Kiefer Sutherland stars in new ABC series "Designated Survivor"

NEW YORK (WABC) -- He was the star of one of the most successful shows of the early 2000's, but now Kiefer Sutherland has left Jack Bauer behind and he's taking on a new role, as the impromptu president in "Designated Survivor".

The new show premieres Wednesday night on ABC.

Sutherland stars in the title role in a series inspired by a real policy used during the president's State of the Union address each year.

One member of the cabinet is sent to a secure location as the 'Designated Survivor' to ensure our government would continue even after a national catastrophe.

We share in his shock and awe, then feel the awesome weight of his new responsibilities.

The stakes couldn't be higher for the 'Designated Survivor' who becomes a president when an attack wipes out almost all of the U.S. government.

"I'm really drawn to stories about ordinary people in an extraordinary situation and people being thrown into the deep end of the pool, and this is the best example of that," said creator David Guggenheim.

Guggenheim grew up here in the city, then went on to write feature films, like "Safe House" with Denzel Washington before writing this new TV series for ABC.

"What's really exciting about our show is it's equal parts family drama, political drama, and conspiracy thriller," he said.

The script was good enough to lure Kiefer Sutherland back to TV, even though the star told me he'd wanted to take a break.

"But the writing was so good, and the cast they were talking about putting together was so good, it was just an opportunity you couldn't pass up," he said.

As the president, Sutherland works opposite Kal Penn, who is now playing a White House staffer, but worked there for real just a few years ago.

"To be able to just lean over to another actor and say, 'you were Obama's speechwriter for 3 years, what would a situation be like?' and be able to hear so it gives you a kind of confidence in your ability to approach what you're going to do," said Sutherland.

Kiefer was already attached to the show when producers pitched the show to ABC, and they brought the star to the meeting.

Writer David Guggenheim says it was the quickest 'yes' he ever got.

Wednesday night "The Goldbergs" are back to begin a two-hour comedy block that continues with the new show "Speechless" followed by "Modern Family" and "black-ish", then comes "Designated Survivor" at 10 p.m., which leads into Eyewitness News at 11.
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