Kiefer Sutherland‘s new ABC thriller Designated Survivor is the ultimate marquee drama series mashup. “There are a few tones at play in the show,” explained exec producer Jon Harmon Feldman at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Thursday. “There is a West Wing component of a man and his team governing our nation in this time. There’s also the Homeland aspect of an investigation and the conspiracy. And it’s also got a House of Cards component, which is the characters and the business of government through the eyes of these characters and political dealings and dealmakers.”
The drama finds Sutherland playing a low-level (and about-to-be-fired) HUD Secretary who becomes an unlikely President of the United States following a catastrophic attack on Washington, D.C. The 24 vet confesses he “had no intention of doing a television show” when the project first came to him. “But I felt I needed to give this script a cursory read and explain why I couldn’t do it,” he recalled. “And I remember getting to the end of the script and thinking I was potentially holding the next 10 years of my life in my hands.
“I felt the script was so beautifully structured,” Sutherland added. “It had the thriller aspect, a family drama, and then it also allowed itself on a political level to [trigger] discussions that I think we need to have in a rational way.”
Asked by TVLine how his Designated character Tom Kirkman would react to the likes of Jack Bauer, Sutherland joked, “‘Good-looking guy. I really should lose the glasses,'” before adding, “I think Jack Bauer had incredible conviction and had a real moral compass for that circumstance, so I have to believe that he would trust him.”
Designated Survivor premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 10/9c.