”) created the series and wrote the pilot; other producers are Francis Lawrence, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope, Sutherland, Suzan Bymel and Carol Barbee. “It’s a procedural drama,” says Sutherland, “but it’s a story about fate. It’s based on a Chinese fable called ‘The Red Thread,’ which means that every person who’s supposed to come into contact with each other over the course of a lifetime is connected by this loose red thread. This thread can stretch, and it can bend, and it can turn, but it can’t break.
“Somehow, in our society, we have broken that thread. My son is a misdiagnosed severely autistic boy, but actually he’s just farther along than we are. He’s more deeply evolved, like the people who finally stood up straight when 99 percent of the population was still bent over. He is trying to put this red thread back together.
“In the context of that, fate, what is supposed to happen, is not always good or good for a specific person. What’s interesting is, in his effort to put things back the way they’re supposed to be — which is Jake’s goal — he has me doing things that are sometimes not what I would want to do. There’s a kind of friction in that.”
“Touch” also weaves in themes of spirituality, the sense that the lives of people, while appearing entirely separate on the surface, are woven together in ways that they may not be able to perceive but which may be understandable to a higher intelligence.
In his 1938 book “Brighton Rock,” author Graham Greene writes, “You can’t conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”
“There’s a beautiful word, ‘strangeness,'” Sutherland says. “It’s too big to fathom and control, so we share that responsibility with God or a variance of the different aspects of spirituality to help us navigate that. The show looks into that as well.”
It’s also about the power of one.
“This show is basically saying, you have an effect at every point of every day,” Sutherland says. “The way you interact within our society and the world does create ripples in the stream, and those ripples have profound effects.
“It’s making me think about things in a way that I really haven’t before.”
And certain episodes might even have an effect on the world, through what Kring calls the “theme of interconnectivity.”
“As we go forward,” he says, “I would love to be able to have some of the stories that we tackle, especially some of the global issues, call attention to various issues around the world and use the power of storytelling to create some positive change out there.”