Such like the shot clock in professional basketball, Kiefer Sutherland says the real-time narrative of Fox’s “24″ adds a unique rhythm to the drama series’ performances.

“For us as actors, it’s an absolute benefit,” explains Sutherland, who won a Golden Globe in February for his role as Jack Bauer, “24′s” sleep-deprived cell phone-wielding special agent. “Just having that clock running in the corner adds a sense of urgency.”

Interestingly, he agreed to star in “24″ quite unaware that the term “real time” co-executive producer Stephen Hopkins kept blabbering on about was actually pretty important.

“I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, what’s the dialogue?’” Sutherland explains. “It wasn’t until I shot the pilot that I realized how seriously they were going to take the time element. But when I saw where Stephen was going with this, that’s where it became exiting.”

Indeed, Sutherland quickly learned to appreciate the dramatic challenges associated with the series’ tricky continuity-intensive concept — that each episode represents one hour of one 24-episode day.

And even more important to the veteran movie actor, he began to gain interest in the complexities of Jack Bauer, a flawed but essentially good man who must continually make snap decisions regarding the lives of his oft-kidnapped wife and daughter, a targeted presidential candidate and himself.

“Just in the way he rationalizes the expenditure of human life, this is a very scary person,” Sutherland says. “This is a guy who’s in an extreme situation, who will be successful in aspects of his job and unsuccessful in others. He’s human, and I like that.”

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