The 24 Most Unforgettable Women From ’24’
For eight seasons—and a limited-run miniseries—Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) made a cottage industry of staying alive on Fox’s hit series 24. Eventually, though, his (and the show’s) countdown clock had to run out. (Sutherland is now starring as a Bauer-esque character on ABC’s Designated Survivor.)
As fun as it was to watch the invincible Bauer seemingly come back from the dead season after season, the real stars of 24 were the badass women that populated its many seasons. These female characters were strong, intelligent, and in some cases, deadly. So we’ve put together a list of the 24 most unforgettable women from 24. If you’re wondering why we’re taking a trip down memory lane now, we have our reasons. Fox is resurrecting the brand with its new 24: Legacy (cast pictured above), which starts a new countdown immediately following this year’s Super Bowl.
But before you get watching (and nostalgia-tripping), check out our list below. [Spoiler Alert: Sorry, but there are tons of spoilers below.]
(1) Elisha Cuthbert (Kim Bauer) – Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert stole the hearts of male viewers from 2001-10, with her portrayal of the mildly ditzy Kim Bauer, Jack’s only child. We say “mildly,” because in later seasons, Kim would turn out to be a major ass-kicker like her dad, and ended up saving the world a few times over. These days, Cuthbert’s co-starring in Netflix’s The Ranch (with That ’70s Show alums Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson). Prior to that, she did a turn on long-cancelled ABC comedy Happy Endings (which had a rabid fanbase and could see a reboot). Sorry to report, guys, but back in ’13, Cuthbert tied the knot with current Ottawa Senators’ defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
(2) Leslie Hope (Teri Bauer) – Oh, man, we were so gutted when Jack’s first wife, Teri, got killed off at the end of Season 1. She was thoughtlessly murdered by another one of Jack’s femme fatales, Nina Myers (whom you’ll find out more about below). Not only did Teri effortlessly rock short hair, but she also showed her mettle time and time again (she capped at least one bad guy in cold blood). And although Teri and Jack were separated prior to the pilot, her death ultimately messes up Jack. We find out that he quits CTU (only to be brought back in Season 2), becomes estranged from his daughter Kim, and gets hooked on heroin (Season 3), all to lessen the pain of Teri’s death. Leslie Hope, who portrayed her, has been quite active since 24, with turns on NCIS and Suits, but hasn’t quite shaken off the shadow of being the original Mrs. Bauer.
(3) Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O’Brian) – If you weren’t a huge fan of Jack’s quirky (and incredibly loyal) CTU co-worker and sidekick Chloe by the end of her run on the series, you just didn’t have a heart. She perfectly straddled the line between comic relief and badass on the show, and you found yourself simultaneously rooting for her and hoping she survived another day (she made it all the way through Season 8). Others in the industry obviously noticed, because she’s been successful since the series wrapped. Aside from coming back for the short pre-reboot of 24 back in 2014, Rajskub turned up in Oscar-winners Little Miss Sunshine and Julie & Julia. She also popped up on the small screen in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
(4) Sarah Clarke (Nina Myers) – It’s hard not to be hot and cold about Nina Myers, considering how many times she both assisted and screwed over Jack. (After all, she did murder his wife, Teri.) But there’s something super sexy about a woman who can manipulate the world’s most indestructible man. And although Jack ultimately got the better of her—he blew her away at the end of Season 3—there was a Nina-sized hole in the series after she not-so-dearly departed. As far as where Sarah Clarke’s been since then, you’ve probably recognized her in The Twilight series (it’s OK if you’re a fan, really) or the spectacular Amazon show Bosch (starring Titus Welliver, a.k.a. the guy who played the Smoke Monster on Lost).
