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- Interview by Thief12 (Carlo Giovannetti)
Leslie Hope is a Canadian actress who portrayed Teri, the wife of 24 lead character, Jack Bauer, during Season 1. Starting her acting career in the 80's, appearing in shows like Knots Landing and the mini-series War and Remembrance, Hope became a regular in American and Canadian television through the 90's with guest appearances in popular shows like Chicago Hope, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and The Outer Limits. She also appeared in Oliver Stone's Talk Radio, Kansas with Matt Dillon, and Men at Work with Charlie Sheen.
But 2001 changed the course of Hope's career after landing the lead role of Teri Bauer in FOX hit series 24. After her performance turned her into a household name, Hope has had lead and recurring roles in numerous TV shows like The Mentalist, Revolution, NCIS, Tyrant, and most recently Guillermo del Toro's The Strain. Wiki 24 interviewed Hope to know about her life, career, and her experience filming 24.
The following session of questions and answers was done by email, through Hope's manager (Perry Zimel) and his assistant (Amy Parker). The interview was posted on October 2, 2014. It also features SPOILERS about the events of 24.
Wiki 24: I read that you got your first acting gig (Ups & Downs) while in high school. How did you become interested in acting?
Leslie Hope: When I was 16 years old, I was in my last year of boarding school. I don't know that I was so much interested in acting as I was NOT interested in becoming what everybody thought I should - a lawyer. I had been doing some school plays, and was probably pretty terrible in them, but I frankly think my idea of becoming an actor was because it was the furthest thing I could imagine from becoming what I was supposed to. It was purely coincidence that Paul Almond's movie Ups & Downs then came to shoot at my school, and I was lucky enough to be cast. That being said, I loved the experience of working on that movie and it certainly made me want to pursue that life. I don't think I really understood what it was to be an actor though until some years later.
W24: How did those people react to your decision to take up acting?
LH: How did people react? I think my parents were at first disappointed with this decision. I was in a private boarding school, partially on scholarship, but it was nevertheless a lot of money for our middle class family to see "wasted". My mother loved movies, however, and I think she was ultimately excited to be connected in some way to the movie business. Years later, I could truthfully say that meeting Kiefer [Sutherland] and visiting the set of 24 was a real thrill for her.
W24: How did you get your role on 24?
LH: I was in Toronto nursing a bruised ego and a broken heart after a movie I was going to direct fell apart. I really felt like hiding for a while, and the very last thing I wanted to do was chase some TV job in Los Angeles. Perry Zimel, my kind-hearted and wise manager, insisted I go audition if only to get my mind off my disappointment. At the time there was only some pages to be read, not a whole script, so I didn't have a sense of what the show could be. I do remember really liking Stephen Hopkins (the director of the pilot) but my state of mind was such that I didn't think it would go anywhere and they would probably cast somebody else - there are a zillion talented actresses in LA. When Hopkins told me I had the job I didn't believe him and kept repeating "Are you lying to me?". Or, for our late night crowd, "Are you f*#%ing with me?"
W24: How did the script describe Teri Bauer?
LH: I don't remember how the script described Teri Bauer. I do remember that Kiefer, Hopkins and I liked the idea that this was a couple who was struggling; we were having difficulties with our daughter and our marriage, and were not a typical happy TV family where everything is always great. I liked the idea that their relationship started tense and with a back story. It's hard to imagine now, but at the time, these were situations less likely to be seen on TV.
W24: How would you compare yourself to Teri?
LH: Well, it was easy for me to love Kiefer in real life, so Teri and I definitely have that in common. :)
W24: I know the directors/writers shot several possible endings for the season, but what did you think about the actual ending?
LH: It's true that an alternate ending was shot, but as much as I loved that job, it was readily apparent to all of us that "dead Teri" was a much better ending than "alive Teri", or even "will-she-live Teri". Not only was Kiefer extraordinary in that scene, but I think it offered his character some layers for Season 2 and onwards. People way above my pay grade made the decision of course, but as a participant I thought it was a great way to end the season.
