Back in December, Madam Secretary creator Barbara Hall revealed there was a possibility that Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) would consider a presidential run. “It would happen in this kind of political landscape,” Hall told EW, “especially when Elizabeth is successful at her job and so well-regarded.”
It’s no longer wishful thinking. In Sunday’s season 4 finale of the CBS drama, Elizabeth reveals to her husband, Henry (Tim Daly), that she’s ready to walk the talk. Before they’re faced with having to change the title of the show (though Madam President has such a lovely ring), we asked Hall and executive producer Lori McCreary to reflect on the episode and why they made Elizabeth’s decision such a quiet moment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The idea of a technical snafu with the nukes was kind of crazy. Was it challenging making this look like it really could happen?
BARBARA HALL: It’s not crazy, in fact we referenced the time it almost happened under Jimmy Carter in 1979. We used the exact same scenario, except in that case the order wasn’t given the way it was here. It was brought to the president and they realized their mistake. All we did was say, what if they hadn’t realized their mistake?
LORI MCCREARY: As we read every day in the news — my background is as a computer scientist — technology is so advanced and therefore so fraught with potential vulnerabilities. For us it was really interesting to look at those vulnerabilities and whether we need to reassess them, especially at a time when there are others who are looking to exploit the vulnerabilities.
So many new terms the audience learns, like the priesthood. Is that really used?
HALL: Yes. It’s really such a strong, unified point of view. As we said in episode, it’s like dogma to them.
So there really is a list of people will go into a bunker in case of nuclear war?
MCCREARY: Yes, and I dare say none of us are on that list.
HALL: And it’s true that most people’s families are not on that list. A spouse is not on the list. All the details that we wrote about in the whole nuclear story are factual, from strong research that we did.
Elizabeth’s announcement about her wanting to run for election was so subdued, just her and her husband. Why?
HALL: This episode was really tricky tonally because we didn’t want to just do a nuclear mishap episode. We wanted it to be about something else, like our hair-trigger system with the nuclear weapons and going about getting those changes. We put all of our characters through so much that it felt like, even though this decision is big and momentous for Elizabeth, it really is a quiet moment compared to everything else that has happened up until that point.
MCCREARY: We would believe that the first person she would say it out loud to would be Henry.
HALL: She’s saying it out loud for the first time, really. It’s not like an announcement to the world; it’s just her saying it out loud to Henry. It’s something that she had not been sure of until that moment. She still says almost as a question, because she wants to hear his response.
So will all next season be the election?
HALL: Next season will be about the State Department, because she still has her job. But we will pull back the curtain on what the process is, once someone decides to run. We really like to reveal process on this show, so we’ll will start the research and do stories about what she discovers along the way.
She has to win, right?
HALL: You’ll see!