When you have a showrunner like Keith Eisner, you are guaranteed an exciting time in front of your blue screen. This Fall, tune in to some of the top quality entertaining times with the shows on ABC TV. Designated Survivor is one of them.
Being a huge fan of the Designated Survivor with Kiefer Sutherland as the presidential substitute, surrounded by troves of enemies, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the continuation of the saga where good and evil are in constant movement. Where people change their loyalties. And where life becomes the most valuable commodity yet with a more complex meaning.
Keifer Sutherland is a huge talent who transforms the fabric of the television show business. If in “24” he was a guy who saved the world time and time again, “Designated Survivor” offers a perspective on the person who took over the president’s responsibilities. The dynamic of this presidential character, his interaction with the world around him unfolds our unique perception of him and his actions. It is definitely an exciting show to watch, follow, and predict the unpredictable.
Keith Eisner has offered us his perspective on Kiefer Sutherland’s character and the things that need to be kept in mind. Just to remind you of the shows Keith Eisner can be credited for are: THE GOOD WIFE (CBS), LAW AND ORDER (NBC), GILMORE GIRLS (The WB/CW), and NYPD BLUE (ABC). And if you, like me, is a huge fan of WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? (ABC), then Keith Eisner is a writer and producer of that show as well.
During this trip to Los Angeles for the MOVIE premiere of Disney Pixar COCO, I also had a chance to chat with the writer and Co-Executive producer and writer Jessica Grasl and with actress Italia Ricci (plays Emily Rhodes) to ask her questions that would explain some things going on and off tv screen. Italia could be reached at the end of the day at her home, and we had a video meeting with her. What a delight to get to know this person… in person! She is strong, articulate, soft at heart and speaks highly of her cast members she works daily 16-18 hours on the set while filming the episodes of the Designated Survivor.
Being an actress is not an easy thing at all. The work schedule is grueling. And the scripts are changing all the time, too. The combination of stress, work load and ability to adapt make this profession is one of the most demanding. Italia Ricci on her work day:
It takes about nine days to shoot an episode, and there’s usually two days of that, we’re two episodes at once, so it’s a lot. Our days are averaged, I wanna say, between thirteen to sixteen hours.
Then you go home, and you have to learn your lines, and you go to bed, and you wake up. But it goes by so quickly through because it’s so fun, and you think, “Did we really shoot that full episode already?”
When asked if as an actress Italia was free to incorporate her own ideas into each episode, here’s what she said:
I can, but not really. There’s so many people involved, and so many storylines and stuff, and I have a lot of trust in our writing team. It’s just the sort of thing where everybody gets their episode. If I feel she should be more dominant, just hold on and wait. Just wait, you’ll see. Then it’s like, oh, okay, it makes sense, so I trust them [writers], and they haven’t done her wrong yet.
Italia Ricci comes across as a strong and very perceptive individual. When asked what traits of character she may be sharing with her on-screen characters, she replied:
I seem always to get lucky enough to play very confident, smart, ambitious women that I kind of feel like if I wasn’t an actor, I would hopefully have been. I want to relate to that, I would like to think that that’s what I would be like if in an alternate universe.
Our interviews were at the end of the day, when the directors and the cast are done on the set. We did our best not to keep these amazing and hard-working women for too long. But I would love to point out the shows that Jesica Grasl, – a 14-year veteran of writing and producing for TV and currently writer and Co-Executive Producer on ABC’s Designated Survivor, – soft-spoken and so attentive to all of our questions, had to write and produce:
Writer for “Two Ships” episode that aired on 11/1
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)
White Collar (USA)
The Player (NBC), and
Shades of Blue (NBC)
Jessica Grasl explained to us how the storyboarding process for this series is going on, which I thought was fascinating. Especially when they have each character assigned a specific color – all storylines would be residing on the colored index cards and shuffled around as the story progresses.
The writers are consulting the people who used to work in the White House. Some writers are actually the former people who used to work in the White House. All the availability of talent and reference makes this writing process much smoother and more reality-driven.
We asked Jessica how the writing team manages to maintain a balance between drama and personal lives.
I think that the Kirkman White House lives in a different universe. Obviously it started from a very unique place which, God forbid, our actual U.S. history has never experienced — the destruction of the entire seat of government. I think it’s been really exciting to sort of live in a space that feels so different from real world.
Regardless of who is in the White House, it’s very different from Tom Kirkman being in the White House, and something we’ve really gotten to explore a lot this year because we’ve sort moved past the crisis point and the rubble, if you will, and now it’s like, about Kirkman and his team, and he’s in administration moving the country forward into Kirkman’s vision.
As writers, that’s the world that we live in. Obviously, we all read the newspapers, and we follow the news, and sometimes we pull stories from things that are happening like last week, you know, it was based on the thing that actually happened.
Italia Ricci on the coincidences between the episodes they shoot and real-life events:
Sometimes, we will shoot an episode, and while we’re shooting it, it will actually happen. We were shooting an episode about the statue that whole rally happened. We were shooting an episode about the ship happened. I can’t go on farther or I’ll be spoiling it. But things just keep happening, and you know, who would write an episode where Emily wins, like, a million dollars? It was just freaky!
It is freaky, and sometimes that’s awesome because you’re like that’s great, we’re really sort of tapping into something that people are living through, and sometimes it’s really complicated, you know?
When an episode really pre-dealt with the Confederate statue issue, and then all of a sudden the Confederate statue issue became something the whole world was talking about. That’s awesome, but it’s also that you wanna be sensitive so it’s a fine line that we walk as writers.
I just get really excited that I get to go to work every day and live in Kirkman’s world and his vision for America and be a part of that, and escapism is maybe not a place you wanna live in all the time, but we’re artists.
Tune Into Designated Survivor &
— Celebrate Woman (@DiscoverSelf) November 15, 2017
Here’s Your Sneak Peak Into the Episode Airing 11/15/2017
Watch Designated Survivor on Wednesday 10/9c on ABC