The veteran actress who has portrayed Chloe throughout the series' run talks about the last few episodes of Season 7
Mary Lynn Rajskub has been a 24 mainstay since 2003 with her character Chloe O'Brien, and now the seventh season is coming to an end on Monday, May 18 at 8 PM ET on Fox. The actress recently held a conference call to discuss the season finale and here's what she had to say.
I just watched this past episode and there's a lot of really good Janis and Chloe bickering going on. Had you and Janeane been waiting for the opportunity to get into that?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I thought you were going to say have we been practicing bickering. We do a lot of bickering in real life so we were excited to bring it to television and it's going to come to a head during the finale.
And you guys go way back, right?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes, we've done many live comedy shows together. I started in this business doing standup comedy, more specifically I was doing performance art that turned into comedy, and then I met Janeane, who was very popular, at the peak of her popularity. She told me I was funny one day; I'll never forget that.
And you hadn't known that previously?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: It was like getting validation from somebody I really admired. I've always been a big fan of her comedy and a friend of hers for years and it has always made me laugh as soon I would see her on the set. So we had a lot of fun doing these serious, technical roles on such an intense show. It was really fun.
And this season there were the various delays on the show itself and then you took time off for pregnancy. Has it felt a little bit sort of disjointed to you with the sort of on-and-off nature of it?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: In a way. I've gotten used to watching the show air as we're filming it so it was a little strange this year to have all the shows done and sort of watch them way after the fact, but I definitely think it was worth waiting for because the writers and producers really outdid themselves. After last year we got some criticism for the show last year and I think that really sort of motivated and excited everybody to make this year so great.
Obviously Chloe seems to be a bit more subdued this season. What did you like about this 24-hour storyline and sort of how her character's evolved this year?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I enjoy giving a little glimpse into my family life and having to, I really like to have it where I'm finally back after you don't see me for a while and then I'm with my family and I have to make that choice, which is a popular theme in 24 and a choice that Jack Bauer's constantly faced with, which is the family lives that get torn apart with jobs that put you in the position of trying to do stuff for a greater good. So that was fun to add that element in, but I'm looking forward to getting some more face time.
And we're looking forward to seeing you get some more face time. What can you tell us, if anything, about Jack Bauer's fate? What can we expect as the season ends?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: He's pretty sick and I really hope that he can save everybody in the world before he dies himself, but you're going to have to tune in to find that out.
What I want to know was Chloe's sarcastic nature part of the character profile before you ever stepped in? Was she written that way from the start or did it develop because of how you played her?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes to all those things. When I first started on the show... he had seen me in a movie called Punch-Drunk Love, which has Adam Sandler; it's directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. I played kind of a bitchy, overbearing, sarcastic sister to Adam Sandler in that movie and he saw that quality and thought that could work for somebody in CTU. So I brought a lot of that attitude and sarcasm with me and it was pretty touch-and-go at the beginning. I think the character got interesting for me and everybody else when they started writing me as loyal to Jack. That's when it kind of went to this other level. I think people probably were annoyed by me and maybe could take me or leave me. It got more interesting and complex when I wasn't that way, but then also loyal to Jack and very competent. It made people go, "she's interesting after all."
How capable are you on a computer in real life? Can you hack into government sites and manipulate satellites and so on or are you merely happy to send and read e-mail?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I've been hacking into your computer and I know exactly what you're doing; you'd better stop it. I'm absolutely the worst at computers; that's what a good actress I am.
How has becoming a mother helped you with the character?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: It's kind of funny that it happened the way it did. It's kind of like I got pregnant on purpose to inform my character, who's also a new mother. I didn't really, I guess you can pretend how it feels to be a mother, but something happens to you; you change and you can never go back when you are responsible for a little being. You think that you've known responsibility before, but you've never really known it. Everything else pales in comparison to being in charge of a little tiny, helpless person. So I definitely was able to bring that with me to the role.
