As special agent Jack Bauer in 24, Kiefer Sutherland saved the U.S. from a number of terrorist attacks. But there’s no such luck in his political drama Designated Survivor, which finds Sutherland playing the newly appointed president after a devastating attack on the Capitol.
While the two characters have very different résumés — Bauer is tormented but brutally effective super-spy, Designated Survivor’s Tom Kirkman is a dorky guy who used to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development — they do share some similarities.
Sutherland discussed what the two have in common during a recent episode of The Jess Cagle Interview.
Kirkman is “a guy who’s managed to take on a situation that you wouldn’t wish upon anybody,” said Sutherland, 49. “He’s taken on a circumstance that he can’t possibly win at. He might have some successes, but ultimately he’s set up to fail. He’s trying to reunite the country after a terrible terrorist attack. He is a reluctant president but has taken on the responsibility because he has a sense of civic responsibility, the desire to serve. That is very similar to Jack Bauer.”
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The actor continued, “Their circumstances are very different and what they end up having to deal with is very different. But this idea of self-sacrifice for a larger good was something that is very much a common thread in both of those characters. I found that interesting, actually, that in the first pass of a read I didn’t get that at all. Only until I was playing it did I realize, ‘Ah, that’s why I like this character that much.’ That’s why I like Jack Bauer that much.”
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.