In the finale of “Rabbit Hole,” which premiered on Paramount+ on Sunday, May 7, Kiefer Sutherland’s corporate espionage expert John Weir goes up against a shadowy criminal mastermind named Crowley who is said to “own” two judges on the Supreme Court. If the plot sound strangely familiar, a quick look at current events will tell you why, as real-life Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas‘ extravagant windfalls from well-heeled Republican donor Harlan Crow continue to dominate headlines.
It’s not the first time that the plot of a Kiefer Sutherland series mirrored current events: Before the WGA strike went into effect, TheWrap caught up with the actor and producer to discuss how he’s back in the same territory as his iconic ’00s series “24” — and whether he and “Rabbit Hole” co-creators Glenn Ficarra and John Requa want to come back for more. [SPOILERS for the Season 1 finale below]:
Could the events of “Rabbit Hole” be any more timely with the reveal that someone has essentially bought two Supreme Court judges?
(Laughs) You know, with “24,” there used to be an event that would take place, a real event in the news, that would make our show look shockingly relevant, given that we had made it almost a year earlier. The terrible events of 9/11, no one could foresee that. And that was just bad luck on our part that we dealt with the hijacking of a plane and a terrorist bombing [in Season 1] and that they would be so closely linked.
The greatest threat in America for our second season was white nationalists. And the third season was Russia, and the fourth season was China. I talked to [“24” executive producer Howard Gordon] about this while we were having a beer one day, and I asked, “Are you fishing for that kind of stuff?” He said, “No, all I do is I read the newspaper and then I try to imagine the worst thing that can happen and I write about it. And then it just keeps happening.” We’re just going through a decade where we keep imagining the worst thing that’s going to happen and then it happens.
It makes for good TV, though.
It does and it makes for current television. We would like to be less relevant and have better things happening in the world.
For better or for worse, we’re living in a world where it’s very difficult to discern between what’s actually happening and what someone says is happening. The amount of commentary that surrounds all of the daily events that take place are kind of extraordinary. So it’s very easy for a character like John Weir to manipulate situations to his benefit and John and Glenn use that as a jumping off point.
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The ending left it open for a potential second season. Are you planning on that?
We are. We’re planning on it because we’re hopeful people. If this were a network show, at least based on my experience of almost 20 years of doing network shows, we would definitely know if we weren’t going. But the world is different with the streaming services. They get their data differently. They make their decisions based on a lot of different criteria.
So we’re kind of waiting, but we know that the show’s done well. I can feel that walking down the street; people come up, they’re engaged in the show and they talk to me about it. And trust me, I’ve done enough work over the years where you put something out and all you hear crickets. This is not that experience. So I’m very glad about that.
I certainly hope that we’re going to make a second season, because I really love the characters.
I loved your scene with Peter Weller, who played Crowley. Or, at least one of the Crowleys. How did you get him on board?
Peter and I got to work on “24” together, and I’ve just been a huge fan of his forever. I’m laughing, because he had, like, eight pages of unbelievable exposition. Friends wouldn’t normally do that to each other. I owe him in a big way.
We were shooting outside a huge courtyard… I don’t know if you’ve been to Toronto anytime recently, but Toronto is the loudest city on the planet: 50% of it is under construction and the other 50% are partying. Between the music, the drinking and the cranes, it was a loud night. And Peter Weller was such a trooper, and he just burned through that dialogue like a champ. And he made a scene that was largely expositional incredibly dynamic. And enjoyable to watch.
We were scheduled to shoot till six in the morning, and we got out of there by three o’clock. As Peter’s older, and I’m older, it’s nice when you get a chance to go in and nail it like that, because we get to look at all the younger folks, and say, “See, we can still remember some stuff.”
Weir wins the battle, at least for now, but he couldn’t have done it without the help of Hailey (Meta Golding), his father (Charles Dance) and Homm (Rob Yang).
The thing that I enjoyed the most is that with all of the characters, and specifically John Weir, he didn’t trust anybody. He didn’t want to ever rely on anybody else, because that made you vulnerable. He wanted to absolutely control the narrative always, at all costs, no matter what. And as those things started to become threatened and he was not in control of the situation, he did have to trust certain people to get from point A to point B.
He’s definitely a dubious character and I think he becomes inherently a better character at the end. And it was really subtle, and I loved what John and Glenn did with that.
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Have you and the showrunners talked about what a second season would be?
This is complete speculation, but I don’t see [John Weir] ever going back to the boutique business of corporate espionage, those days are gone. There was something very gratifying about doing something that was important for the better of the world, as opposed to something that was better for him. I think [he] is going to go in that direction, where he can use the skill set that he has for something good,
I do think that this experience has changed him dynamically, because you can’t forget that the team that he had in place for all those years, they all died as a result of this. There was a real cost. And I think we haven’t begun to see what that cost has done to him. And I don’t think he as a character has been able to process that yet.
The final “Rabbit Hole” episode of Season 1, “Ace in the Hole,” is now streaming on Paramount+.