Production Crew Still Answers Debbie's Phone, an Interview with Joseph Hodges, Production Designer on Foxís 24.
BACKGROUND: A few episodes back, on the 24 show during a scene set in the Araz family home, you could hear a cell phone. Excited fans ran to dial those tones and found the phone was being answered by actual cast members of the program 24.
Since then, calling 1-310-597-3781 has produced interesting responses. As reported by our own Dreamer, the most frequent response is a recording that says, ďPlease hold while the Nextel subscriber you are trying to reach is located, then some Spanish - por favorÖ Sorry but the mailbox belonging to 'Nextel phone for 24' is full. It can not accept anymore messages. Please try again later.Ē
On other message boards, people keep saying they called and got this person or that, the prop guy, etc. Then they say, in caps, IíM TELLING THE TRUTH! So that got me going. Iíve been calling on and off and trying to get through, hearing the Nextel recording in both English and Spanish, and hoping and praying for a human voiceÖ
For the 24 TV show, the phone line has been sort of instant grassroots publicity. With a big following by internet users, 24 manages to get very happy commentaries now from people who actually got to speak to the set. Me included!
I wanted to know about the programís recent change of address. The old set, near the corner of Canoga and Erwin Street in Woodland Hills, is gone. 24 moved out in May and June. Today, the stages are gone, everything is gone, and the ground is bare and flat awaiting new construction. They even took away the vans used for Kimís frequent kidnappings that had been parked for two years in a lot behind the facility.
That neighborhood is called the Health Insurance Capital of the World because at one time HealthNet, Pacificare, Blue Cross, and Kaiser had towering offices in a mile square area. Did 24 have to move to make room for more health insurance adjusters? Or was it because no company would give Jack a life insurance policy?
TODAY: I called the phone number and Joseph Hodges, the showís visionary production designer, answered the phone. Wow, I got through! First, I made sure I didnít have the wrong number. Wasnít the recording supposed to come on? Was this just a mistake? Joe Hodges voice is distinctive and memorable, so when he introduced himself, I knew it was real.
EA: Hi, Joe. Iíve met you before at the TV Academy last year. You were all really wonderful there, and so very passionate about your show. Can I interview you for a web page?
JH: This is going on the 24 Forum?
EA: No, not there. Thatís not my favorite place. It will go on a place called Jokers Updates.
JH: Iíve never heard of that one. Is it a new one?
EA: You probably have never heard about it because it is about all TV shows and not just 24. But they have a place on their page just for 24. Probably the forum people will link to it and see it anyway. Or someone will just copy this onto that board but that would be plagiarism.
EA: I know you just moved from Woodland Hills to the north Valley. What was it like to move?
JH: It was a relief because I got to build a whole new CTU. I went to Joel (Surnow, 24ís executive producer and creative genius) and I went down on my knees and said please let me build a new CTU! They were thinking about building the new one just like the old one. But since I built that one, every TV show has jumped on the old CTU look, like using the colors orange and grey.
Have you seen the new NCIS? It looks like they shot it in the old CTU. One of the producers said that show was using a set that looks like our set.
EA: Did you get to do what you wanted?
JH: Joel lets me go crazy and design what I want. Iím lucky in this town where a production designer designs something and they all (the producers, directors, etc.) put their input on how they want it changed. But not on 24.
EA: On TV, someoneís creative spark ends up getting ruined in order to make it a group decision
JH: Right. But not here. Joel let me do it like I wanted. But there was one problem. We had like a 12 or 13 week break between the two seasons and I had been working without a break. What happened in the end of last season I asked if i could design a new CTU. But the new season was about to start and they insisted I take a break (aka vacation) because I hadnít had one.
JH: They said I had to take a week off and of course I went home and spent a week on the computer at home designing the new CTU. Iím glad I did that because when I got back to the set, they said I could design a new set but gave me 48 hours to have it ready! It was Monday and I only had until Wednesday morning to design a new set. Joel (Surnow) and Jon (Cassar) and Tim (Iacofano) came over, and loved it. You'll see it on the new DVD. They actually had a crew follow me around while I was building the new set. It will be one of the extras on the next DVD.
EA: I know Tony Plano, who played Omar the Terrorist this season, used to film Resurrection Boulevard in the same area where your stages are now. Do you know if you are using the same building where they shot that show?
JH: No itís not. Iím sure of it. It was never used for filming before. It was a pencil factory!
JH: We are in a warehouse with a very low ceiling. But I still wanted to put in two stories in the CTU. The ceiling is only 20 feet tall! So it is all working with curves to be able to get the second story in there and get the lighting up there.
EA: Thank you for taking my call.
JH: Thatís why we put the phone in. So we could let our fans actually talk to the set.
EA: Is it working out?
JH: Itís great. People call up and we talk to them. We really had a bad day yesterday (24 have a bad day? Had to kill off a regular character, or maybe nobody got killed?) and Jon Cassar took a few phone calls and talked to a few fans and he really liked that.
JH: They are calling me and I have to go now.
To see the designs of the old CTU, you can go to Joeís website at http://josephhodges.com/24.1.html.
And if anyone from the show sees this, please apologize to Jon Cassar for the lady who drove in front of his SUV on the Ventura Freeway in Studio City last May. She didnít realize it was his until she saw the license plates in her rear view mirror. So sheís sorry and promises not to do it again.