Tim Kring's latest TV project Touch is one of the most anticipated new US shows of the spring and it premieres in the UK this week on Sky1.
We caught up with Tim on the phone to chat about the lessons he learned on Heroes, working with Kiefer and the future for Touch.
I've watched the first episode of Touch and it has a real positivity to it. Will that be running throughout the series?
"The show, I think, because it is tied very closely to this theme of interconnectivity, it's sort of my intention to make that a positive experience. I'd agree that when you bring people together, 99% of the time, something good will come out of that interactivity.
"So the show is going to attempt to be on the whole uplifting. Hopefully not sacchariney and tied in a neat little bow each week but for the most part it wants to be uplifting. We always try to undercut enough with things. Like the big emotional moment in the pilot when the British businessman sees a photograph with his daughter, but his daughter is dead and his marriage is somewhat in trouble. We get a sense at the end that there might be a good thought there but not much more than that. Yet it does have that uplifting quality."
Where is the show going to focus? Is it going to be about Jake or interactivity?
"We're halfway through the first series, just wrapped up episode 6 out of a 12 episode order. And it's interesting that the pilot is really very indicative of what the show's going to be like. Each week there will be a storyline that Kiefer Sutherland and his son are involved in that has a satellite of stories around it that connect in odd and unexpected ways. Those stories each week become a mesh of a kind of anthology show built around the standalone storyline that Martin and his son Jake are involved with each week.
"There is also a kind of mythology that starts to overlay on top of the show about this idea of who else is out there, who may have this ability that Jake has to see the patterns in the universe and if there are others then who are they and what's behind it and who might be interested in this ability. So that constitutes a bit of the overarching story that will happen."
Does the fact that Kiefer is so well known add difficulties and add extra pressure? People have expectations of him...
"For his fans there is obviously always a hurdle to get over when somebody does any part that is different from a well known, well loved part. So we will see whether those fans, that are big 24 fans, will accept Kiefer in a role that is not Jack Bauer.
"However, I believe Kiefer as an actor brings a tremendous amount of strength and dignity and vulnerability to this character. His character is a very vulnerable character. He is someone who is put upon by the world and by circumstances in his life. Kiefer's strength as an actor, because he has tremendous weight and strength that counterbalance that sort of vulnerability, make it more powerful. When Kiefer gets punched in the stomach in the pilot he doubles over in pain like anybody else would. And it really is, for those who are used to Jack Bauer, it's really a powerful moment to see the vulnerability of the character."
Will Danny Glover be seen more in the series?
"Yes, Danny will recur as a character who seems to have answers. Those characters are very important especially in the beginning of any journey for a protagonist to come back to and find if they're on the right path or not."
Do you have a clear map of future series and how the show will progress?
"The truth is, unlike my last show, we're not as burdened by thinking that far ahead. These stories each week that are standalone, we really want to have a beginning and a middle and an end to these stories. So Kiefer Sutherland's character gets on a path each week and it comes to some conclusion at the end of each episode where his involvement has made an impact on someone's life in some real way.
"So we're concerning ourselves 90% of the time with the telling of the story each week. As far as the overarching mythology we have some broad strokes where we want to be and the characters we want to introduce. But I will say in all honestly that I have learned to stay pretty open to things, anyone who says they've got it all worked is either lying or a fool.
"Because the truth is, it's the most imprecise science in the world making a television show. You must be organic to the process, because it tells you what it wants to be as much as you tell it what it wants to be. And you get a whole plan to get two characters together and go in that direction then you get on the set and those people have no chemistry with one another.
"Or you plan everything around an actor and then suddenly they're unavailable or they die or something. And so you just have to go with the flow a little bit and you start to see what works and what doesn't and it's very much like a heat seeking missile: you try and go with what seems to be working and jettison stuff that doesn't."
What lessons did you learn from Heroes?
"Partly, not wanting to repeat myself again. I've had many, many jobs as a writer and I've always tried to change things up and also learning certain lessons about overserialized storytelling. But there's also, I think, a climate change in terms of the audience and how they watch network television especially.
"Cable TV can still attack a serialized show in a different way but network TV has real challenges with overly serialized storytelling. There's usually an attrition rate and it gets harder and harder to find new viewers once that train leaves the station, it's hard for people to hop on that train.
"So for those reasons I really realised that what I really loved to do was write characters. I love inventing characters and coming up with characters. And this affords me and the writers of the show to look at these episodes as short stories in a way. We get to do what we call haiku storytelling. We learn to tell a story in very few weeks with a beginning and a middle and an end. It's a very satisfying way to tell a story."
Is this show responding to an actual public desire for a TV show about a connected world?
"I really am just following my own heart and my own gut in many respects but I do feel that people... my sense as someone who tries to keep my ear to the ground to what's happening in the world and as a father of kids who are growing up in a complicated world, I do see that there is a kind of yearning to examine ideas around the social media world and the way we are connected and how small the world feels to people these days.
"I think that it's a comforting idea to feel that our lives, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem, have meaning that our actions every day might have some importance in the world in a greater sense than what's just immediately in front of us. I think that's a comforting idea in a ever more complicated world."
Jake's powers are quite mystical. Is the show not looking into where the power comes from?
"I don't want to rule out the idea of explaining it but there is a mystical quality to who he is. There's a sense of every once in a while people come along who change the way the world sees itself and I think Jake represents that idea as someone who is perhaps chosen."
Watch our video interview with Kiefer Sutherland about Touch:
How did you go about casting, particularly a child actor?
"It was a really interesting challenge and process - we looked all over the place for that part. We cast out of London, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles. We cast a very wide net and saw tons and tons of kids and it got to the point where it was really just a sense of an other worldliness that we were looking for.
"We got a lot of kids who were adorable and could act but there was a sense that they didn't feel like they had a lot going on underneath their general cuteness. So, we were looking for this kind of special otherworldly quality and also a kind of intelligence that would belie the fact that we hear his innermost thoughts. The audience has this privileged view of hearing what he's thinking and feeling. And he's highly intelligent.
"That voice had to match the person who was on the screen so that was a rare combination. And finally when we brought in the finalists to read with Kiefer. Kiefer immediately gravitated towards David who played Jake and it became pretty apparent that there was something pretty unique and special about this kid right off the bat. His tremendous ability to focus which, trust me when you're making a TV show on a limited time and limited budget, having someone who can focus like that is really a fantastic thing."
Touch starts on Tuesday, March 20 on Sky1. In the US, the show resumes on Fox on March 22.