Kiefer Sutherland, charged with assault in New York, is getting support from his cast mates on the long-running Fox TV drama "24."
Sutherland got a loving hug from co-star Jon Voight and kind words from other "24" actors while at an advance screening Tuesday night of next week's season finale.
"Well, it's, on so many different levels, it is like a family," Sutherland said on the arrivals line.
"We've had, I think, 12 weddings on our show over the last seven years," Sutherland continued. "I think 16 children have been born. We've lost a couple people. So all of those things really pull you together."
The actor is accused of head-butting a fashion designer at a New York City nightclub early last week. He was charged with third-degree assault.
Reporters at the screening were asked not to bring up Sutherland's new legal troubles.
No decision has been made on whether the charge will affect Sutherland's probation for a drunken-driving conviction in Los Angeles.
Sutherland, 42, pleaded no contest in October 2007 to driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. He served 30 days in jail, in addition to 18 days for violating probation in a 2004 drunken-driving arrest.
"Kiefer is one of my best friends, and he's a great guy," said actor Carlos Bernard, an original "24" cast member who plays fed-turned-terrorist Tony Almeida. "I've been around the world with him in bars and social situations, and I've never seen anything close to this happening, He always bends over backwards to be courteous with people and to be generous with his time."
"Kiefer has his own way of doing things, and he has his own energy, and he is awesome," said Mary Lynn Rajskub. "And every time I work with him, he brings that energy and that commitment."
This year, "24" has explored the real-life hot-button issue of torture in the name of national security - something Sutherland's character, Jack Bauer, has frequently employed. In Monday's two-part season finale, "you see a real, monumental shift in his character," Sutherland promised.
The cast is just two weeks out from starting filming of season eight.
"I think, maybe, five scripts (have been finished), so I can't tell you too much," Sutherland said. "But where it's starting right now is probably the most believable scenario that I feel we've ever done before."
The season finale of "24" airs 8 p.m. EDT Monday on Fox, and the entire seventh season will be released on DVD the following day.http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_PEOPLE_SUTHERLAND?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2009-05-13-05-36-22