Paul Drinkwater/NBCU
Elaine Aradillas and Jed Dreben
July 15, 2008 12:45 PM

Kiefer Sutherland says making sure 24 could proceed without a hitch was his top priority when he served seven weeks in jail last winter following convictions for DUI and violating probation – which he called a “dumb mistake.”

Sutherland served 48 days behind bars in Glendale, Calif. during the writers’ strike.

“It made what I had to do – obviously a very stupid thing that I did – it made that easier because I could go and the show was not affected by it,” Sutherland, 42, said Monday during the Television Critics Association conference in Beverly Hills.

“I made a really dumb mistake, and to be able to go back to work, which is something I feel comfortable doing, it’s a safe place for me, I was grateful to have that opportunity,” he told a group of reporters. “I’ve had very good friends that have made similar mistakes and have not been that lucky. So, I was very aware of how lucky I was to have that opportunity.”

Friend and 24 costar Robert Carlyle added that Sutherland is doing “very, very well,” and called his jail sentence “like squashing a fly with a mallet.” Sutherland is “very healthy, very fit,” he said.

Sutherland returns as Jack Bauer in the 24 prequel movie scheduled to air on FOX in November. The show’s seventh season is scheduled to air in 2009.

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