Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

The clock is ticking for 24: Legacy, the continuation of the world that originated with Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) very, very bad days.

Now starring Corey Hawkins as former Army ranger Eric Carter, the man who is about to go through a very, very bad day, Fox’s upcoming series will explore a new terrorist conspiracy that involves the CTU and presidential politics, as Jimmy Smits’ Senator John Donovan will be campaigning to be the next POTUS. “We loved doing 24,” executive producer Manny Coto explained at the New York Comic Con panel. “The idea was originally bouncing around our heads for a while about this Army ranger, and we finally realized, it’d make a great spin-off series.”

At the drama’s NYCC panel Saturday afternoon, Koto and fellow EPs Evan Katz and Howard Gordon, along with Hawkins, Smits, and Miranda Otto (who plays former CTU director and Senator Donovan’s wife Rebecca Ingram), shared some secrets of the new 24 — as well as the first half of the pilot. In the footage screened (spoilers ahead!), Carter escapes the clutches of three terrorists with the help of his wife Nicole (Anna Diop), while Rebecca tries to get used to her new life as an ex-high-ranking government official (and possible next First Lady) when she gets roped back into battling terrorism. Fans cheered with every act break, and learned some intel on what’s to come, including the five revelations below.

Hawkins didn’t have to audition to land the lead

According to the producers, there wasn’t an audition process for Hawkins at all. “He was the only person we ever sent the script to,” Katz said. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that, but it was pretty great.” Or, as Smits put it, referencing Hawkins’ performance in Straight Outta Compton: “He was Dr. Dre!”

For Hawkins himself, though, he just considers it “an honor” to be a part of the series. “I was such a fan of 24,” he said. “When I heard they were bringing it back, I was like, ‘Who are they gonna get?’… [Reading the script,] it felt like a new 24, for a new generation and a new day and a new hero that looks like America today.” At that, the audience cheered.

24 will always remain “neutral” when it comes to American politics

Despite the story involving a presidential election, 24: Legacy won’t be referencing any real-life presidential candidate. “The show has always been very careful to avoid [real life],” Katz said. “You never know who’s affiliated with what. We started writing it before it was clear who the frontrunners would be, so it’s really neutral in that way.”

More importantly, the producers said they were just happy they were able to bring Smits in for the role. “There are only a handful of actors who can play presidents,” Gordon explained, “so the day Jimmy agreed to do this was a great day for us.”

Otto took the role because she didn’t want to leave the world of Homeland

Before 24: Legacy, Otto played Allison, a high-ranking government officer in Homeland, another Gordon-produced show. So when Gordon proposed having her join 24: Legacy, Otto immediately said yes. “When I was on Homeland, I got so into that world of CIA and terrorism, and I didn’t want to leave that world,” she said. “I was a huge fan of 24 when it was on, and I just thought that the script seemed so now.”

Eric Carter is not the new Jack Bauer…

In fact, Hawkins says their backstories are completely different. Bauer was a veteran CTU agent, but Carter has a soldier background, and at the start of the series, is trying to live a domestic life with his wife. And in the footage screened. Carter is just as resourceful and as quick a thinker as Bauer, but he has an especially close connection the terrorist plot at hand: He was one of the six Army rangers to bring him down.

…but it’s not like Jack Bauer is no longer a part of the story

When a fan asked about how much of Bauer’s story will be involved, the producers said the characters from 24 haven’t disappeared. “We were in London three years ago, and Jack was carted off to Moscow,” Katz said, referencing 24: Live Another Day. “The show assumes the story line is still going on over there somewhere.”

Besides, the producers announced — to plenty of cheers and applause — that Carlos Bernard will return to reprise his role as Tony Almeida in 24: Legacy, though they’re careful not to reveal how many episodes in which Bernard will appear. Either way, the series is definitely rooted in the same place. “This takes place in the 24 universe,” Koto said. “It’s all one big world for us.”

24: Legacy premieres Feb. 5, 2017, after the Super Bowl, on Fox.

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24: Legacy
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