Kiefer Sutherland talks politics and his penchant for political dramas

Kiefer Sutherland seems to love talking politics. The veteran Canadian TV star shifts easily from touting his upcoming series Designated Survivor to chatting about Donald Trump's success in the U.S. Republican primary race, bemoaning a deep political divide in his adopted homeland.

Actor returns to TV this fall as star of Designated Survivor

Actor Kiefer Sutherland is returning to television in the upcoming political drama Designated Survivor. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Kiefer Sutherland seems to love talking politics. Too bad the Canadian can't vote.

The veteran TV star shifts easily from touting his upcoming series Designated Survivor to chatting about Donald Trump's success in the U.S. Republican primary race, bemoaning a deep political divide in his adopted homeland.

"If you've watched the political cycle that's happening in the United States right now, I think it's one of the most extraordinary — and I do not mean that in a positive way — [campaigns] that I think I've seen in a very long time," the Toronto-bred actor says in a recent interview from Los Angeles.

"And I think our show, certainly, will deal with the fact that voters are really disenfranchised from what has become the political process here."

In Designated Survivor, Sutherland plays a U.S. congressman suddenly called on to serve as president when disaster wipes out everyone else in line. The ABC conspiracy thriller is expected to debut in the fall.

Kiefer Sutherland's most indelible TV role has been playing Jack Bauer in the longrunning thriller 24. (Daniel Smith/Fox/Canadian Press)

Sutherland admits the premise shares "some similar characteristics" with his last big TV drama, 24, but says this time around, his character is more of an everyman than a Jack Bauer-type superhero.

"In a very kind of working-man's way he uses common sense and his own sense of right and wrong to do what he thinks is best for the country. And the way he approaches that, I think, is very human. And I think that that's something that we sometimes lose — whether it be in Canada or the United States — we have a feeling that we have lost that in the political process."

Politics runs in the family

Sutherland's interests in politics come naturally.

He is the grandson of socialist icon Tommy Douglas, the former federal NDP leader credited with launching Canada's public health-care system.

"I've waited a long time to hold my grandpa's hand again," Kiefer Sutherland said in 2010 after helping to unveil a statue of Tommy Douglas, considered the father of Canadian healthcare, in Weyburn, Sask. (Troy Fleece/Canadian Press)

His mother, esteemed actress Shirley Douglas, is an activist herself who infamously was arrested for her involvement with the Black Panthers in the '60s. Meanwhile, his celebrity father, Donald Sutherland, is an outspoken critic whose targets have included former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Nevertheless, Kiefer Sutherland says he doesn't vote. He can't in the United States because he is not a citizen, and he can't in Canada because he is not a resident.

But there's no question which party he would have supported in last year's federal election.

"I grew up in an NDP household, to say the least, and that's where I would have laid my hat," says Sutherland, nevertheless expressing optimism that the federal Liberals will bolster his pet cause.

I've always felt I was Canadian and that's who I am and I have no interest in changing that.- Kiefer Sutherland

"The value of health care to the average Canadian has been deeply undervalued by the Conservative party for 16 years and I do not believe in a two-tier health-care system in Canada.

"The fact that the Liberal party is going to do much more to try and protect health care in Canada is something that I find encouraging."

And he would not consider getting U.S. citizenship so he could vote. 

"No, I'm a Canadian," says Sutherland, who adds he gets back to Toronto as much as he can to visit his mother.

"I have had a fantastic time down here but I've been down in the States primarily because this is where the work that I wanted to do was and my daughters were born here, so that's made that more complicated. But I've always felt I was Canadian and that's who I am and I have no interest in changing that."

Sutherland is set to discuss his lengthy career — from his breakout role in the 1984 Canadian film The Bay Boy, to his award-winning work on 24, to his latest film Forsaken opposite his father — at Canada's Top Ten Film Festival in Toronto on Saturday.

Kiefer Sutherland, right, is seen with his father Donald Sutherland attending the premiere of their film Forsaken at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. Sutherland, the grandson of iconic Canadian politician Tommy Douglas, hails from a very politically engaged family. (Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

The Hollywood star says the one job that gave him "the most confidence as an actor" was 24.

"When I started working as a younger actor, the hope was maybe to do one or two films every three or four years [but] my career never got to that place," he says.

"So when I got an opportunity like 24, it was extraordinary for me.... The best thing was I was working everyday. And I found new ways and quicker ways to interpret the material. I found better ways for myself to physically enact that material." 


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