Interview with Tara Bennett
Author of the 24: Official Companion Series
Here at KieferSutherland24.net we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to ask a few questions of the 24 Companion guru and 24 Magazine writer extraordinaire, Tara Bennett. Here's what she had to say:
KieferSutherland24.net: Tell me about the Official Companion Series, in particular the newest edition, Season 5.
Tara Bennett: First off, it’s been my great joy to be the author of the ’24 Companion Guide’ series. I feel really lucky and blessed that I get to officially relate the stories and anecdotes of how the series is made, from the mouths of catering all the way up to the executive producers. In particular, the Season Five Companion Guide is my favourite to date, not only because it’s my favourite season, but also because for the first time we expanded the format of the book so we are only covering one season. Instead of two seasons worth of episode guides, this guide provides more space for new exclusive, long-form interviews with all the Emmy winners, actors Greg Itzin and Jean Smart, and some of our favourite characters who didn’t make it out of the season five bloodbath!
KS24: What was your favourite 24 interview to do?
TB: That’s a tough question. Just looking in my archives, I’ve done more than 150 interviews for the companion guides and 24 Magazine, so it’s hard to narrow down a favourite. My first interview with Kiefer was sitting across from him at the CTU Situation Room table, so that was pretty memorable. But I love talking to Howard Gordon every visit, as he shares so much insight behind the scenes. For this book, Greg Itzin and I spoke for more than an hour and he was witty and intelligent and about as 180 as you can get from the slimy Charles Logan, which made me appreciate him all the more.
KS24: Were there any that didn’t go so well? (For example constant interruptions, wired timing, strange places…)
No, I’m pretty prepared for any occurrence and especially when I am on the set, I expect to conduct my interviews in little chunks between takes. Interruptions are the norm, and I’m the guest so I always defer to their needs. But I do have some odd locations for my Season Six Companion Guide, so ask me again for that one J.
KS24: What prompted you to start working on 24?
I have worked with my publisher, Titan Books and Magazines, for some time and in December of 2005, I heard from my new editor at 24 Magazine that there would be Companion Guides for the series as well and they would need an author. I pitched myself as the perfect candidate and they must have figured I was crazy enough to do it!
KS24: Are you a 24 fan? How did you start watching it?
Absolutely, I am a fan. I started watching in the first season.
KS24: What is your favourite season and why?
Seasons one and five are my favourite seasons. Season one because it established the format and was really an amazing experiment that everyone expected to fall on its face, but instead it excelled. The tragic ending of season one was heartbreaking and really set the tone for the days to come. Season Five was special because it was the first time I felt the B story for the year (The Logans) totally lived up to Jack’s story. There was no disappointment switching back and forth between the storylines. Itzin and Smart were amazing to watch.
KS24: Who is your favourite character (aside from Jack Bauer)?
I really love Bill Buchanan in season five. He really dealt with so much crap from McGill and Karen Hayes and the guy kept his cool. He’s a classy character. And of course, I’ve always loved Tony!
KS24: I really enjoy your work in the 24 Magazine, how did you come about working on it?
I actually worked on the magazine first. One of my long-standing editors was given the title and asked me to write for him. When I got the books too, it worked out perfectly that I could get material for both sources throughout the year, so the PR team isn’t bothered with a lot of different reporters. I became the consistent writer for both projects, which allowed me greater access and trust so it’s a perfect situation really.
KS24: Do you check message boards (such as the Fox 24 forum) before interviewing actors and producers to see what the fans want to know about?
Yes, sometimes I do. I pride myself in being a true fan so I hope my compliments and criticisms reflect the fandom in general. I want the books to address what the fans want to know, so I will ask close friends (that are also 24 freaks) what they would want to know or ask if they could. And sometimes, I will lurk on some messageboards to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.
KS24: In the Official Companions, my favourite parts seem to be the ‘Additional Intel’ that usually has some kind of inside knowledge about the show. Where does this information come from?
All that information comes from my interviews with the cast and crew, PR material provided by Fox, and interviews in major publications or websites that I then confirm and corroborate with the 24 folks. Anytime I get some trivia in an interview, I circle it in my notes and know I can use it later for the Intel sections.
KS24: Being a writer yourself, how do you feel about the television writers strike and how it’s affecting the industry?
I’m very sad and concerned about the strike. I am a freelance writer with no union, so I respect and appreciate that the WGA is protecting its members in this very harsh and competitive industry. I back the WGA 100% and I know it’s not just a case of rich people bitching about other rich people. It’s about intellectual property and being paid for that fairly. That being said, I know so many people on 24 and other shows that I consider friends that are all laid off or soon to be laid off and I worry for them all. Plus, it trickles down to me, in that I can’t interview any writer or showrunner for stories that I do on a range of series from Lost to Heroes, so my livelihood is at stake too. Lastly with 24 being delayed until they can start production back up again, that means I won’t have a book to write on Season Seven for some time.
KS24: I see that sometimes you are credited “Tara DiLullo” and sometimes “Tara DiLullo Bennett. Are you recently married? If so, congrats! If not, why the difference?
I’m recently divorced, which is fine too (lol). I started writing with my married name five years ago not knowing how life would turn out. Now that that chapter is finished, I’ve decided to change my writing name to my mother’s maiden name in honour of her. She’s the reason I write today. I wanted people to know I was the same person that wrote the first books, so the transition will be complete with the Season Six companion where I’ll just be known as Tara Bennett forever more.
KS24: Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us, can't wait for the Season 6 Official Companion!