Interview: 24: Legacy Star Corey Hawkins Talks About Playing Eric Carter
24 is back, as 24: Legacy hits the UK on Wednesday 15th February at 9pm on FOX. To help celebrate it’s return, we’ve been sent an interview with lead actor Corey Hawkins (The Walking Dead, Straight Outta Compton), who plays Eric Carter – the man who’s inherited a certain Mr. Bauer’s ability to have a very bad day…
Sergeant Eric Carter (Hawkins) was the leader of elite squad of U.S. Army Rangers, who six months ago in Yemen, killed terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid. In the aftermath, Bin-Khalid’s followers declared a fatwah against Carter, his squad and their families, forcing them into federal witness protection. But when their is an attempt on Carter’s own life, it becomes clear that somehow, his team has been exposed. To thwart further attacks, Carter enlists Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto, Homeland), who quarterbacked the raid that killed Bin-Khalid. She’s a brilliant and ambitious intelligence officer who has stepped down from her post as National Director of CTU to support her husband, Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits, Star Wars, Dexter, The West Wing), in his campaign for President of the United States. Together, Carter and Ingram uncover a sophisticated terrorist network that will force them to ask: “Who can we trust?” As they battle Bin-Khalid’s devotees, they are forced to confront their own identities, families and pasts.
Q: As the name suggests, 24 has a huge legacy. How did you feel being cast as the lead in a show whose name is connected with a massive global fan base and reputation already?
A: I remember, to talk about a different project, when Dre wanted me to play him in the movie – the stakes were very very very high. I had to do it right because if I didn’t, I don’t know if I’d ever be able to go back to California again. Or LA, at least. The natural instinct is to run in the opposite direction. So, when they offered me this, and they sent the script – which was a page turner – my mind went to not how was I going to fill Kiefer’s shoes or Jack Bauer’s shoes, or any of that; it went to the fact that this was really good, and I wanted to see where this opportunity could take me in terms of this character, in terms of who Eric is, in terms of his day. And when you watch the pilot, you just fall into Eric Carter’s world – you don’t try to compare it to Jack Bauer’s. I’m not playing Jack Bauer. Jack is still out there, and you’re peeking into another guy’s day entirely, and that’s all I had to focus on. That’s a lot easier than the pressure of trying to step into Kiefer’s shoes.
Q: So, Eric Carter is not Jack Bauer, but who is he?
A: I’m still discovering who he really is and where he is coming from, what his demons are, what the skeletons are in his closet and what makes him tick. We see a hero who looks like he has it all together, but we watch it fall apart towards the end of the season. Now that we are almost through with filming the season, I know what his mission is, and I know where he is, physically, but I’m still piecing him together. Emotionally, he’s torn between the responsibilities of home and of his wider family. I think he’s always been torn in that way, and that’s something you’ll see in the relationship with him and his brother, Issac, and maybe eventually other family members that will come into play. But you’re going to see a man who fought for a country that didn’t always represent him and so I get to play with that too, and right now, emotionally, it’s all a mess. The great thing about 24 is that as soon as you get to attack those moments, something else is happening, so he doesn’t have time to deal with it. So things start to fall apart, but he doesn’t have time to deal with them, and by the end, where does that leave him? That’s the question.
Q: The role is a very active one – do you do many of your own stunts?
A: Yes. I do. They let me go for it because they liked the authenticity of everything I did in the pilot. My stunt double will shoot some stuff, but then I shoot it after him, and they will go through it and use my stuff wherever they can. One day I accidentally knocked myself out on set though. There was a door, and it wasn’t even a stunt that I had to do – I had to peek my head outside the door, where people were shooting, and then go back inside. And we rehearsed it a thousand times, and when we came to shoot it, I peeked my head outside the door, and people are shooting, and I’m really into it, and then, BOOM, this door came out of nowhere. I ran into a stationary door and knocked myself out – I hope I can get through the rest of the series unharmed.
Q: Did you think to yourself that Jack Bauer would never knock himself out by running into a door?
A: Well, surprisingly, I found out that Kiefer had the same issues – that it wouldn’t be the fancy stuff, the running up onto cars or anything that was tricky, but the simple stuff, like walking in a straight line, not running into walls or bumping into cameras. Those are the moments on set that make the atmosphere and keep it lively – then we reset and go again.
Q: So you had a conversation with Kiefer Sutherland before you took on the role?
A: He was so gracious in reaching out to me, but we didn’t talk in very the beginning, partly because I was away filming Kong: Skull Island, and partly because I wanted to go through the process and experience it all myself, find all of the things that make Eric tick without being influenced. Figuring all that out is a really personal thing. But when we finally talked, it was great, because here was someone who really understands, who really gets it. And I don’t mean about being number one on the call sheet, or the lead in a TV show, but about this particular TV show, which is a very different kind of best, with the realtime aspect of it. He’s really the only other person who knows what this particular journey is, what being on this show, with this kind of format, is like, where every single moment, except for the commercial breaks, is captured on film. He also spoke to me about surprising myself and letting it go, and seeing where it takes me, and that’s been the fun part – I like to control things, but working on this set, you have to take it as it comes, and things can really change and surprise you, and you have to go with it. He was also just telling me to sleep a lot, and to rest as much as I can.
Q: How else does the realtime aspect of the show mean it’s a different experience for an actor?
A: You have to just work moment to moment, focus on what’s in front of you, and what you are dealing with. That’s easier in some ways than a show with a lot of backstory – it’s like, I’m sitting here, talking to you right now, that’s all we have to focus on.
Q: Did the fact that Kiefer was onboard as an executive producer, and therefore giving the show his blessing, mean a lot to you?
A: I don’t think I would have done it, actually, if Kiefer wasn’t on board and in favour of it. The fact that I knew that he was, and that he liked my work, made all the difference. Just like Compton – I wouldn’t have done it if Dre and Cube and Easy’s family and Ren and Yella were not on board.
Q: Were you a fan of 24 before you took on this role?
A: Oh yes, I was a huge fan. I was 13 years old when 24 started, so I basically grew up on it. I was a young kid and Jack Bauer was the hero that I looked up to. And now children who look like me get to see me as that hero, and that’s really exciting to me.
Q: You’ve had experience of working in a huge and wildly popular franchise before, with The Walking Dead – how did that help you prepare for this role?
A: I was a huge fan of the Walking Dead before I joined that too, and Scott Gimple – the showrunner – is a good friend. He was great to speak to before I joined and prepared me for how much the fans would want to know what was going to happen, and how much noise there would be around it. But I’m not on social media, so I don’t hear the good, and I don’t hear the bad, and that, for me, is really helpful in focusing. You just can’t worry about what people think about a show like this – you just have to be in it and experience it, and find the joy of making it, because it doesn’t come around that often. I’m very blessed to be in this position and to be a black brother making this sort of standout television. I never saw that happen when I was growing up, so it means a lot for me to be able to be a sort of hope in a time where there’s not much of it.
Q: The technology featured in the show, and used in making it, has evolved enormously since 24 started. What is the most exciting aspect of that for you?
A: We just made some Samsung VR virtual reality stuff, and that’s never ever been done. It’s called The Raid and it’s a six-minute short film where the virtual reality moves, and it’s the actual raid that we talk about in the show. You can watch everything, while bullets fly past you, and you can play it again, and watch certain people’s reactions. And as the season goes on, you’ll start to understand from this crossover VR, things that will help you understand exactly what’s going on in this story. It’s another level of viewership, another level of experience of the show.
24: Legacy hits the UK on Wednesday 15th February at 9pm on FOX.
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.