(5) Jayne Atkinson (Karen Hayes) – Division Director of the Department of Homeland Security at CTU Los Angeles, Hayes began her stay on the show in Season 5, quickly realizing that the Commander in Chief she was working, Charles Logan, was, in fact, himself a threat to the homeland. She also caught on that Jack Bauer was the only man who could set everything straight. She ends up reappearing in Season 6 married to a series favorite Bill Buchanon (James Morrison), and at that point, has been promoted to White House National Security Advisor to then-President Wayne Palmer (the series’ second African-American president). Maybe the greatest part? As far as we know, she’s still alive in the 24 universe. Clearly, producers took notice of Atkinson’s incredibly strong-willed performance as Hayes, as she eventually turned up for a 20-plus episode run on Criminal Minds and the Golden Globe–winning House of Cards.
(6) Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessler) – Turning up in Season 2 of 24, Aylesworth’s Michelle Dessler put in an incredible amount of time supporting Jack. She was his closest confidant, a friend, and eventually, became a love interest of one of Jack’s righthand men at CTU, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), who will be reprising his role in 24: Legacy. Sadly, Dessler won’t be joining him, as she was assassinated in Season 5. While Reiko Aylesworth has been much less prolific of an actor as, say, Mary Lynn Rajskub, she has taken on a number of memorable roles, including a multi-episode run on ER, a memorable bit-part on Lost, and a recurring role on the reboot of Hawaii Five-0.
(7) Kim Raver (Audrey Raines) – Although fans wouldn’t get to know Department of Defense liaison Audrey Raines until Season 4, she quickly became a fan favorite as Jack’s latest post-Teri love interest—whose husband, at the time, Jack would eventually torture (let’s just say “It’s complicated”). She stuck around until Season 6, when she fell victim to the Chinese government. Jack had a moment to say goodbye, and us viewers all assumed she died peacefully. We here at RCL actually sort of dug ABC’s short-lived The Nine, with Raver in one of the lead roles, but it only lasted for 13 episodes before getting the axe. She’s also appeared on Grey’s Anatomy, among other roles.
(8) Penny Johnson Jerald (First Lady Sherry Palmer) – No 24 list of the most unforgettable women on the show would be complete without First Lady Sherry Palmer (i.e. the incomparable Penny Johnson Jerald). As the wife of President David Palmer—the first African-American president on the show—Sherry was the Manipulator in Chief, a perfect foil to her highly pragmatic husband. She survived only until Season 3, when her lies and deception caught up with her and she was killed off. If you were a fan of long-running Castle, Johnson Jerald played Captain Victoria Gates, whom she portrayed for nearly 100 episodes.
(9) Cherry Jones (President Allison Taylor) – Despite what the history books say, there has already been a female president—on 24, that is. Cherry Jones took on the role and ran with it for Seasons 7-8, basing her president on Eleanor Roosevelt and Golda Meir, per USA Today. “Was there any Hillary Clinton in there?” you might wonder. Jones said this:
“She’s not at all like Hillary Clinton. In the first place, I think she’s battling depression. I think of Hillary Clinton as a very gregarious and pragmatic person. I don’t see Hillary Clinton invading Darfur. It’s a very bold move that these writers have made—of this woman planning an invasion of an African country—an intervention.”
You may have seen Jones in Hulu’s spectacular 11.22.63 as Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, or in critically acclaimed series Transparent and Black Mirror. You could say she’s still winning the popular vote.
(10) Annie Wersching (Renee Walker) – Appearing as an FBI agent in Seasons 7-8, Wersching played “bad cop” for most of her time on the show, dabbling in torture and other indiscretions. She was an on-again-off-again friend and foe of Jack, eventually winding up his lover. Shortly after hooking up with him, though, she’s gunned down. Which leads us to believe that any woman who’s romantically connected to Jack Bauer is one step away from the grave (sort of like most Bond girls). Thankfully, Wersching has had a tremendous second life on TV, appearing on The Vampire Diaries and the noir-y cop drama, Bosch, on Amazon.
