Although its only been eight months since Jack Bauer’s last really bad day, a lot has changed. There’s a new setting (CTU goes underground in New York), new cast mates (Freddie Prinze Jr, Katee Sackhoff, Chris Diamantopoulos and Anil Kapoor to name a few) and of course a new threat (Something to do with a peace conference, terrorists, moles, you know, the usual!)
That said, as the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. And while Jack Bauer busies himself with saving our butts, fans will be able to count on one familiar face returning to CTU. Turns out, Mary Lynn Rajskub’s Chloe O’Brian is going through a crisis of her very own. An economic one. No seriously. In what is one of 24’s most surprisingly plot twists to date, it’s a lack of funds that brings O’Brian back into the CTU fold. And here to talk about her return, what it’s like to work with a whole new slew of agents, and the finer points of picking a wardrobe that one will be stuck with all year, is the actress herself, who was kind enough to take some time in between takes on the new and improved set of CTU to offer up some intel on the new season.
The TV Addict: Tell us everything you can tell us about this season.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Well, um… This season there’s a terrorist threat and there’s this peace conference happening that’s disrupted. You’re like, “I didn’t really want to hear about the plot of the show.”
It’s always a challenge interviewing a cast member on 24, because there’s so little you’re really allowed to spill.
I know. And… CTU’s on a spaceship this year. Not really, but it is underground. It’s under Roosevelt Island. My desk is down there. We’re paperless.
What do you think of the computer screens being underneath the glass desks?
This was my design and I hope you like it as much as I do. It’s so you can’t get to it. Because I often want to smash my computer, but this way there’s an extra barrier between being able to smash it.
How much thought goes into your wardrobe at the start of the season, knowing that odds are fairly good you’ll be wearing the exact same thing for the next nine to ten months of shooting?
Every year, I’m like, “Can I please wear a bikini and get muscles sculpted?” And they say no, it would be distracting. Every year I go, “Can I please get long braid hair extensions as Chloe? Can I please wear a long robe like Maude?” “No!” Every year, “No.”
Can you talk about some of the new actors this season?
We got a great new…! What kind of a line is that? [with a country twang] “Guys, we ain’t had a crew like this since… I can’t remember when!” Katee Sackhoff, Mykelti Williamson, Freddie Prinze Jr…. How cool is that? I was pretty nervous when I first saw Katee. I said, “Ah, there’s Starbuck!” And then I forgot, and now she’s Dana Walsh to me. And Mykelti as my boss, Mr. Hastings, had quite the few clashes already. It’s just been really, really fun.
You’ve been here the second longest of anyone in the cast.
What’s it like when new blood comes in? Do you have a hazing ritual? Are you nice to everyone?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: You know, it’s just, honestly, those first couple of days where I’m nervous and they’re nervous and then we’re all in it together after that.
Chloe’s had some antagonism with a lot of her coworkers, but obviously as time went on she came to bond with Jack and with Bill. Is this a whole new group for her to clash with, as the season begins?
Yes. I would say there is more clashing than getting around, especially at the beginning – especially since my character has been away being a mom for a couple of years and so I come back and everything has changed and Katee’s character tries to be really nice and gives me a pat like, “Don’t worry, you’ll catch up!” And I just want to kill her. And then Mykelti does not take into account the ideas that I have about some stuff that is going on, and I’m always kind of annoyed with him… as he is with me.
Do you have a nice new headset this year?
[Sighs] I got a little ear thing, yes, but it always falls off.
It seems like Chloe’s the type, after all of these days, wouldn’t she get used to, “Oh, here we go again”?
I thought you were going to say, “It seems like she would just have a computer implanted in her so that she never had to use a headset.” It would be, like, under her skin or something. Um… What do you mean?! What are you trying to do? Break the fourth wall? Like I’m gonna stop and look at the camera and be like, “Not this again!”
It seems like she would sort of toughen up to it… I’m totally botching this. But is there any sense that she’s…
Well, I think that she has. I think that if you go back and watch some of the earlier episodes, they wrote it very much like I was quoting rules and like, “You’ve got to do this and this!”, and I was lashing out at people. Now I still lash out at people, but I have more of a confidence about, “No, listen to me about this,” and I have a stronger bond with Jack. But it’s still upsetting, the stuff that’s happening. I don’t think you ever get used to that. So you know, we’re always playing with that. All this extreme stuff happening, but yet it’s still part of our everyday jobs. I’m not breaking down into tears every two minutes. But also, Chloe’s a mom, so that puts another interesting reason in there to question and to feel differently about what’s going on.
How old is her baby now?
We can’t remember. But Prescott, I do remember his name is Prescott. No, we filmed him! He looked older now. He’s like four. We filmed him last year, remember? In the bed? I was like, “Bye, Mommy might die now!” He was like three. He’s like three or four… Oh god. I feel a little sick. I’m suddenly like, “Is my son five on the show?” They grow up so fast. He’s not one of the primary storylines! The love of a mother is the same, no matter the age of a child!
Are you used to the techno-babble at this point or do you still stumble when they have you say some extremely complicated thing?
It’s weird, because there’s a certain rhythm that you get into. Like if I do have guest spots and other jobs and they say, “Here’s your second outfit,” I’ll be like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I wear the same outfit.” I’m totally used to that. There is a rhythm, but at the same time I never get used to saying that stuff, because you can’t really attach it to anything logical, especially when you’re as dumb as I am about computer stuff. I can’t even stand updating my facebook. I just play with Play Doh at home. Finger-paint.
Given your background and your comedy talent, is it funny to you that you are on this show that is very stoic and serious and action oriented?
Yeah. This has been my life now. It’s kind of funny to look back, now that this is the norm for me. But looking back before the show, I never went on dramatic auditions. It was all comedy. In fact, a FOX executive – she no longer works here – but kind of gave me a backhanded compliment, because they would see me for all the rounds of comedy pilots and all the guest starring comedy things. She goes, “We didn’t know you could do drama!” I really thought I would get fired those first few episodes. Not that the approach is any different for me, but I think that the perception in the business… I was just used to going out on comedy. That’s where I went, you know?
What do you think it is about the character that struck a chord with the audience and the producers? She’s survived massive death around her, on a show that’s not known to keep characters for too long.
Well, number one, I think it was Joel Surnow, for bringing me in and trusting to create this character for me and with me and that I did get passed that four to six episode hump, where I was just doing weird things and people were just like, “She’s weird and annoying.” And then it was the writers writing me being loyal to Jack that I think sort of gave it that extra depth to the character. “Oh, that’s interesting!” Because she’s not just an annoying, bitchy, weird genius, but now we have more stake in here, because she’s helping our hero. And then that got really interesting for me too. And people would say to me that they know somebody like this character, that they work with.
You can catch a brand new episode of 24 starting at 8PM tonight on FOX (GlobalTV in Canada)