In Designated Survivor, the former 24 star plays Tom Kirkman, a low-level White House cabinet member who becomes the de facto president of the United States after a devastating attack on Washington, D.C., during the elected commander in chief’s State of the Union address. What comes next is an unimaginable (and dramatic!) sequence of events that kicks off the explosive premiere.
The show, which boasts a star-studded ensemble, promises to chart the ascension of an “everyman, this Mr. Smith,” as executive producer Mark Gordon puts it, as he stumbles over his new duties as leader of the free world.
“The show is going to be about the aftermath and picking up the pieces,” says Natascha McElhone, who plays Tom’s wife Alex Kirkman.
“You see this normal guy in complete shock when this happens and you have to see how he evolves into being a productive president,” adds co-star Italia Ricci, who plays Tom’s Chief of Staff Emily Rhodes.
“What I think is interesting over the long view of the show is that age-old question: Do corrupt people ascend to power, or does power corrupt?” Sutherland hints, alluding to rocky times ahead for the newly-minted president.
“Here is this very good person and what is going to become of him over the long haul?” he asks. “I haven’t gotten to read those episodes yet, so I don’t know either. I’m waiting to see.”
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking for it. I hadn’t read anything very good and I didn’t want to just do something for the sake of doing it, so I was just caught off-guard by how special I thought [the Designated Survivor] script was,” Sutherland added.
Designated Survivor premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.