ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg(NEW YORK) — Kiefer Sutherland is returning to television in ABC’s new political thriller Designated Survivor.
The actor plays Tom Kirkman, a lower-level cabinet member who is suddenly appointed President of the United States after a catastrophic attack on the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union address.
“Having done 10 years in television before on a show called 24, which is the greatest experience of my lifetime, I saw how easy it was to paint yourself in a corner with regards to story,” Sutherland said on GMA Wednesday.
“David Guggenheim, who wrote this Designated Survivor, tells three beautiful story lines at the same time,” he continued. “One is a family drama, which what happens to a family if, overnight, they move into the White House and the restraints of that for their children … and then, ultimately, the thrilling aspect of the show, which is the investigation into the attack and what is the appropriate response?”
Actor Kal Penn co-stars alongside Sutherland playing a speech writer — and, incidentally, acts as a real-life White House consultant.
In 2009, Penn took a break from the big and small screens to join the Obama administration as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
“Kal Penn, obviously very successful actor, got involved with President Obama’s campaign,” Sutherland said. “The two of them became friendly and Kal … was asked to leave acting for two years to come work at the White House and became a speech writer and a confidant of President Obama’s.”
Penn often fact-checks the Survivor cast about how things really happen behind the scenes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Incidentally, The White House is becoming a family affair for Sutherland, whose daughter Sarah Sutherland, stars in the Emmy-winning HBO comedy, Veep.
“I had a really interesting experience growing up,” he said. “My parents — my mother’s an actress, my father’s an actor — never really talked to me about work. When I started working, they let me find my way and my daughter has earned that as well. And so, when we get to spend time together we talk about family.”
Designated Survivor premieres Wednesday night on ABC.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 21, 2016