Season 2 of ABC’s Designated Survivor (premiering Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 10/9c) will be a bit more West Wing than 24, while adding a splash of John le Carre.
“Everything people liked about last year we’re going to keep,” avows Keith Eisner, the sophomore series’ fourth showrunner — while adding the aforementioned, West Wing-like facet. “Last year, in a great way, was more this ‘deer caught in headlights,’ Frank Capra/Mr. Smith Goes to Washington thing, whereas this year” — picking up six months later — “is more about [Tom Kirkman’s] journey from outsider to insider.”
While Kiefer Sutherland’s unlikely POTUS embarks on that path, Maggie Q’s FBI Agent Hannah Wells will segue into “something a bit more John le Carre,” Eisner teases, referring to the espionage novelist. Within the first few episodes of Season 2, “We’re going to wrap up the [conspiracy] story with a really thrilling, action-y conclusion” and then move away from the “existential threat to the president himself. It will be more about how you survive as a political entity.”
And while Zoe McLellan (NCIS: New Orleans), Paulo Constanzo (Royal Pains) and Ben Lawson (Doubt) are new to the mix (playing the White House counsel, a political director and a British MI-6 love interest for Hannah), returning players won’t be forgotten. Newly installed National Security Advisor Aaron Shore’s heritage will skew his view on a Mexican border issue, while Brian McNamara (Army Wives) is set to guest-star as Chief of Staff Emily Rhodes’ father. “We have a lot of personal stories,” says Eisner. “There’s a lot of humor, a lot of emotion.”
BONUS SPOILER!: The midseason twist that will “knock [your] socks off” (as Sutherland teased in May) arrives in Episode 10, “and that’s all I can tell you,” Eisner smiles. “But it’s going to be great.”