(11) Katee Sackhoff (Dana Walsh) – Showing up during the series’ last full day, Katee Sackhoff—whom sci-fi geeks will fondly remember as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from the Battlestar Galactica reboot—seemed like a solid cast member at first, but suddenly became expendable for a number of reasons (including the fact that “Dana Walsh” is actually not her real name). In the end, it turned out that she was a traitor and wound up on the wrong side of Jack Bauer’s gun. Sackhoff has since turned up in a number of sci-fi-skewing shows, even playing herself on The Big Bang Theory. But most recently, you’ve likely caught her in Wyoming cop drama Longmire.
(12) Janeane Garofalo (Janis Gold) – Ever since turning up in ’90s grunge fairytale Reality Bites, Janeane Garofalo has been typecast as the dorky, quirky, side-kicky girl. And we’re sure she doesn’t mind, given that she’s been prolific as an actress. Her 15-episode run on The West Wing likely got her noticed by the folks at 24, and she joined the cast as an FBI analyst in Season 7, running counterpoint to Jack’s other sidekick Chloe O’Brian. She never made it beyond that season, but as far as we can tell, escaped with her life intact. Garofalo’s kept up her acting clip since the show, starring in countless bit-parts and multi-episode runs. If you were a Wet Hot American Summer fan, you last saw her in the recent Netflix sequel.
(13) Shohreh Aghdashloo (Dina Araz) – Aghdashloo’s suburban-mom-turned-sleeper-cell-terrorist character on 24 was one of the series most memorable and haunting. During the heart-stopping Season 4, she deftly played Dina Araz, a gravely voiced mother who’s simultaneously pretending to be an American housewife and mother, while helping to plan a terrorist attack. We eventually felt sorry for her on the show, though, because of Araz’s clear love for her son. But a terrorist with a heart—at least according to the folks behind 24—equals a dead one. An Iranian actor by birth, Aghdashloo was cast in the Oscar-nominated film The House of Sand and Fog prior to her role on 24. She’s since straddled the line between small and silver screen, acting in a number of acclaimed works. You may have caught her most recently in Star Trek Beyond as Commodore Paris.
(14) Yvonne Strahovski (Kate Morgan) – For all of you completists out there, Strahovski appeared in the 2014 miniseries 24: Live Another Day, which saw her portray a badass CIA field operative, who—like many other characters on the show—finds that the man she’s initially hunting down (Jack Bauer) turns out to be on her side all along. Of course, Strahovski was already well versed in kick-assery: She had done a turn as Agent Sarah Walker on NBC’s Chuck and as a beautiful serial killer on Dexter. After 24, she’s co-starred in films Manhattan Night and All I See Is You, among other projects.
(15) Michelle Fairley (Margot Al-Harazi) – During 24: Live Another Day, Fairley played a former Al-Qaeda operative who plotted to take out the sitting U.S. president via a drone strike. (Yep, she was dark and twisted, to say the least.) She would meet one of the more painful deaths on the show, falling out of a window to her death, only to land next to her son. But fear not! Fans of all things good will remember that a few years earlier Fairley portrayed the kind-hearted (and winter-weathered) Catelyn Stark on Game of Thrones.
(16) Kate Mara (Shari Rothenberg) – Here’s a name you probably didn’t think you’d see on this list. Yes, Kate Mara, who had a star-making-turn on Netflix’s House of Cards (only to get pushed in front of a subway car) appeared in Season 5 of 24, as a replacement analyst at CTU. She had just a small role—which ultimately, supported Chloe O’Brian—so fans gave her the benefit of the doubt. Since 24, Mara’s career has exploded. Besides Cards, she’s turned up in a number of feature films, including multiple Oscar-nominated movies 127 Hours and The Martian.
(17) Aisha Tyler (Marianne Taylor) – Another great limited-run role, Tyler found herself in CTU posing as a good guy but really working for Habib Marwan and the terrorists in his organization during Season 4. She played a believable double-agent until she was found out, subsequently dying trying to help the good guys at CTU. Tyler’s turn on 24 opened up a lot of doors for the actress/comedian; she wound up on CSI and Ghost Whisperer before landing her best-known role as the voice of Lana Kane on the hilarious cartoon James Bond spoof, Archer. You might’ve also recently seen her in a 30-episode-plus run on Criminal Minds.
