Move over Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), there’s a new hero in town, and he’s taking your job as 24‘s leading man. FOX’s new season of the long-running hit action thriller series 24: Legacy stars Straight Outta Compton‘s Corey Hawkins as Eric Carter, a soldier back from war only to find himself entrenched in an entirely new kind of battle back home.
24: Legacy begins six months after an elite squad of U.S. Army Rangers led by Sergeant Eric Carter killed terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid in Yemen. In the aftermath, Bin-Khalid’s followers declared a fatwah against Carter, his squad, and their families, forcing them into federal witness protection. But a recent attempt on Carter’s own life makes it clear to him that his team has been exposed, so he enlists the help of former CTU Director Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) to try and stop any more attacks from happening.
But this isn’t just another season of 24. In fact, the showrunners revealed during the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association press tour that the story behind 24: Legacy wasn’t even intended to be a season of 24.
“We’re all huge fans of the original 24 [but executive producer] Howard [Gordon] and I originally thought we should turn this into a movie we spent a year or so trying to do that,” executive producer Brian Grazer said. “It works much better in the TV format.”
Creator/executive producer Manny Coto added, “The origin was never really a 24 season. The idea we had was suggested from the Bin Laden events and extrapolated into a larger story. We developed that for a general thriller, not just 24. This idea came about and we realized this might be a great next iteration for this franchise.”
So when it came time to creating the main character at the center of the story, they didn’t want to just bring Jack Bauer back.
“We realized Jack had run his course,” Gordon said. “And Live Another Day gave us the liberty to create this character and this cast.”
24: Legacy already made headlines back during production when the show began the casting process with the goal of casting an African-American male as Eric Carter.
“Jack Bauer cast a very long shadow,” Gordon said. “You have to reverse engineer the character in the broadest strokes, things that distinguish [Eric] from Bauer. But we didn’t just want to do it just because someone said, ‘Let’s cast a black guy or an Asian guy.’ It really was about who Eric Carter is, inside and out.”
And according to all the showrunners, that means that Eric Carter is basically the opposite of Jack Bauer in every way.
“Eric Carter is a young soldier who has returned from duty,” creator/executive producer Evan Katz said. “He’s not an intelligence officer, he’s not a CTU agent. This is really an origin story. He’s feeling his way through this journey and we’re seeing the birth of an agent. This character is a youthful idealist that we haven’t seen on this show. We meet him at the start of his journey with CTU and this season is going to turn him into an agent.”
Because Eric is getting thrust into the world of counterintelligence with no training or warning, he’s going to be a fish out of water in every situation he finds himself in.
“We’ll see him do some things that Eric just isn’t comfortable doing,” Hawkins said. “He is an average human being with an extraordinary ability of being a soldier. But the rules of engagement are different now and we’ll watch him stumble messily as he deals with that.”
“The battlefield doesn’t have grey areas and this show is about grey areas,” Cotto added. “Watching Eric navigate that will be our season.”
When it came time to casting Hawkins as Eric, it turns out that he was the first and only actor to read for the role.
“He’s the only actor we sent the script to and he said yes,” Katz said. “That never happens.”
“When we skyped with him, we saw someone who had a believability and someone who could make us feel for him,” Coto said. “The audience has to like him, because he’ll lead us into this strange world.”
The key to making that strange world feel real is keeping the stakes real. No matter how crazy the stunts and action scenes get, there is a real sense of urgency to the threat.
“We get to literally do all of our stunts which is super cool,” Hawkins said. “But it’s really hard on me, I’m not going to lie. I would prefer not to go to the gym.”
One treat for longtime fans of 24 is the buzzy return of Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard). While not much is known about what this fan-favorite character has to do with this new season besides the fact that he has a mysterious history with one of the 24: Legacy characters, the showrunners revealed they always wanted to bring him back.
“We’re very carefully making sure people don’t have to watch the original series to follow [24: Legacy],” Katz said. “We’re concerned with making this story a complete thing. In terms of Tony, we brought Chloe [Mary Lynn Rajskub] back the other year. So I thought, who haven’t I seen? It was Tony. The way we left him in this dark, ambiguous place, it had to be him.”
What are you most excited to see from 24: Legacy? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum!
24: Legacy begins its two-night premiere event on Sunday, Feb. 5, following the Super Bowl, and continues Monday, Feb. 6 on FOX.