Is there anything that Chloe won't do for Jack? Is there a line that she won't cross?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I was going to say prostitution, but she might be willing to even do that. She's very dedicated; I think it would be fun to see, to push her as far as she'll go.
You've been one of the longer running characters on the show and you've had to say goodbye to a few of your coworkers. I forget the actor's name who plays Edgar; you've had to say goodbye to him and James Morrison who played Bill Buchanan and there have been others. There's usually been a pretty high body count on 24. What was that like to work with these people and then have to say goodbye?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: It really sucks. I think that in order for that to be as shocking for the viewers it's equally as shocking to the actors. The character of Edgar was very surprising to me. Thank God I had more time to get used to the idea of James Morrison leaving. I had some warning; I knew that was coming and I wasn't there the day it happened because that was really upsetting. I think he's such a great character and such a great guy in real life. It's hard. You get used to it in a certain sense as an actor, meeting people, forming these quick, close bonds and then moving on. That kind of comes with the territory, but it's particularly rough on 24 because they seem to relish in getting rid of characters when people are the most attached to them.
Of course because that adds to the drama and the tension.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: That's the 24 promise; that's what keeps people coming back for more.
I'm curious is there any sort of a continuity thing we should look for now that your onscreen self is back that wouldn't quite mesh with how you were before you left for your maternity leave.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I can't say it because it's too dirty, but it involves the feeding of my child so you can take it from there.
Are you going to be coming to New York City at all for any of the pre-shooting for the next season?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I hope so. Wouldn't that be cool, a nice snowstorm in New York scene with Chloe running down the streets of New York and down in the subways? I'd love it.
So you don't know for sure if you're going to be doing any of those exteriors?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Oh, please, they tell me the day before I'm shooting it so I'll let you know. I'll Twitter you.
With all that's been going on this week is there any concern that production might start late?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Very well said, asking me a gossip question in a very objective way. You've probably heard more than I have and I'm glad that Jack Bauer's on my side and I think it'll just make this season better. As far as I know no delays yet.
So I don't know if you've been keeping up with up with our magazine, but we actually do a 24 body count. Do you have any idea how many people have died this season on the show?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I'm not even going to take a guess.
You don't want to take a guess? I've got it right here for you so you have nothing to lose.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: What do we say like ten a show? We're at 12 shows, what's the body count? One hundred and eighteen people?
Three hundred and seventy-seven.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Holy crap, oh no.
Early in the first question you said that the big thing kind of comes to a head in the finale. I know there are restrictions on what you can see, but what do you mean like come to a head?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: We kill each other.
There you go; I got the scoop on that one.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Maybe there's just a little hair pulling. We don't kill each other; there's just a mud fight and hair pulling.
And now that Jack Bauer's sick and I read it somewhere; I don't know if you remember this, but once you said that you think that Chloe might be in love with him. How is it going to be with him being sick and you playing such a sarcastic character to kind of let down that guard and let down that wall and maybe open up a little, some emotion for the first time?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I can get all actor-y on you and say that that's, I think, part of the larger art of Chloe, having to do this high-pressure work and this high intensity as someone who's completely up in her head with facts and figures. She's forced to deal with these pretty upsetting situations so that's part of the fun of it, to watch her defense come down and her sarcasm and have to deal with some of the stuff. That's really part of the fun of playing that.
Chloe is usually the one who kind of comes to the rescue with her technology skills and is there doing that and helping out in that way. Have you ever asked the writers to maybe write you in more like physical, like maybe being tortured or maybe get Chloe a gun every once in a while?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I would really like to see her get some more action, but at the same time I know the part that I do on that show has a very specific function. So I'm kind of torn. For as much as I would love to do more action I also like that I'm the person who's technical and on the computer and in the office and sort of the brains behind it. I don't really interfere with the writers and their process very much. I just do what I'm told.
