Jack Bauer always finds a way to save the day, and Manny Coto almost pulled off something similar. Why compare Coto to Bauer? What’s the Bauer-Coto connection? Easy. Coto spent two years working on Star Trek: Enterprise, writing or co-writing the stories or teleplays for 14 episodes across seasons three and four, and serving as co-executive producer during season four. Year four was widely considered the show’s best, reinvigorating the Trek fan base and reportedly coming oh-so-close to securing a fifth season of Enterprise. Post-Enterprise, Coto went on to join 24 as executive producer for its fifth season, putting Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer through his paces until the series ended in 2010. Now, four years later, Jack is back in 24: Live Another Day, a 12-episode event series that will kick off May 5 on FOX. StarTrek.com caught up with Coto for a candid half-hour conversation in which he looked back at his days with Enterprise and previewed 24: Live Another Day. Below is part two of interview; visit StarTrek.com to read part one.
As you toiled away on season four of Enterprise, how hopeful were you that UPN could be convinced to renew the show for a fifth season?
COTO: You’re always hoping that they’ll change their mind and that the ratings will pick up. In reality, once a show’s ratings go down, they rarely, rarely pick up. Usually, it’s impossible. But it wasn’t go for broke. That season was not going to be unwatched. Star Trek has a long history. Every episode airs somewhere and is on DVD, and they’re watched and re-watched and expanded on in novels. So we were really creating something to last, even though I knew the writing was kind of on the wall. But I will say there was a small part of us that was hoping that if the ratings at least stabilized – which they did, I believe – Paramount might keep the show going.
One thing that might have helped the cause was if William Shatner had guest starred on Enterprise, which almost happened. Why did it not work out?
COTO: That was one of the disappointments. Shatner would have played his Kirk counterpart from the Mirror Universe, which is a whole other story. We talked to Shatner and he was ready to do it. I thought that would have had a chance of really popping in the ratings and maybe opening up a new audience to come in and say, “Hey, wow, look what this show is doing now.” Paramount wouldn’t pay the money, and so that never happened. So that’s a long way of saying there was a small hope (of getting a fifth-season green light) and the Shatner idea was one small way to maybe bring in a new audience or bring back our old audience. And we had ideas for the fifth season. I’ve talked a lot about them (previously), but I wanted to get into the Romulan conflict and I wanted to look at things that tied into The Original Series that we hadn’t seen before, like the floating city (of Stratos), and the story behind that. There were a number of different things we wanted to do that we were still very excited about.
Let’s talk about 24: Live Another Day. There’d been whispers of an event series, a movie, etc., for a few years. How surprised were you that Live Another Day actually fell into place?
COTO: I was extremely surprised. When I got the call I was in the middle of the last season of (producing) Dexter. I have a habit, every evening, of sitting on my porch and smoking cigars, just to mellow out. I’ll often read the script for the next episode I’m working on or I’ll watch a cut as I’m smoking. And I got a call from Howard Gordon who told me that he’d mentioned an event series to (Fox exec) Peter Rice and that Kiefer had also spoken about, and that they were thinking about bringing 24 back as a 12-episode miniseries. I actually didn’t take it very seriously. My response was a polite, “Well, that sounds terrific, Howard,” but inside I was like, “Well, good luck with that.” I never really expected it to materialize. So I was very surprised, but pleasantly surprised, when it all came together. The most fun I ever had working was on Enterprise, but a close second is 24. I had a great time doing that show.
We know you can reveal only so much about Live Another Day plot, but give us a sense of what’s happening to and around Jack when we meet up with him again…
COTO: It’s going to be its own standalone series, but it does pick up with Jack Bauer where we left him four years ago. He was a fugitive then and he’s a fugitive now. He’s one of the CIA’s most-wanted men, and he’s finally captured. So it’s a Jack Bauer who’s still on the outside. He’s kind of turned against his country and his country has turned against him. He is faced off against a group of CIA agents who have been charged with hunting him down. Many seasons of the show, we started with Jack on the inside and he’d do something that put him on the outside. This season, things are turned on their head. He’s the outsider and little by little he has to work his way back in.
You’re still working as we speak on the 12 episodes. Are you assuming this is it for Jack Bauer, or will the door be left open for more adventures and intrigue if the audience demands it?
COTO: We are writing this as a standalone. It was always our intention to do one miniseries with a beginning, a middle and an end, to do something that could hold its own and be its own story. And that’s what we’re doing. However, being writers and because we really love the show, we can’t turn our minds off to other stories, and other stories are already beginning to suggest themselves. So I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying, absolutely, there are possibilities in our minds for continuing this, although that’s not our plan.
And are you thinking features or another mini-series?
COTO: If anything, I’d imagine it’ll be another miniseries. If there is a movie, it won’t be with this group. We were not part of the whole movie thing; that was a whole other aspect of Twentieth Century Fox.
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