‘Designated Survivor’ Boss Says Natascha McElhone Exit Will Lead to ‘New Ground’ for Series

“What we’re doing is very closely held and very unpredictable,” Keith Eisner tells TheWrap

Natascha McElhone and Kiefer Sutherland on "Designated Survivor"

Designated Survivor” fans were shocked to learn recently that Natascha McElhone is exiting the ABC series, but they’ll take solace in knowing that the journey toward the departure of First Lady Alex Kirkman will involve a bold new direction for the show.

“We absolutely love Natascha,” showrunner Keith Eisner told TheWrap. “She’s super talented, and we’ve loved what she’s done for the show, and we’re excited for her new endeavor and the other opportunities she wanted to pursue as well as this show.”

Eisner said that the show has not yet put into motion the storyline that will lead to the actress’ exit as she moves on to co-star with Sean Penn in Beau Willimon’s upcoming Hulu series, “The First.” But Eisner doubts that viewers will have an inkling about where things are heading for Alex and her husband, President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland), which involves an FBI investigation.

“What we’re doing is very closely held and very unpredictable,” the former “Good Wife” executive producer said. “Fans will be really excited to see how the story develops and what it means for Tom Kirkman. It’s new ground for the show and new ground for a White House show to suggest potential legal difficulties that envelope the first family and the First Lady, and to see how the president and his family deal with that.”

Eisner demurred on the specific fate of the character and when she’ll depart, only saying that McElhone will continue to appear on “Designated Survivor” for “a large number of episodes.”

“I don’t want to be too specific about the character and how or whether it will recur in future episodes as she moves into her new project,” he said. “I just think people will find it exciting, and they should stay tuned for it.”

“Designated Survivor” airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.