’24: Legacy’ Cast on Show’s Diversity: ‘Really Stuck With Me’

TCA 2017: “Growing up, we never got to see a hero that didn’t have superpowers who looked like us,” star Corey Hawkins says

The cast and producers of Fox’s “24: Legacy” reboot were barraged by questions about their decision to cast a black actor in the lead role, taking over for Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer.

“Straight Outta Compton” star Corey Hawkins plays Eric Carter, an Army Ranger who’s thrust into the world of “24” in the reboot, and the actor says he’s aware of the significance of his casting.

“The script happened to be amazing, it lifted off the page and your mind just starts going where you can take it, and what it means, in television, to be a hero and look how I look,” Hawkins said onstage during the show’s panel at the Television Critics’ Association’s press tour Wednesday. “That just really kind of stuck with me. Then the only pressure, as an actor, is to step into Eric Carter’s shoes and make him live as fully and as complex and as flawed and as human as I could.”

That means the writing of the character will be unique to his experiences.

“He looks how he looks and we have to honor that,” Hawkins said. “We have to honor where he comes from, it’s not just about his skin color, it’s his culture, it’s about where he grew up. It’s about what does it mean to grow up in Washington, DC, in the southeast, which is where I personally happened to have grown up. Really honoring every single detail about that. That’s the authenticity. In terms of the big picture, growing up, we never got to see a hero that didn’t have superpowers who looked like us, that you can kind of look to and say, ‘I can be that guy. I can be a patriot, I can be a soldier, I can work for the government and be a hero.’ I think that just really appealed to me.”

As for why the producers were intent on casting a non-white lead in the first place, announced months before Hawkins signed on, it was partly about making him different from Jack Bauer.

“Jack Bauer casts a very long shadow. In some ways when we were creating the character of Carrie Mathis on ‘Homeland’ [it was similar],” executive producer Howard Gordon said. “You have to reverse engineer the character in the broadest strokes. Jack is a man, Carrie Mathis is a woman. Jack was a man with a 17-year-old daughter. Corey is a man who is in his mid-20s. We really created in the broadest strokes things that distinguished him from Bauer. It’s really a big lump of clay at that point, before he’s a character. These headlines distinguish him and would make him different. We were very aware that this conversation is going to happen, in the room, with critics, with audiences.”

“24: Legacy” begins its two-night premiere on Sunday, February 5, following Super Bowl LI.