Just when he had said goodbye to Jack Bauer on Fox’s 24, Kiefer Sutherland has found himself in the lead role of another political thriller, but this time, he’ll be on ABC and he’ll be playing the President of the United States. Designated Survivor casts Sutherland in the role of Tom Kirkman, a low-level cabinet member who finds himself appointed President after a terrorist attack takes out everyone above his pay grade. Kiefer was set to pass on the Designated Survivor role, but, much like Tom Kirkman, Mr. Sutherland found himself facing a role too compelling to decline.
Kiefer Sutherland On The Role That Caused Him To Exclaim “Sh–” With One Read Of The Script
Mr. Sutherland had a good run with 24, going from 2001-2010 for the regular series and returning for a special event run in 2014, but he says he had really hoped his days of working a regular gig were over. They might have been, but someone sent Kiefer a script for Designated Survivor and, as E! News reveals, the rest is history in the making. Maybe Mr. Sutherland shouldn’t have read the script at all, but then he would have passed up a role that seems tailor-made for him.
“I had no intention of doing a television show and I was very busy, but I felt I needed to give the script a cursory read so that I could at least respond with some intelligence and explain why I couldn’t do it,” Sutherland said at the T.C.A. summer press tour. “And I found myself on page 22 and I remember saying, ‘S–t.’ I’ve got to go back and start from the beginning because it was shaping up so beautifully. And I remember getting to the very end of the script and realizing I was potentially holding the next ten years of my life in my hands.”
Kiefer was committed to Designated Survivor that quickly, whether he liked it or not. The next step was to reach out to friend and series producer Mark Gordon to let him know he was definitely interested in the project. The script for Designated Survivor was so well-written that Kiefer hadn’t made any notes, which, in turn, led Gordon to suspect that Sutherland hadn’t read the script at all.
“I felt the script was so beautifully structured,” said Mr. Sutherland. “It had the thriller aspect of trying to find out who had done this, it had a family drama—what happens when, overnight, you go from a very structured life to the life of the President of the United States and the First Lady? What happens to your children? What sacrifices are made there?”
Designated Survivor Has The Power To Unite America, Says Kiefer Sutherland
Recent news events and political mud-slinging have gone a long way towards dividing the American public and setting us all at odds, but Kiefer says he hopes Designated Survivor will be something capable of bringing people together again. According to Fox News, Sutherland thinks this new political thriller will remind Americans that the things that bind us, like loyalty and patriotism, are greater than those things that have recently divided us. Kiefer draws particular attention toward the current presidential race.
“I think anybody who’s watched this last election cycle, it has become like a name-calling, children’s spat. I don’t see a lot of interest in discussion,” says the Designated Survivor actor.
Designated Survivor is being billed as a cross between shows like 24, West Wing, and Homeland, but Sutherland adds that while the political thriller is action oriented, there is also compelling family drama. Kiefer says the show explores what happens when an ordinary family man suddenly becomes the most important man in America. Mr. Sutherland also likes that Designated Survivor will allow a medium for exploring hot topics in a rational, intelligent way.
Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Maggie Q, and Natascha McElhone, will premiere on Wednesday, September 21 on ABC.
[Image by ABC]