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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 13, 2009

'24' character Kanin named after Writers' Workshop faculty member Canin

Ethan Canin is a busy guy. Acclaimed author. Faculty member at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. White House Chief of Staff on "24."

Well, at least his namesake is.

Ethan Kanin is the White House Chief of Staff on the new season of FOX's allegedly real-time, action-adventure, white-knuckle-to-save-the-world series that had its season premiere on Sunday. Canin, the UI faculty member, said that the character is, indeed, named after him.

He said he's known Howard Gordon, the show's producer and show runner, for 15 years, and Alex Gansa, one of its writers and a co-executive producer, since third grade.

"We're long-time friends and they were writing partners from when we were struggling," said Canin, whose novels include "Carry Me Across the Water" and "America America," and the short story collections "Beautiful Ohio" and "The Palace Thief."

Canin is no stranger to Hollywood, as the movies "Emperor of the Air," "The Emperor's Club" and "The Year of Getting to Know Us" were based on his work.

Canin said he didn't know his old friends planned to name a character after him until Monday, when he started receiving emails from people noting the character they saw on "24" the night before has the same name. He's not sure why nobody noticed the similarity during the show's last season two years ago, when Ethan Kanin was the secretary of defense.

Played by long-time character actor Bob Gunton, "24's" Ethan Kanin is a wily politico and D.C. backroom navigator who is deftly maneuvering President Allison Taylor (played by Cherry Jones) to stand down from a planned regime change invasion in Sangala, an African country that looks like a combination of Sudan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

His motives appear to be noble, based on a desire to save American lives from a terrorist plot that would be hatched by Sangala's Saddam-like president should the invasion proceed, but in the gotcha, trust no one, Byzantine world of "24," you never know.

No doubt, Jack Bauer will figure it out, though.

Canin said he isn't sure why the "24" character's name starts with a K instead of a C, but suspects it has something to do with a Hollywood rule that requires producers get permission from real-life people who have an unusual name before they give a character that name. By changing Canin to Kanin, he thinks Gordon and Gansa could name the character after him and not spoil the surprise.

"It's kind of cool, honestly," he said. "I like it."

Canin said he has no plans to write an episode of "24," but he's thinking that maybe asking his friends for a cameo appearance wouldn't be so bad.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell),