‘Designated Survivor’ EPs on Terrorism: ‘TV Has a Responsibility to Confront What’s Happening in the World’

Kiefer Sutherland Designated Survivor.
Stewart Cook/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

In ABC’s highly anticipated new fall drama “Designated Survivor,” an explosion in the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union claims the lives of the President and nearly all the members of the Cabinet — leaving Kiefer Sutherland’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development character as the reluctant commander-in-chief.

During the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association press tour, the cast and executive producers fielded questions about the show’s themes of terrorism during these tense times. “I think television has a responsibility to confront what’s actually happening in the world,” said Sutherland. “We’re not concerned because we knew actually who did it and we know where the show is going.”

“We’re not sensationalizing it,” added executive producer Mark Gordon.

Sutherland pointed to the recent attack in Germany, where the initial suspicion was that ISIS was behind it turned out to be unfounded. “It’s not necessarily going to be the thing that everybody seems to jumps to,” he says of “Designated Survivor.”

The producers said they weren’t concerned about the possibility of having to move or reschedule episodes in the wake of any future attacks.

“Our catastrophic event happens in the first episode. And then we’re dealing with it afterwards. We’re not using the spectacle of this horrible thing that happens to promote a singular episode of television,” Gordon said.

Sutherland pointed to his experiences in “24.” “Even in 24, there would be very few circumstances, even after the terrible days of 9/11, we did not push the show back,” he said. “I don’t think any of us could imagine a circumstance that would prevent us from confidently putting the show forward,” he said.

The actor repeated the enthusiasm for the series he’d expressed on stage at the upfronts, saying he wasn’t looking to do another TV show after his starring run on “24,” but was drawn to the script once he started reading it. “I knew I was potentially holding the next 10 years of my life in my hands,” he said. “I felt the script was so beautifully structured, it had the thriller aspect, it had a family drama.”

“My greatest experience as an actor was on ’24,'” said Sutherland. “Never once did I feel like I was playing the same character over and over.”

“Designated Survivor” was given a straight to series 13-episode order by ABC in the spring.

Along with Sutherland, “Designated Survivor” stars Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett and Tanner Buchanan. The Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios is behind “Designated Survivor” with creator David Guggenheim exec producing with Simon Kinberg. Mark Gordon, Nick Pepper, Suzan Bymel, Aditya Sood and Sutherland are also exec producers.