ABC’s Designated Survivor stars Kiefer Sutherland as a low-level cabinet member who becomes President of the United States after a catastrophic attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the government. During the drama series’ TCA presentation today, the cast and creatives were asked whether they were concerned with the possibility of having to move or pull the show in the midst of a spate of recent terrorist attacks around the world.
“We are not concerned because we know where the show is going and who did it — it’s not going to be the thing that everyone seems to jump to,” Sutherland said, likening it to the recent shootings in Germany. “We were talking about ISIS immediately after the attack [at a Munich shopping mall], but the reality was that it wasn’t [ISIS]. Like 24 after 9/11, “we did not push back. Television has the responsibility to confront what is happening in the world instead of tell it in post-tense.”
Joining Sutherland onstage at the Beverly Hilton were executive producers Simon Kinberg, David Guggeheim, Mark Gordon and Jon Harmon Feldman and co-star Natascha McElhone.
When first approached with the idea for the show, Kinberg admitted not knowing what a designated survivor was, but he felt it was “an incredibly high concept” and “from a storytelling perspective was so rich and dramatic.” He added, “The only debate we had was if it was a television or a feature. We felt like a version of doing it for TV gave us an opportunity to give so many colors in the work. TV felt like the better and richer way to do it, and so far it has proven true.”
Sutherland admitted he has no intention of doing another TV series, calling his time on 24 the”greatest experience” he had as an actor. After giving the Designated Survivor script “a cursory read,” he was sold. “I remember getting to the end and realizing I was potentially holding the next 10 years of my life in my hands. I felt the script was so beautifully structured: it had the thriller aspect of trying to find out who had done this and a family drama, what happens when overnight, you go from a very structured life to the life of the President.”
He added: “It allowed itself to format, on a political level, to have discussions that we need to have in this country in a rational way. We hear really important and respectable points of view from the left and the right .I felt that this script afforded every opportunity to treat a landscape that is so vast that being able to do many years of a show is possible… that is why I came to be a part of the show.”
Designated Survivor will debut on ABC in the fall.