The producers of #DesignatedSurvivor hit the jackpot when Kiefer Sutherland was cast as a low-level cabinet member who becomes the president of the United States. The ABC show debuted on September 21st to solid ratings, in no small part to the former 24 star's presence. At present, the series hovers right around 11 million viewers each week.
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Sutherland brings with him a legion of dedicated fans, along with his powerhouse acting chops. And after spending years playing Jack Bauer, he has undertaken his presidential role with the same determination.
According to Sutherland, when being interviewed by the New York Times, though, the Oval Office set is to be applauded for some of that stellar performance:
"The set's so good you can't help standing a little straighter. There's something about how significant that office is. We watched Kennedy's kids play there, Nixon getting himself out of Watergate. It does have an impact on your performance."
Sutherland was drawn to Designated Survivor by the script and the endless possibilities of the show's premise. He saw the many avenues the series would have to take, and the twists and turns appealed to him as much as they do to the millions of viewers watching. Sutherland told EW:
"In my experience of having done 24, the more opportunities that you can have to save yourself from getting boxed into a corner is really great. And David Guggenheim, who wrote the screenplay, did that in such a beautiful way that immediately it was a story that I wanted to be a part of."
Though Sutherland understands he's playing the part of a fictional president, when he spoke to ABC News's Elizabeth Vargas, he made it clear that he does have hope that Designated Survivor could be a positive influence for change:
"If we can shine a light on how difficult the job is, that we don't need to be so divided, that there is a kind of common ground, it might have some positive impact in our real lives down the way. "
While that might be a lofty goal, we have seen how much influence a fictitious president can have on viewers. (Anyone remember Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing?) And if anyone can make people take a good look at themselves in the mirror, it's Jack Bauer...I mean, President Tom Kirkman.
Sutherland brings an air of hope to this role as a man being thrust into a position he never wanted. Though unsure of himself and on a steep learning curve, Tom Kirkman, as well as his alter-ego Kiefer Sutherland, knows what's at stake:
“So to be able to play the president (a) in the middle of a crisis and (b) who’s really trying to bring a country together within the context of crisis almost mirrors the circumstances that we’re dealing with now. And it allows us to have really balanced conversations about what we at least think is dividing the country and trying to figure out a way to bring them together. Again it’s a television show, it’s not real life. But the fact that we have a story that allows us to have some of these discussions I think is really exciting.”
Whatever discussions Designated Survivor might bring about, there is one thing we know for sure. Kiefer Sutherland is a man who knows how to be presidential, and when he summed up his feelings about Designated Survivor, he echoed the sentiments of its fans, telling the AP:
"...all of the components of this show feel right to me."
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. EST on ABC.