“What if nobody has any questions?”
That was Mary Lynn Rajskub’s initial concern at the start of a conference call with reporters yesterday. Considering her longtime role as Chloe O’Brian on 24 and the show's upcoming series finale, the prospect of being spared a whole range of queries was highly unlikely. And indeed, Rajskub faced a lengthy and eclectic assortment of questions about everything from Chloe’s wardrobe to whether as a “skilled guitarist” she has any plans for a musical career. Along the way, she downplayed her musical talents, dealt with her dogs and her young son, and even answered questions about 24—all while trying to get out the door for an appearance on Chelsea Lately.
On the importance of the 24's real-time format:
They didn’t think it was going to go. And that’s exactly the reason why it did go. Because it was original, it was different, it was well done, it was a passionate project on every level—from the producers to the writers to the camera crew to Kiefer. Those are all the key players that set the tone and the passion to make this concept that could have been a terrible idea. It could have really fallen apart. But instead it has turned into this really wonderful thing.
Two years, three years, five years in: Okay we have to do this 24-hour concept again and make it fresh. And viewers can feel that it’s challenging. It has the familiarity—with all of the plotlines that they’ve burned through and all of the characters that have died—that the thing that holds it together is this concept, that you know it’s on a time clock. And how are they going to make it work and how are they going to make this fresh again? That kept it exciting all of this time.
On playing Chloe and crafting the character:
Sometimes I would look at what she would say and not believe that anyone would say that in real life. Then once I got the costume on and got on set, finding a way to deliver this stuff while remaining as intensely involved in the events that were happening was really fun.
I was doing comedy and before that I was doing performance art. I did acting as a kid but I went to school for painting so my whole approach to performing is very organic. It’s based on an uncomfortable, nervous character that I started in my stand-up routines where I would stand on stage and say, “What do you guys want? What do you want from me?” I would get laughs by simply saying my name because I was generally very nervous. Truly. And then that became somewhat of a device, but that’s very much a part of me and a huge part of my personality. I definitely use that in the construction of the character and that’s just my style of acting. It’s very natural. So it was imagining what I would be like as a computer expert in these crazy high-stakes situations.
On Chloe’s appeal to fans:
She’s just a really charismatic, awesome person. What can I say? Her going from being that annoying person that people kind of don’t like—and blunt—to then being someone very loyal who can be relied upon and get the job done. That was a surprising turn and that’s what made her compelling and likable.
On whether she's ever clashed with 24’s creators over Chloe’s character:
I think it has worked in my favor that I haven’t fought for stuff. I’ve kind of hoped for stuff but I’ve been pretty hands-off. I’m not one of the people who walked up to the producers’ rooms and knocked on the door and had big conversations. I was very impressed that Carlos Bernard did that, maybe a little bit jealous. He just talked them into making his character come back to life. I thought that was pretty ballsy and pretty awesome. There have been certain years maybe where I would have been able to do more, but at the same time I was very happy that I was that anchor in CTU. I don’t feel bad about maybe leaving them wanting more as well as wanting more myself. But I think this year I’ve gotten to do a lot that I didn’t do before.
On whether she's ever been “significantly concerned” that Chloe would be killed off at some point over the years:
I like that choice of words: “significantly concerned.” Using that word, I would say no, I was not ever significantly concerned but I would sometimes, out of nowhere, have a little panic and go, “Oh God, what if I die?” For the first half, for the first few years, it was more a worry of just being picked up again. Because they could have just as easily phased me out. That’s the beauty of 24, it’s only one day. They could come back the next season and just not have me there. That was a great blessing and compliment to me that they’d have me back. I maybe stupidly, naively believed that I wouldn’t get killed because I was in CTU but we all know that bad things happen at CTU too.
On her working relationship with Kiefer Sutherland and how it has evolved:
My relationship with Kiefer has remarkably been the same since I met him. Which is, on set, when he is playing Jack Bauer, he’s very intense, a little bit scary. He keeps you on the edge of your toes. And he’s just a very impressive guy in terms of his commitment to the story and making it good and keeping the pace.
I was probably a little bit more scared of him when I first started than I ended up being. That would be a change. Because he’s a sweetheart. He helped me get over a hump—and I’ve talked about it a lot—from being a computer geek in CTU to then helping Jack. He helped me with the emotional stuff and the high intensity that I had never done before. Like when I had to look at his computer screen and watch my friend being hurt. I told him that I was really nervous to do that. He stood off-camera and coached me through that to help me to be a better actor.
On whether she’ll miss the long hours working on the show:
Yeah absolutely. Leading up to knowing that this was going to happen, I was nervous in my head about the next job and the next paycheck and very practical things like that. Then when it actually came to an end it was really was all about the crew and the show and missing that experience more than anything. That kind of sneaked up on me and it was really very emotional.
On why 24 will work as a movie:
Why will it work in a film format? Excitement. When I watch 24, I already feel like I’m watching a film. It’s a lot more exciting, it feels like a film. There’s so much going on, and it was really groundbreaking in the filming of it.... How are they going to make into a film? I have no idea and I have not talked to anyone about that. I know that Kiefer is really excited and I did an interview for Extra TV yesterday and they told me that Kiefer told them that there were three movies and they’re planning on three.
[Potential spoliers ahead.]
On whether Chloe will be in the movie(s):
Well I hope so, for gosh sake. I’ve not heard much but I’m very much hoping that I will be involved. I think that could be very interesting to see how that happens… I always get my news from what has already been said in the press. In that regard, I’m sure you guys know more than me so please let me know if you hear that I’m in the movie. Please call me. At home. Any time. Day or night.
On the kinds of changes she would like to see for Chloe—if she’s in the movie
Maybe I’d have an eight-pack. Oooh, that’s so weird, so not a feminine thing to say. Be super muscular and super tan, maybe a lot of hair extensions and a machete? A bikini. In all honesty, it would be fun to do some action. A little. I mean still be a super computer expert, but maybe one on the move, and get some action in there as well.