As Designated Survivor continues to unravel the mysteries behind its larger conspiracy, it now has enough solid footing to dive into its characters a bit more, and no character has been a bigger question mark than Aaron Shore (Adan Canto), President Tom Kirkman's (Kiefer Sutherland) former Chief of Staff.
After shockingly resigning from his post in Kirkman's administration last week, Aaron got back into the political game by joining an unlikely team: the Republicans. Specifically, he'll be working with Speaker of the House Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), a power player who has made no secret of her ambitions to take Kirkman's job.
We caught Canto on the phone and asked him about Aaron's future in D.C., what the move means for his relationship with Kirkman and if he and Emily (Italia Ricci) will ever get a second chance at love.
Unlike other characters in the show, Aaron has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Sometimes signs point to him being somewhat shady, sometime he really steps up and is a great guy. How do you see Aaron?
Adan Canto: It's very similar to what you were saying. All I know is he is a man of healthy ambitions, he's great at politics, he doesn't want to stay behind, he always wants to be ahead of the game. He does whatever strategically is necessary to move things forward. He is definitely rooting for Kirkman. And you're right, when he seems serious it's because that's how politics is. You can't show your cards. You can't put them on the table early in the game. You have to keep a poker face or develop your strategies while you stay silent and develop your game.
Is it fair to say he's one of the good guys now?
Canto: I think considering where we are now in the show, you'll question his motivations only to a certain time. Clearly, you'll find out who he really is once you get to know a little bit of his background. Where he comes from. And how far he's gone to get to the place where he is now. The audience will start to understand him and empathize with him a little more. As of the last episode, people really start to understand where he comes from and what he really worked for and what he's passionate about. I really like this stage in my character's life if you will, it's cool to see him make a full circle, and come from a very shady place and you don't know what he's up to, and all of a sudden you really feel for the guy and what he's been put through. And everyone who he was extremely close with and was putting his life on the line for them, everyone turns on him. All of a sudden he finds himself alone.
It sounds like we still have a lot to learn about him.
Canto: Yeah, and frankly I do, too [laughs]. I'm finding everything out as we're moving along. The initial concept or ideaI had about Aaron was about his ambitions, and where he was in place in the past administration before the bombing, and what his role was in the White House. Now when he steps up, he's not going to be shy, he's not going to think twice about being aggressive to push things forward.
Were there other reasons Aaron resigned from his post with Kirkman other than the reasons he gave?
Canto: It's very much like a game of chess, where you see two players and they start moving along and they still have so many pieces on the board. And all of a sudden, one of them resigns, why? Because he just knows that in five or six moves the other guy is going to get him, and he knows the other guy is going to get him. He doesn't want to suffer the humiliation that the circumstances would have led to. It seems Aaron was put in a similar place, he knows reputation is everything in the scheme of politics. ... In his mind, as a chief political strategist, he knows it's best to step aside, regroup, maybe even resign completely from the world of politics.
The big moment for Aaron in this episode was when he accepted a job from Hookstraten. What does that mean for him moving forward?
Canto: In working with Hookstraten, he gets to see a whole other side to D.C. He gets to see what's going on in the House, there are so many new senators and congressmen stepping in, people he doesn't have a relationship with. It's an opportunity to develop more relationships. It's a great opportunity for him to see where everyone stands on the board and for him to strategize whatever he has to work for. Whether that is for the favor of the current administration or against them, maybe. It's going to put him in a delicate situation because you can't deny he did bond with Kirkman, he did bond with certain people in the White House. In the end, it's not that he's a romantic, but he knows their hearts and he knows they truly want to rebuild America.
Kirkman really didn't want Aaron to resign. What will Kirkman's reaction be to learning Aaron is with Hookstraten?
Canto: It's a unique situation, and you're right — it could be a positive or a negative for Kirkman, because he trusts Aaron. Having Aaron with the Speaker, as her right-hand man, he has a sense that Aaron wouldn't do anything to stifle everything they're working for, he wouldn't stab him in the back. That could be the case. Or, he can also discover who Aaron really is. It's kind of exciting for the audience to keep questioning him.
How different will it be for Aaron to work with Hookstraten and the Republicans in the House after working with Kirkman and a largely Democratic team in the White House?
Canto: In working with Kirkman and everyone else in that administration in the White House after the bombing, it certainly changed everybody's perspective on things. I do have to say that heart does kicks in, you truly care about fixing it, about rebuilding government. So coming from a person as tactful and honorable as Kirkman, going into the House with Hookstraten and dealing with all these bureaucrats... it's a game he knows but it's going to be interesting to see how he sinks into it again.
Aaron and Emily were forging a romance before things fell apart. Now Aaron will be back in poitics, but working for Hookstraten. How will this effect their relationship, and is there any future for them?
Canto: There's going to be a lot at stake working indirectly with or against the White House from the House. They could either work together and strategize to make the bills work for the administration and have a good collaboration with the house. Or they very well could be competitors or rivals. I'm actually very excited to see where it goes. There was a moment that they had, she was playing the piano and he walked up to her. I think in that moment it was kind of clear — at least for now — nothing is going to happen. I think it's kind of dead in the water. But there's proximity, I don't know. I'm actually asking myself the same question, what's going to happen. I'm with the audience on this one.
You got to let your hair down in this episode, literally! We saw Aaron outside of the political buzzsaw, and it was great.
Canto: [Laughs] I know! That's a great moment for Aaron, I really like to experience him as a person, not as a political dog. I want to see him vulnerable, and I think we saw that in the last episode and in the moments to come. I don't know if you'll see him as a robot anymore, he's been through a lot and it's a really nice opportunity to see a new Aaron arise. Still working aggressively, for the House for now, and possibly in the White House again. But we'll see where it leads.
Do you think Aaron has aspirations to become president?
Canto: I don't know, I don't know because it seems he's always working behind the scenes as a strategist. And as Chief of Staff he's the guy who does the aggressive work. He does play diplomacy, he does play politics, but when somebody has to be aggressive it's going to be him to save face for the president. That's a great question, and maybe I'll hang up with you and call a writer because that would be awesome!
What can you tease about the rest of the season, and what are you excited for?
Canto: I'm very excited about everything that's going on with Maggie's character [Hannah], and what they're discovering. It seems like a never-ending jigsaw puzzle, there are so many things popping up, new characters and characters that we thought were long gone are back up again. As far as the White House, it's just overwhelming, there are so many issues and topics we haven't even touched when it comes to policy. Aside from figuring out what happened in the bombing and who the mole is in the White House, there's just so many things that we desperately need to find out to make sure that the government stays standing strong. There's just so much.
Designated Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.