BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org March 21, 2012 8:22PM
After eight seasons of protecting the free world from terrorists on “24,” Kiefer Sutherland wanted a break from television.
The 45-year-old actor worked on some films, took part in a Web series called “The Confession” and starred in a Broadway play. Then a pilot script for a new TV drama, “Touch,” landed in his lap.
“I was halfway through it and I remember thinking, ‘Oh no,’ ” Sutherland said. “I was falling in love with it. By the time I finished, I knew I would be very disappointed with myself if I found myself on the couch … just watching the show as opposed to being a part of it.”
Sutherland spoke to reporters from Moscow, one of the stops on his recent whirlwind tour through Europe to promote “Touch.” The show’s unprecedented global launch has it premiering in more than 100 countries this week.
Fox’s science fiction drama boasts an international appeal with its multi-cultural cast, scenes set in foreign cities and an intriguing premise: People around the world are linked to one another and their lives intersect — with potentially major repercussions — as a result of patterns hidden in numeric sequences.
These patterns are indecipherable to most of us but not to 11-year-old Jake Bohm (David Mazouz). Misdiagnosed as autistic, Jake possesses an uncanny ability to spot these number patterns that show up in disparate places like a school bus and a lottery ticket, for example. His job is to “make the connections for those who need to find each other, the ones whose lives need to touch,” Jake says.
Brief voiceovers are all we hear from Jake; the character is mute on the show. He also can’t stand being touched. These issues initially pose plenty of problems for Jake and his widowed dad, Martin, played by Sutherland.
“We’re embarking on this journey of a father trying to connect with his son and trying to have as normal a relationship as he can under the circumstances,” said Sutherland, whose real-life parenting experience includes being a stepfather to three and having a grown daughter, Sarah, with his first ex-wife.
“I really relate to Martin on that level,” Sutherland said. “Just the dynamic between he and the son I just find so extraordinary. There’s something about when I look into his eyes when he gets into that disconnected mode that breaks my heart.”
Nearly 40 kids auditioned for the part of Jake. David was the first and, in Sutherland’s eyes, the best.
“I don’t think we could’ve been luckier,” said Sutherland, a former adherent to comedian W.C. Fields’ mantra about never working with children or animals. “It’s the thing I feared the most,” he added, “and it’s the thing I came to enjoy the most.”
Created by Tim Kring (“Heroes”), “Touch” also features Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Jake’s social worker and veteran film actor Danny Glover as Arthur Teller, a recluse professor with an expertise in people who possess Jake’s pattern-sensing “gift.”
“It’s something mysterious about him, something otherworldly about him that I was attracted to,” Glover said about his character in “Touch.” This is the first TV series Glover’s been a part of, excluding small guest roles and the occasional story arc.
Mysterious and otherworldly could just as easily describe the show itself, which broadcast a sneak peek of its ambitious pilot in January and ran a repeat of it last week. The initial episode had a lot of ground to cover, introducing the audience not only to the characters but to a mind-bending conceit. And then there was that business of tying together a host of seemingly unrelated story lines into one satisfying — albeit far out there — conclusion.