24 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About ’24,’ Now 20 Years Old

24, Kiefer Sutherland
Isabella Vosmikova/Fox via Everett Collection

That ticking clock doesn’t lie: It’s been two decades since 24 debuted. And those 20 years have not always been kind on the Fox action drama, as you can see below.

Premiering on November 6, 2001, just weeks after the September 11th attacks, 24 followed Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as he and his colleagues at the fictional Counter Terrorism Unit saved the world from terrorist plots over the course of 24 hours, with the action playing out in real-time across 24 episodes a season.

The Emmy-winning series ended in 2010 after eight seasons and a TV movie, but of course, that wasn’t the end of the franchise. The sequel series 24: Live Another Day brought Jack Bauer back in 2014, and the spinoff 24: Legacy aired for one shortened season less than three years later.

24 still has its fans—including the producers and Fox execs who are still trying to revive the format—but it has also drawn sharp rebukes, including some from its own cast members. Read more in the 24 behind-the-scenes facts about 24 below.

1. 24 co-creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran hashed out the 24-hour premise at an IHOP.

2. Originally, the duo imagined 24 as a romantic comedy depicting the 24 hours before the wedding.

3. The writers considered ditching the real-time format sometime after Season 1. Of course, they never did, with writer Virgil Williams telling The Observer that changing the format “would be like killing Tony Soprano.”

4. The CTU headquarters shown in the 24 pilot are actually the offices of Fox Sports, and the show’s set designers recreated the space on a soundstage once the series was picked up.

24, Sarah Clarke

(20th Century Fox Film Corp. via Everett Collection)

5. Sarah Clarke won the role of Nina Myers moments before she started filming, and so the clothes she wears throughout Season 1 are the clothes she wore to her audition.

6. Cast members had to get their hair trimmed every five days to maintain visual continuity for their characters.

7. Sutherland injured his leg stepping out of his trailer on set, so 24 writers gave Jack a shrapnel injury in Season 2 to account for the actor’s real-life limp.

8. The cougar Kim Bauer encounters in Season 2 actually bit actress Elisha Cuthbert. “It almost ripped my thumb off,” she told WENN. “I was rushed to the hospital with two puncture wounds, one of which went right through my hand.”

9. Fans who dialed a phone number shown on screen in a Season 4 episode got a chance to talk to 24 crew members and stars—including Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aylesworth, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

10. Sean Astin landed the role of Lynn McGill in Season 5 after crossing paths with co-creator Joel Surnow at a chiropractor’s office. The chiropractor introduced the duo, and Surnow offered Astin a part on the spot.

11. The late Sen. John McCain had a cameo in Season 5, handing a document folder to Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) in one split-screen scene.

12. 24 ranked as the longest-running American espionage TV show by the time it ended in 2010.

13. Producer Brian Grazer tried to get a 24 feature film off the ground for years. “We couldn’t find the right location, we couldn’t find the right story, and it was always too expensive,” he later explained to Deadline.

14. 24 begat the sequel series 24: Live Another Day and the reboot 24: Legacy, but two other planned spinoffs—a Jack Bauer prequel series and a real-time legal thriller—never achieved liftoff.

24 Mary Lynn Rajskub

Mary Lynn Rajskub in 24 (Kelsey McNeal/20th Century Fox Film Corp. via Everett Collection)

15. The show did, however, spawn a mobisode series—24: Conspiracy, starring Orphan Black’s Dylan Bruce—and a webisode series, The Rookie, starring The Bold and the Beautiful’s Jeremy Ray Valdez.

16. 24 is the only Fox series to have won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series once, taking home the award in 2006.

17. According to a fan tally, Jack Bauer has said “Damn it” 145 times over the course of the series. Of the times he has directed the swear at a person, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) is the most frequent subject of his ire.

18. After he heard that 24 fans had made a drinking game around the “Damn its,” Sutherland littered one particular episode with the catchphrase. “By the end, there had to be 14 ‘Damn its,” he told Rolling Stone in 2006. “And I could just see all these college kids going, ‘Oh, f–k!”

19. Fans have calculated that Jack killed 309 people over the show’s nine seasons, including 52 in Season 6 alone.

20. In 2006, amid controversy about the show’s torture scenes, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, then the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and three military and F.B.I. interrogators met with 24 producers to express concerns about those scenes’ impact on viewers and cadets, according to The New Yorker.

21. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called out 24 for “anti-Arab and anti-Muslim themes” in 2007, noting that the show had shown Jack Bauer battling Arab-American and Muslim-American villains for three out of its first six seasons.

24 Cherry Jones

Cherry Jones  (Joseph Viles/20th Century Fox Film Corp. via Everett Collection)

22. Actress Cherry Jones said on Fresh Air in 2020 that she “compromised” herself by starring as President Allison Taylor on 24, explaining that she took the role to get more time with her ailing parents than her Broadway roles would allow. “I do have a great deal of trouble with violence, but I sold my soul for that one for the time with my parents,” she added.

23. Janeane Garafolo, who starred as Janis Gold in Season 7, alleged on a 2013 podcast episode that 24 co-creator Joel Surnow “wanted Cherry Jones to play the president that season as a slam to Hillary [Clinton].” But the plan backfired, she added, because “the fans loved Cherry Jones as the president.”

24. And speaking of actors with bad memories of the show, Freddie Prinze Jr.—who played Cole Ortiz in Season 8—said he “hated every moment” of filming 24 and wanted to “quit the business” afterward. “Kiefer was the most unprofessional dude in the world,” he told ABC News in 2014. “That’s not me talking trash, I’d say it to his face. I think everyone that’s worked with him has said that.”