Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Kiefer Sutherland said Sunday during Fox’ TCA panel for his new science-meets spirituality drama series Touch that he begins work shooting the long-discussed 24 movie in late March/early April. That jibes with what Deadline had previously reported as Sutherland’s schedule opens following his work on his new series, from Heroes creator Tim Kring, which has a special preview on January 25 before settling on March 19 into the Monday 9 PM time period — better known at Fox as “The Kiefer slot.” If the fact he’s jumping back into Jack Bauer’s well-worn shoes doesn’t make it clear, Sutherland said Sunday he has no interest in distancing himself from the eight years he spent saving the world on 24. He described having had little interest in diving back into the TV waters so quickly but was left little choice after reading the pilot script for Touch. “I remember getting to Page 35 and thinking, ‘Shit. I’m in real trouble here,’ ” Sutherland recalled. “The character is so vastly different (from that of Bauer), the tone of the piece is so vastly different. And that’s part of its appeal.”

Kring admitted that he didn’t write Touch with Sutherland in mind, and Sutherland even had to be coaxed into reading that pilot. Yet the actor reiterated his initial ambivalence had nothing to do with looking to put 24 in the rearview mirror, especially since he’s prepping to reprise the role he played for 200 episodes on the big screen. “I had to read the script twice to make sure that all the things that were affecting me were affecting me on a personal level as opposed to trying to manage a career,” he said of Touch. “Does it happen to be a nice diversion from 24? Yes. I just couldn’t turn this down because it spoke to me on a really profound level.” A critic asked Sutherland if he was looking to make people forget about Jack Bauer and stave off potential typecasting issues. “I feel like maybe I wasn’t very articulate before,” he replied. “My choice to do this had nothing to do with trying to get away from 24. It was because I want to spend hopefully the next seven or eight years sinking my teeth into something interesting.”

In Touch, Sutherland portrays a widower whose mute 11-year-old son possesses the ability to detect patterns that connect seemingly unrelated events. From the time the pilot was scripted, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly has sung Touch‘s praises. Kring said following this morning’s panel: “I can’t say enough about Kevin’s support. It was a script that I thought was a challenging one for a network to want to do to, I frankly didn’t think it would be done at a network. And Kevin read it and believed in it instantly and has absolutely been its tireless champion within the company. So I’m hugely indebted.”