The “24”-verse and the real world have always been more alike than some viewers may be comfortable with. The series premiere was originally supposed to include a plane exploding — after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that particular pilot plot point had to be scrubbed. In the sixth season of “24,” all Muslim Americans had their civil liberties suspended after a rash of suicide bombings. On Friday evening, President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, even those who had been given refugee status or legal visas.
It was in that atmosphere that the cast and executive producers of “24: Legacy,” Fox’s expansion of the Jack Bauer cinematic universe, descended on New York for their premiere. The new installment of the franchise centers around Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins), a recently returned Army Ranger who finds himself the target of a terrorist plot.
“Without giving any spoilers, as the season progresses, we’ve been pretty prescient,” executive producer Manny Coto told Variety, acknowledging that current events have turned the show into even more of a mirror. “We’re not worried; it’d be nice if things were going well, but as the season ends, ‘24’ is actually reflecting and expanding on what’s going on. It’s not just a terrorism story.”
The political and social turmoil enveloping the nation has not gone unnoticed by the cast.
“I’m using it a lot for the show,” said Raphael Acloque, the French actor who plays the university-educated son of a jihadist who takes up his father’s mantle after his father’s death. “Because of my background, it all hits very close to home — my father is Catholic, my mother is Muslim.”
Charlie Hofheimer — who you might remember as Peggy Olsen’s boyfriend in the latter seasons of “Mad Men” — strutted the grey carpet with a sticker on his lapel: a circle with the word “Ban” struck out by a red line. Hofheimer plays Marcus Grimes, Eric’s former comrade-in-arms. “I couldn’t not have something,” Hofheimer said of his gesture of protest against President Trump’s executive order. “It just felt wrong. There are times when saying nothing is still saying something, and to be part of a show that is in that conversation is something I’m proud of.”
Anna Diop plays Eric’s wife Nicole; and while it’s tempting to shut out the events of the wider world, she said, “I don’t think it’s a time to rest — I think it’s a time to stand up, to resist, to protest, to band together. I think for viewers, I hope the show is a nice escape from what’s going on, that it gives them someone to believe in like Eric Carter, a real everyday hero, to know they are powerful.”
“Everyone is represented in this show,” said her compatriot Ashley Thomas, who plays Eric’s brother Isaac. “Sexual orientation, color, background. That’s what I want people to take away: Anyone can be anything.”
For Hawkins, on the verge of possible superstardom with “Straight Out of Compton” under his belt and a probable lead-in of 100-plus-million pairs of eyeballs thanks to the “24: Legacy” premiere’s post-Super Bowl slot, the opportunity to prove to a large audience what Thomas said is a reminder that the world is still a good place. “I sort of have to have a positive outlook. I didn’t grow up seeing faces of patriots, emotional and raw and gritty, who looked like me,” Hawkins said. “I remember seeing the first episode of ‘24’ when I was 13, and to be that face for a 13-year-old and open up that possibility, it shows you the world isn’t on fire. There’s possibility there.”
Miranda Otto plays outgoing CTU director Rebecca Ingram. “It’s unnerving to me how many things we touch on in the show are becoming incredibly hot topics at this moment,” she said. “We pose some interesting questions. We don’t give answers — there are complications, but at the end of the day, this is one day, so there’s not a lot of time to process things or pull them apart.”
Coto and executive producer Evan Katz couldn’t help but draw on events unfolding in the outside world for a little inspiration. “There’s a wrinkle in the last batch of episodes that was influenced by something that was said in the run-up to the presidential election,” Coto said.
“But we would never connect it literally,” Katz added. “We don’t take positions on political candidates or parties.”
“There is a character named ‘Frump’ who tries to take over CTU,” Coto joked.
“24: Legacy” will premiere after Super Bowl LI on Fox on Feb. 5.