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Téa Leoni Teases ‘Madam Secretary’ Return: ‘Things Are Certainly Heating Up’

CBS star talks to TheWrap about the show’s upcoming twists and her second date with Madeleine Albright

When “Madam Secretary” returns Sunday night after a two-month hiatus, viewers will finally get a full picture of the show’s main characters.

“It’s going to be deeper, better, more,” star Téa Leoni told TheWrap. “We’re getting to know these characters and the extended cast. We can get that much more into some of the points we established in the pilot. Things are certainly heating up.”

In part one of a three-episode arc, Secretary McCord (Leoni) is humiliated at a public budget hearing when her staff fails to find the corruption that exists in her microloan program. Also, the investigation into former secretary of state Vincent Marsh’s death continues.

Kevin Rahm guest stars as Michael Barnow, a special consultant McCord hires to help with the budget hearing fiasco. Journalist Martin Bashir makes a cameo as himself.

The CBS political drama has become one of the network’s biggest breakout hits, with more than 12 million viewers tuning in for its most recent episode. Among the show’s fans, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

Leoni met with Albright for coffee when researching the part, and the two have already made plans for a second date.

“It was one of the best coffees of my life,” said Leoni. “It was so good that I’m getting to go see her again.”

Albright attended a special D.C. screening of the show’s pilot in December, and according to series executive producer Lori McCreary, she was impressed.

“We were all kind of turned around to see her give two little thumbs up,” McCreary told TheWrap.

The show has already received an early present in the form of a second season renewal from the network.

“It’s always Christmas morning when you get a pickup,” said Leoni, “and it’s better than a bike.”

Leoni, McCreary, and showrunner Barbara Hall gave TheWrap a sneak peek of the show’s upcoming twists.


The Real McCord
The first few episodes of the season were spent mostly introducing the characters and their backstories. Now viewers will finally get to know the real McCord.

“The first half is getting you acquainted with this world,” Hall told TheWrap. “The second half, we get to really turn up the volume a little bit on what they’re faced with so we get the chance to broaden our world.”

Marsh Madness
The next three episodes will finally answer some of the burning questions surrounding Marsh’s untimely death. The former secretary of state died in a plane crash, but McCord suspects foul play.

“The mystery is relevant to world events,” Hall said. “They’re going to start following these threads to what Marsh was up to and what all that conspiracy was about. The next three episodes is when we will absolutely take you right to the center of it.”


McCord’s shortcomings
McCord, essentially a newbie to the political scene, hasn’t faced a problem she couldn’t fix… yet.

“It’s inevitable that this character is going to have to be challenged,” said Leoni. “It was never intended that she would have a little red cape in her closet. As we get deeper into it and we begin to know her staff better and the other players, we take on more trying situations because there’s a weariness she’s going to have a battle that comes with having your hope challenged and having your decisions fail.”


Family Ties
McCord’s family continues to be one of the show’s focal points. After her eldest daughter, Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood), learned about McCord’s dubious CIA past, she abruptly severed ties with her mother.

“She’s a young adult trying to enter the world,” explained Hall. “Her relationship with both of her parents will be a series of bumps and starts. Some things will be resolved while other issues will come up. Relationships with young adults are fraught with their parents… that’s just the way it is.”

Madam Secretary

Characters become more complex
Now that audiences have been introduced to most of the main characters, comes the good part, according to Leoni.

“It gets more exciting for me,” she said. “I think the writers and the actors are in this great dance because we’re both kind of turned on by how things are naturally progressing. My only thing with Elizabeth is to always keep alive her struggles. I don’t want her to ever see her think that she’s gotten it so good… What I love is that we’re never forgetting that and we’re reminding the audience of that fallible and maybe, I hope, at times lovable humanity of her relationship with her kids and with her husband. It’s just getting more fun. “

“Madam Secretary” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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