I was thinking with that last question about the time that Chloe did get out in the field. I think it was in Season Four. What was that like for you to go from a part where you're just sitting at a computer to the point that you actually did have a gun and you were shooting?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: It was really fun and exciting and my heart was beating and it's very different from being in the CTU. Although it's intense in CTU, it's a lot of characters talking to each other so when I got out to do that action scene in the middle of the night I found that the crew was a completely different beast. They're sitting there looking at the bullet holes going, "Cool! Did you get that in a shot?" I'm saying, "What about my acting? Is anybody paying attention to the character here?" It's just this whole other thing of getting it to look a certain way and have a certain feel. That was really cool; I'd like to do more of it.
I wanted to ask you about all of the sort of serious issues that go on obviously in 24 with saving the world every week. Yet set against this we have you and Janeane almost essentially have almost a territorial cat fight as you do this really important work. Do you think that just that juxtaposition make it inherently hilarious to see you two go back and forth just because the subject matter otherwise is so incredibly serious?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes. I think that you're definitely onto something with that. I'm kind of proud of serving that purpose on 24 in general. I think that may be one of the reasons why people like Chloe so much, besides that I'm so incredibly sexy and irresistible is the fact that it's sort of a respite from everything that's going on. It's interesting because obviously we're still intense and we're carrying the plot, but you get a little moment of some office politics and some personal annoyances and some sarcastic comments and I like serving that purpose.
In watching the show it's obviously exhilarating, but it can almost be exhausting for the viewer as well. I like your saying you sort of see yourself as a little bit of antidote to that at times?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: A resting place.
I'm wondering since this season has been so stellar; it's just been really well received, the ratings are great and everybody's really enjoying it, is that anything that the actors pick up on when you're actually shooting? Do you ever stop and look at each other and say, "Do you know what? This season we're doing this particularly well."
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes, I think the past season was odd; we were in a bit of a vacuum because usually we're airing while we're shooting and we didn't have the luxury of doing that this year because of the writer's strike; our timing was off. We were shooting it in hopes that it was as good as we thought it was and then once it aired then it was like getting the feedback way after the fact.
I was wondering if there was anything you could say about the remainder of the season, anything that Chloe does that's new and exciting or perhaps for the first time ever.
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I don't know if it's for the first time; the stuff with Janis and me I think will be kind of fun. Again, Chloe's having a personality conflict with somebody, but this time it's a person who truly does like. Like wasn't the right word, but they're being forced to work together and Chloe doesn't like that very much.
You think Janis might stick around for another season? Maybe she and Chloe could become the ultimate tag team at there at the new CTU?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I hope so; I think that would be really cool. I doubt it, but I hope so.
It's one of my favorite shows; it's very well written so I don't really mean this as a criticism, but seriously, what is up with Tony Almeda? He's good, he's bad, he's good, he's bad. What is the deal there?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Tell me about it; I can't get over the fact that he's still alive. That one rocked me to the core. But you know actually that is the crux of it right there; for as much as I couldn't believe that they brought him back to life, a testament to the show is the fact that it actually works and I love seeing that character back and I love the twists and turns. But it's always like 24 to just push that edge of believability and I think that we do that very, very well. For as much as there is that's unbelievable there's enough that's like totally convincing that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
What has been Carlos' reaction to this? Have you talked to him at all about the twists and turns of his character?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: I haven't really been around; I've been around him much more in previous years when we've been in the CTU together, but the little bit I've caught of him and injuries and stuff, I think he's loving it. I agree with you, it's kind of crazy for him to go back and forth, but don't you kind of love it like Tony's bad, I can't believe it. But it's kind of great. I want him to be good because I love the character, but it's also really exciting like, oh man, he really isn't that awful. It's pretty fun, I think.
You can watch Mary Lynn Rajskub along with Kiefer Sutherland and the rest of the 24 cast when the Season 7 finale airs on Monday, May 18 at 8 PM ET on Fox.