On Fox's 24: Legacy, Corey Hawkins' Eric Carter will take over saving the world from Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer. It's a progressive move by Fox, to replace such an iconic white character with a man of color — and the significance of that is not lost on Hawkins.
"Growing up, and I've said this, but growing up we never got to see a hero who didn't have superpowers who looked like us," Hawkins said during the 24: Legacy panel at the Television Critics Association winter previews on Wednesday. "[There was no one] who you could look to and be like, 'I could be that guy some day. I could be a patriot. I could be a soldier. I could work in the government and be a hero.'"
The motivation to portray a character that young people like him could see themselves in played a crucial part in Hawkins taking the role — and he was the first person Fox even considered for the part. However, he understands the weight of what he's taken on, not just from a social standpoint, but to deliver to die-hard fans of the original series.
"I'd be crazy [to say] there wasn't any pressure to do it. If there wasn't, I wouldn't be doing it. If the challenge wasn't there, there'd be no reason for me to do it," Hawkins said. "The only pressure is to step into Eric Carter's shoes and make him live as fully, complex, flawed and as human as I could."
Hawkins isn't alone in bringing 24: Legacy's diverse cast to life. Anna Diop goes toe to toe with Hawkins as his wife at the center of a terrorist plot. TV veteran Jimmy Smits plays Sen. John Donovan, an ambitious politician in the middle of a presidential campaign when terrorists show up in the States to take out Eric Carter and the soldiers in his unit.
However, in 2017, diversity on television needs to be a lot more complicated and deeper than placing people of color in prominent roles. It's about telling stories that are inclusive to all races, which is something the show also feels confident about doing.
"To touch on the race topic, I hope people see this and see themselves in these characters that transcends being black," Doip interjected at the panel.
"I like [that the producers] made casting choices, not just in regards to my character, but empowering women characters," Smits added. "It's part of the legacy of the show. You have a great ensemble with a great visual template. I always think of that show as being iconic in the way that it changed the way we watch television. We're expanding on that in a very positive way."
24: Legacy premieres Sunday, Feb. 5 on Fox immediately following the Super Bowl. It moves to its regular timeslot the following day at 8/7c.