Sutherland in a scene from Touch. / Richard Foreman / Fox
Do you personally know anyone who is autistic like your son on your new TV show, Touch?
“In the context of our show, Danny Glover’s character articulates that he believe [my son has] been misdiagnosed with autism. He’s one of the very few people around the world that sees theoretical and numerical formulas that we just don’t see in our daily life but he sees them all the time. His perception is more evolved. This is a special needs child and a parent dealing with that. I have very, very close friends dealing with [a variety of special needs] and the demands that puts on a family; how it can bring you very close and pull you apart all at the same time. It’s a very complicated thing certainly to watch, to be part of as their friend.”
You've played a dad in 24 and Touch, and you are a dad in real life. Is that something that's comfortable for you?
“I am a father, so yeah, maybe it’s more about things I’ve reacted to, things that I read. Certainly 24 was a different set of circumstances than this; his relationship with the daughter was not at the forefront, it was much more about someone who is dealing with a personal crisis within his own family and then being forced to deal with a much larger crisis in his country. The dynamic of Touch is about a father who simply wants to be able to communicate with his son, like a normal father and son and, given his son’s needs, that’s just not going to happen. So you watch them develop another kind of communication..”
Do you have any indulgences, any guilty pleasures?
“Unfortunately, in my life time management has been an issue . I seem to be the kind of classic joke of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time because I have to focus on one thing.”
“I love spending time with horses, I love skiing, I love sports. I love time with my friends and I also love working and I seem to only be able to do one of them at a time. If I’m out of work for a long time, for over a year, I start to get uncomfortable so I tend to put myself in position where I’m going to work a lot and that limits a lot of the other things that I enjoy doing. That’s one of things I learned through my experience on 24: If you really want to, it’s not enough to sit and complain you can’t, you need to do something about it. Block the time out and stick to it. I’m getting better at it.”
Did you encourage your daughters to go into acting?
“My gosh no, I tried to discourage both of them as much as I could. But there was absolutely nothing I could do about Sarah. I had the kind of experience with both of my parents that I had to convince them that this was something I had to pursue and that if it didn’t work out, I would be responsible for that. Both my parents were unbelievably supportive at that point, I was grateful for that. So it was clearly what I wanted to do with my daughter. There were moments where before I got to see her first couple performances I thought, ‘Oh this is going to be a disaster.’ The first play I go, I’ll be really supportive. She went and gave a performance that just absolutely blew me away. I was so proud of her and I was also so embarrassed that I would be so arrogant to think that she wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Did your dad, actor Donald Sutherland, encourage you to go into acting?
“No, I made this decision for myself. I made a choice to leave school and work at some smaller playhouses in Toronto. Both my parents [his mom is Canadian actress Shirley Douglas] had tried very hard to get me to go back to school. . [I told them] you can make me go back to school for another six months but I’ll do this again. So we agreed that when I wasn’t working I would be in school, we tried very hard to make that happen for the next couple years and then Stand by Me happened and I was working a lot.”
If you're not into gadgets, I guess you read actual hard-covered books?
“Well, I’ve got a paperback here and there but, yes, they are published and printed out. It doesn’t mean someone hasn’t sent me a Kindle before. I kind of liken it to [vinyl music albums]: There was a real joy in flipping the record, with the efficiently laid-out albums so the first six songs on side one actually carried into song seven on the B-side. I find that I like flipping the page. ”