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Kiefer Sutherland returns to TV as president in new ABC political thriller

Kiefer Sutherland is trading in his badge, gun, and questionable interrogation techniques for the oval office. The veteran actor is set to star in a new ABC political thriller called Designated Survivor where he will play, in an interesting turn, the president of the United States, reports Variety.

TV fans have, of course, come to know and love the long-time actor as his most iconic character for this generation: 24’s Jack Bauer. In that show, he played a government operative working for an agency called the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) who went to great lengths to keep America safe from terrorist attacks.

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Given his violent, “rules-are-for-other-people” nature on that show, it’s somewhat difficult to picture Sutherland in the role of president, working on the other side of the political landscape. Interestingly, the plot sort of uses this uncertainty to its benefit: Sutherland’s character isn’t appointed POTUS in the traditional manner, but ends up as leader of the free world once a State of the Union attack (slight spoiler alert) ends up killing the president, along with everyone who would have been before Sutherland’s character in line for the job. He has no choice but to take the hot seat from there.

It’s a plot that follows a very similar storyline to the Jack Ryan thriller from Tom Clancy, Debt of Honor, in which Ryan is thrust into the presidency after a massive attack.

The name Designated Survivor was chosen for a specific reason, as it refers to that single member of the U.S. cabinet who is typically held in a safe location during major gatherings where all other top leaders are present. The idea is that this person will preserve the current governmental direction in the event of a major catastrophe. In the case of this show, this situation becomes a reality. And Sutherland is that man held in the safe house while a mass murder takes place.

In addition to starring in the show, Sutherland will also be an executive producer, alongside Simon Kinberg (X-Men), Suzan Bymel (Entertainment 360), and David Guggenheim (Safe House). Guggenheim will also be a writer for the series.

It’s clear Sutherland’s 24 reputation precedes him, as Designated Survivor has gotten a straight-to-series order. The involvement of the Mark Gordon Company may have helped as well; that’s the force behind other recent hits on ABC, like Quantico and Grey’s Anatomy; as well as other network shows like Showtime’s Ray Donovan and Criminal Minds (CBS).

Sutherland hasn’t been wholly absent from TV land since 24 went off the air in 2010 after eight successful seasons. He starred in the now-canceled Fox drama Touch, and reprised his Jack Bauer role in 2014 for a limited 12-episode series return of 24.

There is no confirmation on when Designated Survivor might air, but for those who have been missing their Jack Bauer fix, while this is clearly a different character altogether, it may just satisfy those cravings for fantastical political conspiracies. Tick, tock, tick, tock…