Designated Survivor: Kiefer Sutherland Previews Tom's Introduction to the Republicans' Own Designated Survivor

Are two designated survivors better than one?

ABC’s Designated Survivor delves into that unheralded question this Wednesday at 10/9c, when newly installed President of the United States Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland) meets his Republican counterpart, Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (Witches of East End‘s Virginia Madsen).

Yes, it’s true — for the past decade, there have been two designated survivors named prior to each State of the Union  gathering, one to rebuild the executive branch and one to lead a new legislature. “It is an actual, real thing,” executive producer Jon Feldman says of the early plot twist. “Just as Kiefer’s character” — who was elected as an Independent, into a Democratic administration — “is the designated survivor,DESIGNATED SURVIVOR the opposing party that’s not in power” appoints one of their own.

If this is news to you, know that it was news to Sutherland as well.

“I knew about the first designated survivor before I read the script. I knew it was in the Constitution,” he tells TVLine. “But I didn’t know that there’s a representative from each party. So in our scenario, the Republicans have a designated survivor in case something happens to me.”

Of course, the freshman drama’s version of D.C. has already suffered so much calamity — and there isn’t a show without Tom Kirkman — so it’s a safe bet that Sutherland’s character will go unscathed (for now). Still, Congresswoman Hookstraten will have a say.

“If something doesn’t happen to my character, she is there to voice that party’s point of view,” Sutherland explains. “Again, going back to the Constitution, no one person can ever solely be in power in the United States, and that’s why they have this.”

In the wake of the series-starting tragedy, will Hookstraten serve as a sympathetic “yes man” to the in-over-his-head President Kirkman, or might she seek to usurp his tenable grasp on power? Says EP Feldman, “We’re not quite sure if she is an ally, an obstacle… or a combination of both.”

Want more scoop on Designated Survivor, or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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  1. meatwad says:

    so so so excited for this show. really liking this cast. can’t wait to see where they go with this

  2. cy1763 says:

    So what about the Supreme Court? Even without a Designated Survivor for the legislative branch, it can be quickly rebuilt via governor appointments and emergency elections. Judicial Branch all 9 Justices of the Supreme Court are at the SOTU. So how do you go about appointing 9 new Justices?

    • Katherine215 says:

      I’m guessing you have to wait until the legislature has been appointed, then nominate 9 new Supremes? And have them go through the normal confirmation process? I’ve always wondered why we send everyone to the SOTU and this show is not helping me change my mind on the inadvisability of this procedure.

    • herman1959 says:

      If I remember correctly, a judge from the DC Court of Appeals administered the oath of office to Kirkman. I’m guessing they’ll rebuild the Supreme Court off of her (I think it was a woman). My question is what role Virginia Madsen’s character gets.

    • FatherOctavian says:

      In recent years, more and more Supreme Court justices have skipped the State of the Union. So in all probability at least a couple of them are still alive. The appellate court judge likely administered the oath of office because she was the first federal judge they could locate. The same thing happened the last two times presidents were assassinated.

      John R. Hazel, the U.S. District Judge for the Western District of New York, administered the oath of office to Teddy Roosevelt after McKinley’s assassination. Sarah T. Hughes, the U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, administered the oath of office to LBJ after Kennedy’s assassination.

      • herman1959 says:

        Solid. This reminds me of that episode of The West Wing when the President’s daughter (played by Elizabeth Moss) was kidnapped and he temporarily stepped aside. It was necessary to put in a sub from the opposing party because the standing VP had resigned over a sex scandal. Anyway the sub POTUS was played by John Goodman and he threatened to “blow something up” if the kidnappers hurt the girl. If this show is half as good as the West Win, it’ll be fine.

  3. justsomeguy says:

    The first episode was fantastic! Looking forward to this show. My favorite newbie this season, for sure.

  4. Grace says:

    sorry keifer but this has only been a thing since the cold war (and in congress only since 9/11) and is not in the constitution ;)

  5. Joey says:

    The interesting thing about the real life designated survivors at the most recent State of the Union, was that the President’s office chose Jeh Johnson as their DS. He’s the Secretary of Homeland Security. He’s also 17th in line for for President, if all before him die.

    The Republicans, on the other hand, chose Orrin Hatch. I’m sure most people haven’t heard of him. He’s President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. He’s also the 3rd in line for President. So, had what happened in the show happened in real life this past January, anything related to Obama and his presidency would have died, and a Republican would have been President.

    It’s pretty interesting that one party can outplay the other, as long as they have the right people in place. Democrats continue to let the Republicans control pretty much anything not in the White House, and because of their apathy toward midterm voting, we’re pretty much always two deaths away from a Republican president.

  6. Chris says:

    Presidential Succession is clearly outlined in the 25th amendment, but there is no Constitutional Provisions outlining a Designated Survivor. Designated Survior was a common sense reaction to the Cold War and Nuclear War. Up until that point, it would have been difficult to essentially behead a sitting government (though Guy Fawkes tried). Ironically, the Series is a modern day recreation of a successfull Guy Fawkes type attack.

  7. Ed Mirkovic says:

    Flirting with the I Am Legend story (Will Smith, as lone survivor), DS will hit more emotions and so far adding more of a interesting optimistic timeline. The heroic respect agenda of TS is perfectly maintained by producer actor KS. So far the chilling organizational systems in place and dictated by the US Constitution, are really brought to the same exceptional level as lead actor KS has in his character. They nailed the trait factor for the designated survivor mantra with KS. His stress is on a roller coaster, and with his own personal support system taking the edge off, and sending a great message of family values. Looking forward to more of the script, awesome, finally a great series. -EM

  8. Nancy K says:

    Great show, but how out of touch can the producers/writers be to send in the first responders without respirators, given the lung and respiratory diseases that our responders have suffered in the aftermath of Sept. 11th. Have we learned nothing? It hurts me to even see it.

  9. Desmond Cummings says:

    Its seams pretty compiling this but I have not get a chance to watched it has yet

  10. Cindy says:

    This series obviously has a Muslim Brotherhood agenda. It’s so phony how the series portrays Muslims as innocent victims of beatings by American police officers. In real life, the FBI statistics show that Muslims are NOT discriminated against here, despite the fact that the terrorist attacks on innocent Americans and others around the world are carried out by radical Muslims.

  11. ron smith says:

    What a show!
    Who needs Aaron Sorkin?

  12. moses masha says:

    the series is predictabke its frustrating and boring at the sane time. coz ure eager to see wat yu think will happen and it happens. i was watchin it waiting for the producer to prove me wrong but he didnt. bann the show keifrr can do better than that. he is 24 n it was an amazing show!!