Interim president campaigns to stay in new episodes
When ABC canceled it, Kiefer Sutherland suspected “Designated Survivor” would survive.
Netflix already had the rights outside North America to the drama about a suddenly appointed U.S. president, so Sutherland – an executive producer of the series as well as its star – deemed the streaming service a logical home for a new Season 3. Indeed, 10 fresh episodes premiere there Friday, June 7, as Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman campaigns for a full term in the job he was thrust into after a terrorist attack killed the sitting chief executive and just about every Cabinet member.
“It’s the nature of how things go,” Sutherland reflects of “Designated Survivor’s” journey. “When something is working, you take that for that … but when a network goes through leadership transitions, literally in this case (at ABC), you just accept that for what it is and get used to it.
“Having said that, I was aware Netflix had the show globally, and they were incredibly excited about the success of the show in that capacity. I think within two days of hearing about ABC’s decision, I heard from The Mark Gordon Company (a major production entity behind the show) that they were already in discussions with Netflix to have a Season 3, so it was pretty quick.”
That enabled “Designated Survivor” to retain much of its cast, also including Italia Ricci, Kal Penn, Adan Canto and Maggie Q. The third season adds Anthony Edwards, who previously worked with new showrunner Neal Baer on “ER,” and Tony Award winner Julie White.
Sutherland likes the Netflix formula that drops all of a show’s season at once: “My only previous experience with that was with people who would not watch ‘24’ until they got the DVD sets, and they ended up loving the show more than anybody because they watched it without commercials. And they watched it at their own pace, so when they wanted another episode, they got to have it.”
There’s also a creative appeal to having “Designated Survivor” on Netflix, since Sutherland explains that “various networks will not let you use China or Russia. They’ll have you make up a country for you to have your conflict with. Netflix is not that, so we get to dive into some of these situations in a much more realistic way.”
Also with a country-music career going strong with the recent release of his second album, “Reckless & Me,” Sutherland is finding it “tiring” but gratifying to balance that and acting. “In the end, you make room for the things you love to do,” he reasons. “Acting is the love of my life, but music is now, too. And the common denominator between the two is storytelling.”