Kiefer Sutherland may be Hollywood royalty but he has cheap taste when it comes to whiskey.
His signature drink is a glass of J&B Blended Scotch neat. “It was the old well whiskey in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I just got used to it,” he admits. Does he ever get any flack for drinking such a humble spirit from the members of his band? “No, because they always run out of their [liquor] and they’ve got to come to me because it’s my bus and I have a bigger stash. They know not to talk shit about it. They would if they could.”
And true to form, he passes on my offer of a glass of Jim Beam Bourbon and instead waits as someone fetches him some J&B from his dressing room.
He’s fresh off the stage from performing for a large crowd at the Bourbon & Beyond festival in Louisville and he barely seems winded. At this point, his country band is playing more than 120 shows a year around the globe. He still insists his famous name and acting roles draw the crowd, which he doesn’t seem to mind. “Look, to be honest, I don’t care why you come to a show and I know for most people, 99-percent, it’s like a NASCAR race, they want to see a crash,” he explains to me. “It’s our job to try and turn them and for the most part I believe we’ve been successful. I haven’t been shot. Nobody’s thrown anything at us. That’s not an invitation, either. People have been incredibly generous and gracious.”
In fact, that’s why Sutherland likes to bring out a glass of whisky onto the stage and toast the crowd. “It’s just an opportunity to express real gratitude.”
He likens the experience of being a musician to being on stage in a play. Several years ago, when he made his Broadway debut in That Championship Season, “we went out every night after the show,” he remembers. “There’s no way you’re going home to bed. You have this visceral response and the audience had hopefully a pleasant reaction to it. So, you’re either going out because they had a good reaction and you’re high on it or they had a bad reaction and you’ve got to figure out what to do.”
Neither experience, though, is much like being on set of a movie or a television show. “It’s a grind,” he says. But he’s quick to add “Designated Survivor, I loved making it. And, my gosh, 24 was literally the time of my life. 10 years. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. But it’s a very different mindset for work. It’s like constantly prepping for an exam.”
Given the intensity of the work, I wonder if Sutherland even drinks in character. “No. Not at all,” he says. “I work as hard for the weekend as most people.”
But Jack Bauer was a Scotch drinker, right? “It would be a Sake Bomb, a Car Bomb, a Scotch Bomb,” Sutherland jokingly disagrees with me. “That would be awful. That would be a shot of Scotch whisky into a pint of Guinness. Try to sing after that!”
It wasn’t always such a slog to be on set. “I hear my old man tell stories about what it was like in the ‘70s when they worked eight-hours-a-day and that was with a big lunch,” Sutherland says. “It’s not like that anymore. And they all went out to dinner together. You all wanted to go on location because it got you away from the family. It was like a really, really exclusive circus. Now you’re working at the Ford factory and hopefully you’re making a car you like.”
His comments make me ask if he’ll ever give up acting to focus on singing. Sutherland waves off my concern. “I’m an actor,” he reassures me. “Make no mistake, I’m not Whitney Houston and I don’t have that voice. I like my songs and I like singing them because they tell a story and if someone accepts my voice for its unique qualities, great, but nobody could call me a singer. The storytelling is something I really enjoy.”