Tea Leoni Tea Leoni

When Tim Daly signed on to join CBS' freshman drama Madam Secretary, he not only brought his many years of acting experience, he also offered an important connection.

"Madeleine Albright is my White House Correspondents Dinner girlfriend," he told reporters at the Television Critics Association fall previews Thursday. "She gives the best restaurant recommendations worldwide of anyone I've ever known."

Series creator and executive producer Barbara Hall wasted no time meeting with Daly's acquaintance, who was the first female U.S. Secretary of State when she served from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. "She's very, very eager to weigh in and help us," Hall said. "She's very excited about the show so that was a great moment."

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In the series, which premieres Sunday, Sept. 21 at 8/7c, Tea Leoni plays Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst-turned-college professor who is tapped by her former CIA colleague (aka the President) to replace the recently killed Secretary of State. "She's coming into the position of someone who has died. She's inheriting this role... She's inheriting this staff," Hall said. "She's inheriting everything that he put into place before her."

A mother of three, Elizabeth must juggle international politics, interoffice politics at the State Department as well as "negotiate the politics of home."

When she was approached about the idea by executive producers Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman, Hall said it was important to make sure Elizabeth wasn't a "lifetime politician" and that she have a "really recognizable and active home life," to make her more relatable to viewers. "What I really wanted to do was create a successful marriage because I believe they exist. I've seen them," Hall said. "To me, that is sort of what might be a little different to create this strong female character, is to create a home life that also works."

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When asked about what kind of international crises Elizabeth will deal with, and specifically how much they will reflect real-world politics, Hall explained that Madam Secretary will take place "about five years" in the future. "We're not trying to re-create the actual events," Hall said, but rather to use "everybody's awareness to build on another event."

Much like many other political shows such as The West Wing and Scandal, the show also hopes to avoid partisan politics. "A lot of time in the immediate need to address the problem you don't have political perspective," Hall said. "It's not a democratic or republican response. ... Its only later that we look back."

However, Hall also was honest about the struggles inherent with trying to depict huge, ongoing international diplomacy issues in an hourlong TV show. "You can't resolve them although more often than not, you can find moments of resolution without ongoing problems. ... That's why I also wanted to bring in interoffice politics," Hall said. "Trying to turn it into someone who is just solving international problems every week is not going to work for us."

Madam Secretary premieres on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 8/7c on CBS. Will you watch?

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)

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