With “24: Legacy,” Fox is rebooting its action-drama series without star Kiefer Sutherland as franchise hero Jack Bauer. The new series revolves around Corey Hawkins as Eric Carter, a young veteran of the War in Afghanistan who finds himself the target of a terrorist group.
Hawkins, who is African-American, spoke about the cultural significance of his casting Wednesday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
“The script happened to be amazing when I read it,” Hawkins said. “It lifted off the page, and my mind just started going with where you can take it and what it means in television to be a hero and look like I look.”
Hawkins rejected one reporter’s question about whether he thought elements of Carter’s story — such as a love triangle with a relative who is also a gang leader — represent racial stereotypes.
“It’s not just about his skin color, it’s about his culture,” Hawkins said. “It’s about where he grew up. It’s about what does it mean, what are the alliances growing in Washington, D.C. southeast, where I happen to personally have grown up.” The show, Hawkins said, tries to be authentic to that aspect of Carter’s backstory. “Growing up, we never got to see a hero who didn’t have superpowers who looked like us, that you could kind of look to and say, ‘I could be that guy one day. I could be a patriot. I could be a soldier. I could work in the government and be a hero.'”
As for the love-triangle story line, Hawkins added, “It’s Eric’s reality. It’s just where he comes from.”
Executive producer Howard Gordon dismissed the idea that Hawkins had been cast specifically for diversity.
“We didn’t just want to do it, as you say, because someone said ‘Let’s cast a black guy, or an Asian guy, or a Hispanic guy,'” Gordon said. “It was very much ‘Who is this character?'”
Jimmy Smits, who plays presidential candidate John Donovan, fielded a question about “representing the Hispanic population” in the new show.
“I’m representing the Hispanic population because I am of Hispanic background,” Smits said. “My name is Smits. Character name is Donovan.” Having an ethnically diverse cast, he added, has been “part of the legacy of this show.”
Asked about diversity in the show’s writers’ room, Hawkins said, “We had very long conversations actually about making sure our voice is in the writers’ room, and we do have black writers in our writers’ room. I’m very proud of that. We have women writers, strong writers.”
He added, “We are a diverse people, man. And this show is a reflection of that, as it always has been.”