From its inception in 2001, 24 has been a global success.
The 12 episode limited event series revival 24: Live Another Day sought to capitalise on that global success by being both set and shot in London – a move Kiefer Sutherland called “very fitting”. With that decision came the opportunity for UK based actors to get a shot on a major US series. One such actor is Branko Tomovic, who is currently starring in Live Another Day as Belcheck, Jack’s right hand man.
While 24 marks Tomovic’s first foray into US television, the London based Serbian actor has amassed an impressive list of credits including stints on Strike Back, Law & Order: UK, Silent Witness and Whitechapel. He is also active on the feature side of the business, with an upcoming role on the Brad Pitt starrer Fury. Tomovic has also recently been cast in the lead role of Nicola Tesla in the indie film Tesla.
Branko Tomovic was kind enough to spare some time from his busy schedule to talk to us about 24: Live Another Day, working with Kiefer Sutherland, a potential move to Hollywood and much more.
TVWise: Right now you’re appearing on 24: Live Another Day as Belcheck, who has more or less been Jack’s right hand man. What’s it been like working on such an iconic show?
Branko Tomovic: Absolutely brilliant – in every way. It’s been an exciting time since Day 1, because I never knew how long I’ll be doing it for or what I would be actually doing. We get the scripts as we do it, so we don’t know what will happen and, of course, each time I’m scared to read the next script because I don’t want my character to die! Anyone could die at anytime in such a series. And there have been a couple of occasions already when I thought, alright this is it then for Belcheck, they not gonna bring him back. I’m probably always the last to know what’s going on.
An old veteran actress once told me once, that being an actor is like being on a mushroom farm, we are always kept in the dark, and every now and then someone would open the door and pour a bucket of shit over you. But in this case it has always been the opposite, and each time I was thrilled to hear of course that Belcheck is still around. Jon Cassar – 24’s lead director – is such a brilliant director, so intelligent, precise, focused, enthusiastic and passionate. They all know exactly what they are doing and have made 24 what it is today, so once you come on board as an actor you trust them blindly.
TVWise: You’ve had some great scenes – from breaking Jack and Chloe out of the CIA to confronting Adrian Cross. When we last saw Belcheck, Jack was telling him to wait by the phone, so I take it we haven’t seen the last of him?
Branko Tomovic: The escape in the opening episode was really cool, that was my very first day. I suddenly found myself standing on top of that van, holding this rocket propelled grenade launcher in my hands and blowing things up. But the best is yet to come! That’s all I can say though…
TVWise: It’s been hinted at that your character and Jack have something of a dark history, is that likely to be explored in the final five episodes or will the audience be left to guess at the backstory there?
Branko Tomovic: Jack was on the run for four years, hiding somewhere in Eastern Europe. That’s where he knows Belcheck from. We already learnt that Jack saved Belcheck’s life, that explains his loyalty. And Chloe also pointed out his Serbian mob tattoo with the slashes which stand for each killing he has committed. I think it’s good that there is a certain mystery about the past. There is only so much that is revealed slowly.
TVWise: You have great on-screen chemistry with both Kiefer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub. What is it like working with those two actors?
Branko Tomovic: When you are on set you have Jack Bauer in front of you… Kiefer is one of the greatest. He is so focused, precise, intelligent, generous and prepared. I have learnt so much from him. That loyalty that Belcheck has towards Jack probably comes a lot from myself, as Kiefer is also such a wonderful person so I find that very easy to play. I kind of saw Belcheck always like his watchdog, his doberman even. I am actually very lucky to be a bad guy but on the good side. If I’d been an enemy of Jack, I’d probably be dead already. I love the ‘new’ Chloe, her darker character now. Chloe and Belcheck have probably a lot in common. Mary Lynn is fantastic, she is wonderful to work with as well and great fun. She is really funny, she did some gigs in London’s underground comedy clubs after shooting.
TVWise: Your role involves a lot of firearms and explosives, can you talk about the amount of training you needed to do?
Branko Tomovic: On 24 we have specialists for every department on set, and the armoury guys came up with some really cool and inventive stuff. They would brief me about the different weapons and show me exactly how everything works. Everything has to be right and perfect to the smallest detail.
TVWise: Before 24, you’ve largely appeared on UK television shows, with notable examples being Strike Back and Whitechapel. How have you found working on a US show vs a UK show?
Branko Tomovic: It’s really cool to have the US 24 experience in the UK as 24: Live Another Day is completely set and shot in London. Our cast and crew is a great mix of Americans and Brits. I don’t really see much of a difference, it’s all about the project itself for me, working with great directors and good scripts, you go where the material is. And you definitely have great, innovative and brilliant shows from both. I have never done a TV show in the US though, maybe I would never want to leave my trailer then because apparently, some trailers are so big you could have your own swimming pool and tennis court inside of them.
TVWise: It’s been said that competition for roles on Live Another Day from UK based talent was fierce. How did you find the whole casting process?
Branko Tomovic: I had the audition for 24 in January, I met with the great Amy Hubbard [casting director] here in the UK. It’s quite common these days with high profile projects not to receive the whole script in advance, but only your scenes. They are watermarked with your name and usually the character names are changed as well, so I didn’t know that I would be having scenes with Jack Bauer at that time. The Hubbards are one of the best casting directors, not only from an actor’s point of view. You feel safe in their hands, their interest is to bring out the best in you as an actor. We did six to seven takes, all different variations of how the scene could be played. But what it was in the end why I was chosen, I have no idea! I never asked of course.
TVWise: Now that you’ve appeared on a US show, and with there being so many more opportunities across the Atlantic, would you have any interest in heading to Hollywood for pilot season next year?
Branko Tomovic: That was originally the plan this year. I was just about to fly to Los Angeles for five weeks for pilot season for the first time and had just paid for flight, hotel and car. Three days before I was supposed to fly out, I received the offer for 24 and had to cancel everything. Which has been absolutely the right and only decision, even if I didn’t know at that time that they would keep me on the show for more than 1 or 2 episodes. So the risk definitely paid off. It’s an exciting time to work in TV right now, so probably yes. But I find it so difficult to plan ahead, an actor’s life is so unpredictable. The moment you make concrete plans everything is shred to pieces. That is usually the case with me, so I am just looking forward and see what will happen.
TVWise: What’s on the horizon? Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Branko Tomovic: There are a couple of things open right now, but one thing I can talk about is a thriller called Schism, which Steve Stone will be directing. I worked with Steve already on Entity and I am very much looking forward to be working with him again. The story is mostly set in an interrogation room in a mental asylum. I will be playing a psychiatrist interviewing a woman who has been found with the bodies of three children in a wheat field, but they disappeared…
Branko Tomovic stars as Belcheck in 24: Live Another Day which airs on Fox on Monday nights at 9/8c in the US and on Wednesday nights at 9pm on Sky1 in the UK.