(18) Mia Kirshner (Mandy) – Kirshner gets the award for the coolest bit-part/recurring role in 24 history—and our Survivor Award, because, well, she’s one of the few assassins in the show that escapes with her life. (As far as we know, she’s also the lone gay character to ever appear on the series.) We first meet her in Season 1, blowing up an airliner and parachuting out. She then reappears in Season 2; and finally, in Season 4 (working for Habib Marwan and company), where she’s unbelievably granted a presidential pardon and set free. And we never even knew her last name!
(19) Connie Britton (Diane Huxley) – A Season 5 love interest of Jack Bauer’s when he was undercover, we couldn’t help but add Britton to this list because of all the front-and-center roles she’s had since her “day” on 24. Arguably, she’s had the best run of any of the actresses on this list. For one, she played the world’s awesomest mom, Tami Taylor, on the grossly underrated Friday Night Lights (everyone should drop what they’re doing and binge-watch the hell out of this show right now). She also portrayed Faye Resnick in the critically acclaimed, Golden Globe–winning The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. But she’s probably best loved as the Shania Twain of the canceled-but-recently-resurrected Nashville, during which she spent 108 episodes playing force of nature Rayna Jaymes. The show’s fifth season is now airing concurrently on CMT and Hulu.
(20) Jennifer Westfeldt (Meredith Reed) – We also had to add Westfeldt, because we have tremendous respect for tenacious female journalists—even fictional ones. Westfeldt reported for the New York Courier (what we’re guessing was 24‘s stand-in for the Times or the Daily News) for six episodes in the show’s eight season. Up until 2015, Westfeldt was the real-life “better half” of Mad Men star Jon Hamm (a.k.a. Don Draper). She’s only appeared sporadically on TV since her role on 24—doing a 23-episode turn on canceled ABC show Notes From the Underbelly—and has turned up most recently on HBO’s Girls.
(21) Leighton Meester (Debbie Pendleton) – As we’ve mentioned above, some of the greatest characters came out of 24‘s Season 4. And, well, Meester wasn’t all that memorable as the unsuspecting girlfriend of the son of terrorist Dina Araz, but she did meet her maker in a rather terrible manner: Araz served her a poison-laced after-school drink. Might make you think twice about your high school boyfriend’s mother, no? Luckily, that wasn’t the end of Meester on the small screen. You’ll probably remember her as one of the co-stars of Gossip Girl.
(22) Anna Diop (Nicole Carter) – 24: Legacy – You didn’t think we’d skip the new series, did you? The little we know about Anna Diop’s Nicole Carter is that she’s lead man Eric’s wife and a nurse (Eric Carter is the next-gen Jack Bauer). Diop recently told Variety that her character “[is] a strong woman, but her strength is tested in so many ways—physically, mentally, emotionally. She goes through so much.” What that probably translates to is that she’ll be dodging explosions and whizzing bullets, stitching up wounded people on her day off. We’re looking forward to meeting her on the small screen after the Super Bowl.
(23) Miranda Otto (Rebecca Ingram) – 24: Legacy – On the new show, Otto plays the former head of CTU (now based in D.C., rather than L.A.), whose husband, Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits), is running for president. We’re going to take a wild guess here that Donovan will be the target of an assassination attempt, and Ingram will be caught in between. Either that, or Ingram is working with a terrorist cell. Or both. If you watched Homeland after the second season, you’ll recognize Otto as Allison Carr. (For the mega-dorks out there, she also played Eowyn in a pair of the Lord of the Rings movies.)
(24) Sheila Vand (Nilaa Mizrani) – 24: Legacy – You might know the Iranian-American Vand from Oscar-winner Argo, and in the new series, she’ll be playing Senator John Donovan’s campaign director. Since she’s set to appear in all 12 episodes, we can assume that she’ll be the Kellyanne Conway of 24: Legacy, dropping all sorts of “alternative facts” to make sure her candidate gets all the way to the Big Chair.
—Will Levith for RealClearLife
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