Kiefer Sutherland: The First Time Video - Rolling Stone
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The First Time: Kiefer Sutherland

Actor talks meeting David Bowie, the similarities between his characters in 24 and Designated Survivor, and the sneaky thrill of performing his own music live

When Kiefer Sutherland was a teenager, his father, the actor Donald Sutherland, took him to see his close friend, David Bowie, in concert. The younger Sutherland remembers wearing black eyeliner to the gig in an attempt to mimic his idol, and after the set, Donald took him backstage to meet Bowie.

Sutherland says he didn’t know just how close Bowie and his dad were when they showed up at the rocker’s dressing room. “He opened the door as we knocked on it, and he looked at me for a long second, and then he looked way up at my father sand said, ‘Oh, you brought your family. Why?’” Sutherland recalls in the latest installment of Rolling Stone’s “The First Time.” “I think they had expected to go out and have a very nice night, and so I realized at that moment that my father was giving up a really nice night out with his friend David Bowie so that I could go see him. So, thank you, dad.”

Elsewhere, Sutherland recalls acting with his father for the first time in the 2015 Western, Forsaken, as well as asserting his new Canadian bona fides by buying Rush’s Hemispheres after moving to the country with his family. He also talks about discovering the similarities between Jack Bauer, the seminal hero from 24, and Tom Kirkman, the character he plays on Designated Survivor, which returns for its third season tomorrow, June 7th.

“Their skill sets were very different,” Sutherland says, “but at the root of the telling both of those stories, they were guys that were being put into impossible situations that they could not win. It was just a question of how much damage would be done. So once I realized that, I found that actually quite comforting as an actor. One guy was a much more physical character and the other guy used his brains and words, but the dynamics were very similar so I tried to lean into that when playing them.”

Sutherland also chats about falling in love with country music and his own music career, including the geographical constraints he put on his band when they first started performing live, and the sneaky thrill of playing his own material.

“We had to play 50 miles outside of Los Angeles because I didn’t want to run into any friends,” Sutherland says. “One of the most exciting things about playing your own song, especially because no one’s heard it, is that if you screw it up, no one will know.”

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