24’s Annie Wersching – Journey’s End

24's Annie Wersching as FBI Agent Renee Walker. Photo by Kelsey McNeal and copyright of Fox

Annie Wersching discovered her passion for performing when she made her stage debut in a fourth grade production of Cats. The performance led to her joining the St. Louis Celtic Step Dancers, a competitive Irish dance troupe in Wersching’s hometown. She went on to tour and compete with the group for over 14 years, cultivating her skills for live performance.

The actress attended Millikin University, where she earned a B.A. in musical theater. As a student, Wersching toured with the stage productions of Anything Goes and A Christmas Carol. In 2001, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Shortly thereafter, she appeared in the revival of Do I Hear a Waltz? at the Pasadena Playhouse. Her television credits include Star Trek: Enterprise, Journeyman, General Hospital, Boston Legal, Cold CaseSupernatural and Frasier.

For the past two years, Wersching  has played FBI Agent Renee Walker opposite Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer in the hit Fox Television series 24. In the eighth season episode 8:00 a.m. – 9 :00 p.m. (broadcast April 12th), Renee is shot several times by a sniper after she and Jack make love. Our hero rushes her to a hospital, but, sadly, despite efforts by doctors, Renee is pronounced dead shortly after their arrival.

A few days following her character’s tragic demise, actress Annie Wersching chatted with myself and other journalists via a conference call about her 24 experience. The following is an edited version of our Q & A. Enjoy!

What are you going to remember from your time working on 24?

ANNIE WERSCHING – Wow, so much. I would say the biggest thing is the cast and crew, and the friends that I’ve made. However, I was absolutely a huge fan of the show before I joined it, so just being a part of such an iconic series and getting to play a role as amazing as Renee Walker. I really loved this part, and in your career you hope that you have greater things in your future, but it’s hard for me not to, at this time, think of it as sort of a role of a lifetime because she was so dynamic. I’ll probably miss her the most.

Why do you think people have continued to tune in and watch 24?

AW – Well, definitely in the beginning, it was such a groundbreaking show and there was nothing else like it on television. It’s really like a little feature film every week with the ticking clock and the real-time aspect. There’s such an intensity to the show, that at the end of the episode it just leaves you wanting more, which is how I think every television show should be.

What do you think of the fact that Renee was sometimes referred to as “Jacqueline Bauer” (referring to Kiefer Sutherland’s character of Jack Bauer)?

AW – Obviously that’s quite an honor to share that title. I got that a lot last year when she first came on the scene. It wasn’t something we thought about or said when we were filming Season Seven, so it was interesting to hear that it was the fans’ reaction. Again, he’s [Jack Bauer] a tragic hero and, obviously, that sort of ended up happening to her.

Sorry to see you won’t be on the show anymore. I’m wondering, were you happy with the way that Renee’s death was presented and her story line concluded?

AW – Simply because I love the character so much, you always think of other ways that things could have happened. I kind of wish that the Jack/Renee love story-making would have maybe had its own episode to resonate and then maybe she got shot because that was a pretty huge deal. There’s a little part of me that was bummed that both those things happened in the same episode because that’s really kind of getting overshadowed by the fact that she died. That was a big moment for the show, the first time that Jack has ever done that. It’s interesting, too, that Renee went out like that as opposed to maybe out in the field and in an heroic, saving-the-day kind of way. So I think it’s interesting that they switched it up a little bit as opposed to what you may have thought would have happened to her.

What sort of reaction do you expect from what’s happened to Renee?

AW – I’ve actually been very overwhelmed by the reaction. I knew that there were a lot of people out there that really loved Renee and the Jack/Renee dynamic, but I’ve had thousands of messages, either on Twitter, Facebook or different fan sites, where people are just genuinely so sad. However, it’s kind of what fuels Jack Bauer in the remainder of the season, and I think audiences will end up being pleased that they get to see him being the most intense as Jack Bauer can be.

Given the realtime format of the show, how carefully did you guys plan how many minutes Jack and Renee would spend in bed together. After all, you don’t want to go to commercial and then come back and, “we’re done!”

AW – That was a huge consideration, and especially because he’s Jack Bauer. There can’t be like an eight-minute adventure, but we went through many different ways that it was going to be. We weren’t even sure if we’d be able to actually get them to the place where they were actually making love because of the show’s realtime aspect. But they [the producers/writers] finally figured out a way to do it, and it was interesting because they knew that she was going to get shot right afterwards, so Jack couldn’t be naked when he was carrying her to the hospital. So there had to be a way for him to put some clothes on, but yet make it look like they were still going to go back and have more fun.

During your final episode, were there any moments that were particularly hard for you to get through knowing it was your last time, so to speak?

