Apparently, all it takes for “Madam Secretary” to avoid the sophomore TV slump is four heartbeats – as Téa Leoni finds her character promoted to the highest office in the land following a series of very unfortunate events.
CBS’ political drama is upping the ante this season with dramatic new plot twists and guest appearances by Academy-Award winner Morgan Freeman, Eric Stoltz (who also serve as executive producers) and a cameo by real-life Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
“You have to come back and turn the volume up a bit, make it the same show but a little bit different,” showrunner Barbara Hall told TheWrap. “The stakes are higher coming out of the gate.”
Sunday’s episode titled, “The Show Must Go On,” kicks off with the sudden collapse of the Vice President during a golf game. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Leoni) then finds out Air Force One is missing with both POTUS and the Speaker of the House on board. In a mad dash, the administration scrambles to appoint a senior Senator to take the oath of office (until the President is located), only to learn he’s been mentally incapacitated after suffering a series of strokes.
A stunned McCord, sporting her best deer-caught-in-the-headlights look, soon finds herself being sworn in as POTUS by God himself, also known as Morgan Freeman, playing a Supreme Court Justice. Freeman also directed the episode.
“The actors loved him and loved working with him,” said Hall. “He creates a very easy set where you feel like someone’s definitely in control but at the same time people are having a lot of fun.”
Elizabeth’s husband, Henry (Tim Daly), has his plate full this season as he starts his new gig as an intelligence handler, monitoring a Russian student in one of his classes.
“Madam Secretary” has also managed to book a real-life Secretary of State for its second episode, “The Doability Doctrine.” Madeleine Albright, the first woman to ever hold the position, gives her TV alter ego some insider tips on how to handle the newly appointed National Security Adviser, Craig Sterling (Julian Acosta), who has been threatening her relationship with President Dalton (Keith Carradine).
“Téa talks a lot about how prepared [Albright] was and how intimidating it was to act opposite her,” Hall laughed. “[Albright] was just so ready to go.”
Fun fact: Albright was offered the chance to play “another character” but preferred to play herself instead.
Armed with Albright’s advice, McCord ignores the President’s recommendations with regards to the negotiation of a State Department employee kidnapped in Afghanistan.
Another highly anticipated performance for the upcoming second season is another executive producer on the show, Eric Stoltz, who takes on role of McCord’s brother, Peter. The character will bring with him the siblings’ backstory, as well as a heavy suitcase of family baggage.
“He walks through the door with a history of their history and stirs things up,” Hall teased.
Watch “Madam Secretary” Season 2 promo here.
The second season of “Madam Secretary” airs October 4 on CBS.