Marisol Nichols joined the cast of 24 this season as Nadia Yassir, the right-hand woman to Bill Buchanan at CTU: Los Angeles. Nadia is a woman of Middle Eatern descent, a truth that has already come into play within the politics of CTU this season. Marisol has had an already prolific career, appearing on Friends, CSI, Alias, Law & Order: SVU, Charmed, Nip/Tuck and numerous other TV shows and films. Marisol stopped by BuddyTV for an interview last week to discuss her time on 24.
Can you tell us how you landed on 24?
You mean the greatest gig for an actor in the world? I basically just auditioned. I had just got done filming Injustice and that was done and it was like my fourth time reading for a role on 24 in the whole six years they’ve been on and I was like, “There’s no way they are going to hire me, they never hire me.” And so I went in…and that was the role they were looking for, so I got it.
Were you a fan of the show beforehand?
Yeah, not as much as I am now because I didn’t get a chance to watch Season 4 and Season 5. But I had seen season one and was like, “Oh my God.” And then when I got the role they gave me Season 5 on VHS and I was like, “Oh my God.” Now I am just a 24 freak.
You’ve recently been on a couple of shows that were canceled, how nice is it being on a show that you know isn’t going anywhere?
Yeah, it’s really, really cool. It’s an odd situation because yes, the show isn’t going anywhere, but you could always die. And on the other shows where you don’t know if it’s going to be canceled or not, you know you’re still alive no matter what. I don’t have to worry about ratings, you know, I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. I can just do my job and show-up and it’s great. It’s an actor’s dream to be able to do that and not have to concern yourself with anything else but doing your job.
Is it difficult as an actor to infiltrate an established cast on an already big hit show?
Yeah, I think it can be. With these guys, you know, I am fortunate that they are all so cool. Eric Balfour I’ve know for about 10 years so that already helped, we already knew each other. We’re both starting this year and we’ve known each other for a long time, so that was cool. And then Carlo [Rota] and Mary Lynn [Rajskub] and Jane [Atkinson], are just really, really cool. You can go on a set where people have been working there for five years and they’re not happy and they’re not excited so the new kid is like “whatever.” And on 24 everyone is so excited to be there and likes their job and it’s a great set to be on. So it makes walking in those shoes really easy, surprisingly easy because I was a little nervous at first. It’s really great.
How is it working with Kiefer Sutherland? Is he anything like Jack, is he intense on-set?
I have been around him several times but I haven’t had to work with him. From what I’ve heard, he’s extremely serious when he works, extremely dedicated, a very focused, serious guy. Every time I see him, though, he’s goofing around, playing games, having fun, like totally opposite. From what I’ve met and from what I know of him, Kiefer’s way more laid-back than Jack Bauer.
24 is probably the most intense show on TV; there aren’t a lot of light moments. Does the on-set atmosphere reflect that at all?
It is actually the opposite. It is the most laid-back atmosphere I’ve ever been on. You would think that we’d all have to be so serious, but we’re goofing around like mad in-between takes and we might do a little dance and tell a joke, I’m always telling jokes. It’s very laid-back. And then as soon as the cameras role, you get back and you do your job and it’s very, very serious but I think that comedy balances out a little bit.
Do you think it needs to be that way?
Oh my God, yeah. You don’t want to be on a set where everybody’s tense and freaking out and serious because it makes it more work and just emotionally you’re already bound-up. If you’re relaxed and in a good atmosphere I think, for me at least, it’s easier, emotionally, to go to places, so much easier.
Can you take us through a 24 episode, from getting the script until shooting?
Okay. You get the script and sometimes they give it to you just before you’re about to shoot it, sometimes they give it to you a day before you are about to shoot it. You have no idea what’s happening or what’s going to happen or how they’re going to wrap up because they leave them at these cliffhangers on purpose. So, let’s say you get your script. You go “Good, I’m alive.” You read through the script and you get a schedule and the schedule changes about three or four times before you start to shoot. You can get anywhere from two different versions to the seventh or eighth draft before you start shooting.
If Jon Cassar is directing, who is fantastic by the way, you show up on set and we’ll read through each scene just once, just to read it and then decide where we’re going to shoot it, what’s the blocking, where’s the action taking place, what just happened before this, that whole thing. Then we rehearse it with the crew and then light it and we go off and do our regular hair and makeup thing and go back and shoot and it’s very easy. As far as when you’ve got guys like Jon Cassar and Rodney Charters, who both won the Emmys this year for Directing and Directing Photography, and Brad Turner whose been with the series forever whose another Supervising Producer and Director: they know it so well, it’s sort of like a machine and because they know it so well then they can go and say, “These are the basics we have to get in and here’s where we can play.” As opposed to another show where it might be, “You have to get this, you must get this.” It’s not as structured and because it’s not as structured there isn’t freedom to play around as much.
How far into shooting are you guys right now?
We are shooting episodes 19 and 20; 5 before the end.
Do the people who are getting killed off get any advance notice?
None. I remember I getting the first four scripts, I get the first two and then three and four and I’m reading four and that’s where Roger Cross dies. And I read it and I’m like, “Oh my God!” And I’m on a plane when I’m reading this and the scripts are confidential so you can’t tell anyone so I’m like, “Oh my God I better shut-up.” It was a shock; I had no idea. None of us do. We could open it up tomorrow and be like, “Okay, am I a bad guy or a good guy?” We really don’t know.
The stories on 24 are politically relevant, obviously. Do you view the show as any sort of platform for political statements or do you see it strictly as popcorn entertainment?
They’re not trying to make political statements although they constantly get, you know, attacked and criticized for that, which is kind of ridiculous because they’re a TV show. I think that it’s a TV show. It obviously takes place in 24 hours. Obviously, all of that could not happen in real life in 24 hours, hence it being made up. I think people who look at it politically like, “What does that mean?” And different groups from the White House wanting us to comment on terrorism, all the ridiculous stuff it’s like, “Come on! We’re a TV show, not the news.” It’s funny how the news is being made more and more into a TV show, more ratings, more “Tune in at 9 to find out if she dies from something you don’t know about.” Do you know what I mean? That’s the news, focus on that.
And, at the same time, Howard Gordon and Joel Surnow are aware of people’s feelings, they’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes or single out any group at all. It’s what serves the story.
Your character looks to be primarily CTU based. Do you ever wish you could be out in the field with Jack, blowing up helicopters and whatnot?
Of course, man, I want to be out in the field where the teams are. It’d be so fun! But I think that I’m a new character, you know I haven’t been on the show before, I am a woman, I’ve got the whole Middle-Eastern thing to play with, so I think my storyline serves a lot being at CTU. That being said, you never know.
Can you give us any hints on what’s coming up in the next couple episodes?
I so can’t. God, I wish I could. Wouldn’t that be great? But I want to keep my job.
What are your favorite TV shows out there right now besides 24?
Besides 24? I love Grey’s Anatomy. I like Studio 60 and The Closer. I think it’s great.
There are actually a few I like right now. Lost is coming back and I’m looking forward to seeing that.
If you had your choice of one show to guest star on, what would it be?
One show to have a guest star on…It’s one that’s not around anymore but that would be the one that I would do, would be The X-Files. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows. Second would probably be Grey’s Anatomy.
What do you have coming up outside of 24, anything of note?
Actually something completely different. Last summer I did a comedy with Larry the Cable Guy called Delta Farce. It’s completely the opposite of 24 – slapstick humor.