Fall TV Preview

Kiefer Sutherland's New ABC Serial Thriller Designated Survivor Blends 'West Wing, House of Cards, Homeland'

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.