'Their skill set is obviously very different,' the actor says

Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/ABC; Daniel Smith/FOX

As special agent Jack Bauer on 24, Kiefer Sutherland saved the U.S. from a number of terrorist attacks. But there’s no such luck in his political drama Designated Survivor, which finds Sutherland playing the newly appointed president after a devastating attack on the Capitol leaves the sitting president and every key government official dead.

While the two characters have very different resumes — Bauer is tormented but brutally effective super-spy, Designated Survivor‘s Tom Kirkman is a dorky guy who used to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development — they do share some similarities.

Sutherland discussed what the two have in common during a recent episode of The Jess Cagle Interview.

Kirkman is “a guy who’s managed to take on a situation that you wouldn’t wish upon anybody,” Sutherland said. “He’s taken on a circumstance that he can’t possibly win at. He might have some successes, but ultimately he’s set up to fail. He’s trying to reunite the country after a terrible terrorist attack. He is a reluctant president but has taken on the responsibility because he has a sense of civic responsibility, the desire to serve. That is very similar to Jack Bauer.”

Watch full episodes of the Jess Cagle Interview, available now, on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to people.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices.

The actor continued, “Their circumstances are very different and what they end up having to deal with is very different. But this idea of self-sacrifice for a larger good was something that is very much a common thread in both of those characters. I found that interesting, actually, that in the first pass of a read I didn’t get that at all. Only until I was playing it did I realize, ‘Ah, that’s why I like this character that much.’ That’s why I like Jack Bauer that much.”

Watch the video above for more from Sutherland.

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