AW – Yes. Since I knew it was coming, I knew that I was pretty prepared for all this. However, we shot the lovemaking and the death together over a couple of days, and Kiefer and I were so nervous about the love scene that it sort of helped tame down the “Oh, Renee is getting shot,” part. The whole thing was bittersweet. It was bittersweet to be able to shoot scenes with Kiefer where Jack and Renee finally get close and then straight into covered in blood.

Obviously both Kiefer and you knew that it was your last scene together; what was it like during the filming [of the death scene] between the two of you?

AW – It’s funny because once I saw it air the other night, it seemed to all happen much quicker than it did in my mind, and we spent something like two 12-14 hour days in a row together of shooting scenes of basically Jack trying to save Renee. It was very intense and very big episode for Jack; I mean, the look on his face when they come out and tell him that it didn’t work was just heartbreaking. We spent quite a bit of time on it, and it was very sad. I felt bad that he had to carry me so much.

How did you originally become involved in 24 and what were some of the acting challenges you found first stepping into role of Renee?

AW – I was cast in a Fox and 20th Century Fox TV pilot that [24 executive producer] Jon Cassar and [24 co-creator/executive producer] Joel Surnow did in the Spring of 2007. That pilot didn’t get picked up, so when they were casting for Renee Walker, they were actually having a very difficult time insofar as trying to figure out how old they wanted her to be, how tough, how cold, etc. So they brought me in for it, and the role that I played in that pilot was very different from Renee, so I think they thought, “Oh, we liked working with her [in the pilot]; she’s not really right for this, but we’ll just bring her in anyway.” That was a very proud moment for me in my audition life just because I feel like I really went in and sort of changed their minds about their preconceptions when it came to the type of actress I was and something I was right for. And the challenges in playing her were pretty much that because most of my stuff was with Kiefer, you really had to show up on your game. You could never be slacking in any sense, so it really challenged me and made me such a better actor and person. It was just an amazing experience.

Which version of Renee was more challenging for you to play, or more rewarding, or maybe both – the by-the-book Renee that we met in the beginning, or the more unhinged version that we saw at the end of last season and then again this season?

AW – Wow, that’s a good question. The by-the-book Renee, that was in the very beginning, so sort of finding her was an interesting challenge, and figuring out that first little relationship between Jack and Renee when they first met was a challenge, too. That’s what was so great about this character – I got to play so many different sides of her. Last year was challenging in that I was in every episode, and there was such a great arc that was written for the whole season, so I really wanted to give it [the character] little nuances and make the arc interesting. This season, I got to do more intense things when I was on, but it was more little bursts. I wouldn’t be around for a couple of episodes, and then I’d be there in a really intense way for four or five episodes. So both versions were challenging and so wonderful.

What do you feel really kind of helped crystallize Renee as a character, either from an acting standpoint or a character standpoint?

AW – Obviously, just the relationship that was sort of able to develop between Jack and Renee in that first day of only knowing each other for 24 hours was a huge thing. Then there was the scene with Jack, Larry Moss [Jeffrey Nordling]and Renee in front of the Capitol that was shot in Washington, D.C. where the three of them are basically having a conversation and battling the whole moral dilemma of what’s right and what’s wrong and everything. For whatever reason, that was sort of her breaking point where she didn’t want to, but kind of chose to do what Jack was suggesting. I think that was a big defining moment for her.

I was wondering if they [the show’s producers/writers] ever talked about Larry Moss as a love interest for Renee last season, and if so, when did that change in favor of Jack?

AW – There was always sort of this lingering question as to what exactly was Renee’s and Larry’s history. They never addressed it specifically in the show, but for us, Jeffrey and I kind f decided that maybe they had dated for a second and then realized that, no, we have to be professional. Larry was still sort of always pining for Renee, though, and longing for her. However, there was no real discussion as to if Larry and Renee were going to get together last season. It was more a lingering history that they wanted you to sort of sense between those two.

Quickly going back to Renee’s death scene – how long did you have to hold your breath at the very end while Kiefer did the long look at you at the end, and how challenging was that?

AW – That was actually very hard. It was probably just 20 or 30 seconds, and even though my eyes were closed, I could sense what he was doing, and you kind of want to watch. I thought, “Oh, there’s amazing things happening that I can’t see right now, and I can’t breathe.” It was easier and less challenging holding my breath when my character was buried alive [last season].

You’ve said elsewhere that it saddens you that there won’t be a future for Renee in any sense in the 24 universe, whether the show is on the air or not. Had her future been different, what would you foresee for Renee?

AW – If it had taken off right from being in Jack’s apartment, I think it would have been very interesting to sort of see the two of them try to make it in the world, maybe going back to California, but sort of always being called back into the line of doing the right thing to help save people. It would have been just fun to see them out saving the day together and running around in different situations and countries and places, always having close calls but getting to sort of save the day together would have been pretty fantastic.

As noted above, photo by Kelsey McNeal and copyright of Fox, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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