For nine seasons of “24,” Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was able to save the world from terrorists, stop assassinations, kill hundreds of bad guys and spend time in a foreign prison with not so much as one bathroom break or meal. It was that video game toughness that kept the series about a single day’s events on the air.
Now it’s up to Corey Hawkins to show his skills. The young actor, best known for his role in “The Walking Dead,” is the new world savior with “24: Legacy.” The clock starts ticking for him Sunday after Super Bowl LI.
Whether he will live another day depends on whether fans can accept this replacement for Bauer.
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“I’d be crazy to say there wasn’t any pressure to do it, because if there wasn’t, then I wouldn’t be doing it. You know what I mean? If the challenge wasn’t there, then there was no reason for me to say yes to the role,” Hawkins says. “The script happened to be amazing when I read it. It lifted off the page, and then your mind just starts going with where you can take it and what it means in television to be a hero and look like I look. So that just really stuck with me.”
The only real pressure Hawkins is feeling is trying to make his character, Eric Carter, come across as three-dimensional as possible. Carter’s an Army Ranger who led a raid on a Middle Eastern terrorist cell six months ago. Now, Carter and his fellow Rangers are being hunted and killed because of something that was stolen during the raid.
It becomes quickly clear to Carter that he can’t trust anyone.
Executive producers have tried to eliminate additional pressure by making “Legacy” different from the original “24.” That’s why they made the central character younger and not officially with the Counter Terrorist Unit. The intent is to have him become an agent but not until later.
The most notable difference is that Hawkins brings diversity to the role. Hawkins is happy he was cast but doesn’t see race as that big of a factor.
“It’s unique almost in the sense that it shouldn’t be anything out of the normal. I just feel like he looks how he looks and we have to honor that. It’s not just about his skin color, but it’s also about his culture,” Hawkins says. “It’s about where he grew up. What are the alliances growing up in Washington, D.C., in the Southeast, where I actually happen to have personally grown up, and really honoring every single detail about that.
“But growing up, we never got to see a hero that didn’t have superpowers who looked like us. That you could kind of look to and say, ‘Man, I could be that guy one day. I could be a patriot. I could be a soldier. I could work in the government and be a hero.’ And I think that just really appealed to me.”
Executive producers knew they had the right actor in Hawkins during his first Skype audition. He read for the role after spending an entire night filming “Kong: Skull Island” in the jungles of Australia.
Executive producer Manny Coto explains that they saw an earnestness and believability in Hawkins they wanted for the role.
“I think the most important thing was less so much of selling outlandish ideas, is have a character that we go with, the audience likes immediately and can identify with and will lead us into this strange world, and Corey had all of that,” Coto says.
Once Hawkins was cast, he had the chance to chat with Sutherland who gave him a lot of advice about taking on a series where his character will be in almost every scene. Part of the coaching Hawkins got before the work started was that he should not fall into the trap that “24” is an action series.
Coto stresses it is a drama with action.
“If you actually really measure the amount of action, it’s not really an action series. I think this would be more of a thriller. I think of ‘24’ more as an emotional roller coaster ride,” Coto says.
And it’s now up to Hawkins to get viewers to take the ride.
- 7 p.m. Sunday, FOX (KMPH, Channel 26.1)