W24: Did you know what would happen from the beginning?
LH: I didn't know what would happen from the beginning, and in fact I didn't actually know until the day or two before they aired the episode. It was all kept under wraps. The tricky part for me was navigating press. I was in Europe promoting the show, knowing my character was dead, but the episodes hadn't aired there yet. It seems hard to imagine now, but the ending of the show was not only kept secret in the US, but was actually kept relatively under wraps for some weeks as the UK and Europe caught up on episodes. I think it was about 6 weeks later. Hard to imagine that would even be possible nowadays.
W24: How would you describe the overall experience of filming 24?
LH: It's been 13 years since I worked on 24 and to this day I still consider it one of the best experiences of my professional and personal life as an actor. As I mentioned earlier, it turned me away from a broken heart about my movie not going, and it offered me so many acting opportunities within the show itself. I used to joke that they had to kill Teri Bauer; I mean what else could possibly happen to her? In one season of TV, I played a woman who was in love but separated from her husband, fighting with her teenage daughter who then is kidnapped, I was kidnapped, I ran for my life, I was raped, I was rescued, I was reunited, I beat the hell out of Richard Burgi, I discover I'm pregnant, I discover my ally is the affair of my husband, I have amnesia, I shoot guns, I rode in a helicopter, I ran for my life some more, I bawled my eyes out (a few times) and then as I am about to be rescued by my hero husband with whom I am in love with all over again, I am shot in the pregnant guts by the mole, NINA! I mean, come on, what else could I possibly do? ;)
W24: Are you still in touch with anyone from the show?
LH: I recently saw Elisha (my darling TV daughter) who also lives back in Toronto. I am in touch with Mia Kirshner who I like a lot and am super proud of for her humanitarian work. I often run into Sarah Clarke and Xander Berkeley and am always so glad to see them. And of course there's my hero, Kiefer. I don't get to see him that often but most recently I saw him in London. He remains somebody very dear to my heart. Shooting 24 was a special time for me and I not only think he's a great actor, I just adore him.
W24: Any memorable moment during your time on the show?
LH: Early on, Kiefer and I had occasion to be just sitting together between set ups. This was either on the pilot or a first episode. The show hadn't aired yet. We were sitting on the back steps and nobody was around, nobody was yelling for us to get back on set yet. Just two actors, both of us Canadian, and yes, I admit it, smoking cigarettes. Kiefer asked me, sincerely asked me, "How are you? How're you feeling?". I answered "Grateful. I mostly feel grateful and lucky to be here." And he said "Me too. Me too."
W24: You’ve been quite busy lately with recurring guest roles on shows like NCIS, The Strain, Tyrant, Revolution. How would you compare the experience of 24 with your other acting experiences?
LH: Every show is different, most shows offer some value, and if the experience is bad, there is always anecdotal value! 24 will always be special to me as not only a great professional experience, but a great personal experience. It's rare that a show has a great crew, a great cast, and a great director, and you like going to work, and the show succeeds. Typically you only get a few of those per gig. Working on 24 was really getting hit with the lucky stick for me.
W24: Without taking anything from the character, Teri Bauer can be perceived as a “damsel in distress” type of role. I read a 2003 interview for Television without Pity where you said that the role you got right after (Lisa Cohen, Line of Fire) of a tough FBI boss probably suited your personality better. When we look at some of your recent roles, you usually play the tough, strong-willed woman. Is that a conscious decision from you when choosing a role?
