Kiefer Sutherland Talks DESIGNATED SURVIVOR’s Reluctant President
It almost sounds like a twisted Cinderella story, but it’s actually the could-be-true account of how Tom Kirkman came to be president.
In case you didn’t know, Kirkman is the fictional character played by Kiefer Sutherland in ABC’s new fall drama Designated Survivor.
Sutherland plays an honest and hardworking — but often overlooked — lower-level cabinet member who is given the unenvied position of “Designated Survivor.”
While the position, which goes all the way back to the constitution, “protects the line of succession to the presidency,” explains Sutherland, “[the role] is not a coveted thing,” and it forces Kirkman to be sequestered at a secret location during the State of the Union. A fitting behind-the-scenes position for a man who has recently fallen out of favor with the president.
However Kirkman suddenly finds himself thrust into the spotlight when a catastrophic attack on the U.S. Capitol during the president’s address leaves him the only viable candidate for the presidency.
“He’s not prepared at any level,” says Sutherland of his character’s situation. “But then again I don’t think anybody is prepared for the presidency overnight.”
However, it’s sink or swim as Kirkman battles to win the backing of his peers and the country while leading the search for those responsible for the attack.
“To watch someone who is as kind-hearted and gentle as Tom Kirkman to be thrust into this position of being one of the most powerful people in the world — that’s not for the faint of heart. So you realize there’s going to be some jeopardy for his family. It’s a nerve-wracking situation to watch someone be thrust into that kind of spotlight,” says Sutherland of Kirkman’s situation.
“He’s a good person. He has a very strong moral center, or compass, and he will do his best to follow that. What I think is interesting over the long view of the show is that age old question: Do corrupt people ascend to power or does power corrupt? What is going to become of him over the long haul? I haven’t gotten to read those episodes yet, so I don’t know either. I’m waiting to see,” he laughs.
Kiefer Sutherland’s full video interview follows.
Designated Survivor stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, Natascha McElhone as Alex Kirkman, Adan Canto as Aaron Shore, Italia Ricci as Emily Rhodes, LaMonica Garrett as Mike Ritter with Kal Penn as Seth Wright and Maggie Q as Hannah Wells.