My husband and I don’t get a chance to watch very much television together. There’s so many school activities and work that keeps us very busy. One show we always record and enjoy watching together is “Designated Survivor”. I think one of the best things we love about the show is that it’s so real and relatable to what’s happening in this country today.
The show is now in its second season but if you aren’t familiar with the show here’s a great summary:
As a lower-level cabinet member, Tom Kirkman never imagined something would happen that would catapult him to the oval office. When a devastating attack on the night of the State of the Union address claims the lives of the president and most of the Cabinet, the Housing and Urban Development secretary — who was named the designated survivor in case of such an event — finds himself promoted to leader of the free world. Suddenly thrust into his new position of power, Kirkman struggles to keep the country from dissolving into chaos and must adjust to his new normal, unaware of what fresh horrors may await the United States.
Besides getting to learn all about the hilarious new show “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World“, during my recent COCO red carpet premiere, we met with Co-Executive Producer Jessica Grasl and live via video conference, with actress Italia Ricci (Emily Rhodes), for “Designated Survivor”.
The Creating of Episodes
In the very first episode of the show the entire government was wiped out and the Capitol blew up. Jessica said they had a lot of room to play in creating new episodes and that you almost can’t go too dramatic. They get to make a lot of big choices for the characters and that’s a lot of fun for them.
They always have someone on staff for the show that used to work in the White House. Jessica said she knocks on their door all the time for consulting in creating the show to make it realistic. She also reads a lot of books to educate herself for the show. She’s also a friend of an admiral who’s a contributor on CNN who gives her a lot of great information. They have many different consultants to help them with the show.
Italia said they normally get the script a few days before but sometimes they have to learn it in ten minutes. She said the great thing about this is that it keeps the actors on their toes. Sometimes it can feel like you haven’t been given much time to prepare for your performance but that’s the way television works. Italia was a lot of fun to interview after just finishing up her McDonald’s and a glass of wine in hand!
Women in Power
We’ve started to see more and more women get empowering roles in movies and television. Italia plays Emily Rhodes, the Chief of Staff. She really enjoys being able to portray that women are just as smart and capable as a man in the world of government. Plus, women get to do it and wear killer heels!
Italia says that she feels so lucky to be able to play very confident, smart, ambitious women. She said she would like to think that’s what she would be like if there was an alternate universe but she says she has quite a bit of stubbornness.
Balancing the Politics
We hear so much about politics these days that it can be hard to balance the politics in a drama that’s all about politics but the Kirkman White House is on a different universe. We’re watching an administration moving the country forward into Kirkman’s vision. Jessica said as writers that’s the world they live in. She said what’s really crazy is when they shoot an episode about something and then it actually happens.
Jessica said it can get complicated though because they’re tapping into something that people are actually living through right now in real life. One example is when they aired the episode of the Confederate statue issue and then it happened. It was something that now the whole world was talking about.
Jessica Grasl Bio:
Jessica Grasl has worked in television production for fourteen years and as a writer since 2008. Her credits include Leverage (TNT), Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), White Collar (USA), Proof (TNT), The Player (NBC), and Shades of Blue (NBC). She is currently writer/Co-Executive Producer on ABC’s Designated Survivor.
Italia Rici Bio:
Italia Ricci stars as Emily Rhodes, Secretary Tom Kirkman’s chief of staff, on ABC’s popular drama “Designated Survivor.”
Most recently, the Ontario native Ricci had a recurring role on the CW series “Supergirl,” playing villain Siobhan Smythe – otherwise known as Silver Banshee. Ricci starred on ABC Family’s (now Freeform) “Chasing Life,” where she played the lead role of April, a twenty-something smart and quick-witted aspiring journalist, who is trying to work her way up the ladder at a Boston newspaper by trying to impress her hard-nosed editor.
Ricci’s additional television roles include guest-starring on “CSI: Las Vegas,” “House,” “Greek” and “How I Met Your Mother.” She has also appeared as Chase Ravenwood on Disney XD’s original series “Aaron Stone,” Sasha on the Comedy Central series “Secret Girlfriend” and as Maggie on the hit Cartoon Network live-action series “Unnatural History.”
Ricci’s film credits include playing Samantha in the college comedy “Resident Advisor.” In 2014 she played an early love interest for title character Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the fall comedy feature “Don Jon,” and was seen in the lead role of Allison in the 2014 Sony thriller “The Remaining,” a film that follows a group of friends trying to survive the end of the world according to the Bible, written and directed by Casey La Scala.
Ricci’s first film role happened when a friend asked her to be an extra with him on the movie “American Pie Presents: Naked Mile.” It was during the filming of “Naked Mile” that Ricci was noticed which led her being cast in the next “American Pie” movie, entitled “American Pie Presents: Beta House.”
Ricci began her career in entertainment at the age of nine, performing in numerous local theatre productions in her native Ontario, Canada.
Ricci is involved with the non profits Stand Up To Cancer, where she serves as an ambassador, and she volunteers with American Cancer Society (ACS), Children’s Hospital L.A. (CHLA), and Stupid Cancer.
Ricci currently resides in Los Angeles.
Tune in Tuesday, November 15th
The latest episode, “Family Ties”, airs tonight and we’ll see when a Turkish activist ignites protests in the U.S., Turkey’s president demands his extradition while the first family unknowingly finds themselves in the center of a battle that could threaten Leo’s future.
“Designated Survivor” airs on Wednesdays at 10|9c on ABC. Episodes are also available via streaming and on demand.
“Designated Survivor” stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, Natascha McElhone as Alex Kirkman, Paulo Costanzo as Lyor Boone, Adan Canto as Aaron Shore, Italia Ricci as Emily Rhodes, LaMonica Garrett as Mike Ritter, Zoe McLellan as Kendra Daynes, Ben Lawson as Damian Rennett Kal Penn as Seth Wright and Maggie Q as Hannah Wells.
“Family Ties” was written by Pierluigi D. Cothran and directed by Milan Cheylov.
“Designated Survivor” is from The Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios. David Guggenheim is creator and executive producer. In addition to Guggenheim, the series is executive produced by Mark Gordon, Kiefer Sutherland, Simon Kinberg, Nick Pepper, Jeff Melvoin, Suzan Bymel, Aditya Sood and Keith Eisner, who serves as showrunner on the series.