LH: Ha! That's interesting. I never saw Teri as a "damsel in distress". I kinda figured even a tough broad would end up crying in the situations Teri was put in. That being said, Teri was definitely defined by the actions of others and her character did not drive the story, so I appreciate the idea that she needed to be rescued by our hero. In terms of the roles I play now, it's not so much a conscious decision on my part, as what's available and how I am perceived. Typically it's the low hanging fruit in terms of casting decisions. A tough talking FBI boss role will probably lead to a tough talking DA role, and not the wacky slutty neighbor in a sitcom. I actually came up the ranks doing lighthearted stuff - romantic comedies, dramedy, etc. - and the heavy acting required of 24 was what I was doing with my theater company, but not something I had been hired for a lot. After 24, everybody took me soooo seriously, I wouldn't even be allowed to audition if my character was going to have a laugh. Then, after Line of Fire, I couldn't get arrested playing a "damsel in distress" and was only considered to play the bossy-boots, usually of a young attractive crime fighting team. I do think this speaks to a bigger question though. I believe that very often the construct of female characters in film and TV is limited by narrow identifiers, i.e. the bossy woman who never cries, the wacky gal who can't give an order, the crying wife who needs to be rescued. In fact, most women I know can do all of the above and at the same time. This is a whole other discussion, don't get me started, but as great as the opportunities are as I've had (and I AM grateful), and as interesting as the TV landscape is now, I believe if you line up what is expected and allowed of a female character against a male character, you will find the boys usually come out ahead. Not to mention that there are simply more roles for men, period. This is me now getting off my soap box.
W24: You raise an important issue on the state of female actresses on TV and films in general. As an actress yourself, what things would you like to see happen in the industry to change the way female characters are portrayed, scripted, or typecast?
LH: The things I would like to see happen in the movie and television industry are what I would like to see for all industries, and that is a balancing of men to women working. I think that as actors, both men and women suffer from typecasting, but I would suggest that women in particular are underrepresented in roles and are typically viewed through a lens of appearance or sexuality. Women are undoubtedly underrepresented behind the lens as well. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has several articles on this. It's sobering. Here's a link to the website (click here) and the latest study (click here).
W24: You’ve been involved recently in directing. Last year, you completed work on the film Christmas on the Bayou. Talk to me about that project?
LH: I have been directing for some time now, clawing my way into a new career that I hope to run alongside my acting work. So far, so good. I directed and produced the documentary What I See When I Close My Eyes, a film about the street-living kids in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and their creation of life-sized self portraits. The art and the movie have traveled all over the world. I have directed the (very) politically incorrect comedy Gaykeith, and Buried Treasure. I directed several movies for TV and Christmas on the Bayou is the latest. I shot that movie in Louisiana last year with the extraordinary Ed Asner, Hilarie Burton, Tyler Hilton, Markie Post, and the awesome Randy Travis. It is a lovely little movie about a Louisiana girl who's moved to New York and heads home for Christmas with her cynical little boy (who doesn't believe in Santa) in tow. There she reconnects with her childhood sweetheart. In Acadiana, French Louisiana, they have Papa Noel (not Santa) and the young boy meets a mysterious character who lives in a shack on the bayou and purports to be Papa Noel. Of course the kid doesn't believe him. You can probably guess how it all turns out, but I loved working with that cast, and hopefully we delivered a heart-felt movie. I think it's sweet. :) And there will be lots of opportunity to see the movie. Lifetime tends to repeatedly air their successful Christmas movies and I am proud to say this one did very well for them.
W24: Finally, any particular director, actor or actress that you dream of working with?
LH: I had the privilege of working with Guillermo del Toro twice this year - on The Strain and Crimson Peak. I would do anything for that guy and hope to work for him again. He is an artist, a genius and an excellent human. I would like to work for Alfonso Cuarón. I think Jane Campion is an amazing filmmaker, and likewise Kathryn Bigelow and Denis Villeneuve, Terry Gilliam, I am obsessed with Wes Anderson and love his work. I would be so happy to work with Stephen Hopkins again. I think Joseph Gordon Leavitt is a really interesting actor and director, and I admire what he is trying to do with his new company. I love Judd Apatow and think Superbad is one of the greatest movies ever made. In terms of actors? I greatly admire and love the work of several, but personal favorites include Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Mann, Mia Wasikowska, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Charlotte Rampling, Christoph Waltz, Robert Downey Jr. and Jackie Chan... to name a few.
W24: Thanks for your availability and openness in answering our questions. We are very grateful for your time!
LH: I am grateful for the opportunity, so thank you!