Why the producers of the new ’24’ cast a black star

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Corey Hawkins plays US Army Rangers Sergeant Eric Carter on Fox’s “24: Legacy.”
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Mathieu Young/FOX

PASADENA, California – Months before Fox’s upcoming “24” spin-off show cast Corey Hawkins as its star, the network made it clear it was looking for a nonwhite lead actor.

The producers said that decision wasn’t something that was handed down to them from the network, but more about trying to distance the new main character, Eric Carter, from Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer from the original series.

“Jack Bauer casts a very long shadow,” “24: Legacy” executive producer Howard Gordon told Business Insider during the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday.

“You kind of have to reverse-engineer,” he continued. “Jack is a man with a 17-year-old daughter. Corey is a man in his mid-20s. So we really sort of created him with the broadest possible strokes with things that distinguished him from Bauer.”

With a “real-time” countdown similar to “24,” the spin-off follows agent Eric Carter (Hawkins) who returns from abroad only to realize danger has followed him back. While trying to stave off the people hunting him down, Eric has to stop the biggest terrorist attack on US soil.

The producers acknowledged that the question of race and bringing diversity to the thriller series has been an ongoing discussion since the news that they were casting for a minority star broke in January of last year.

“It wasn’t just that his background is different,” Gordon added. “It enabled a whole new spectrum of stories that also felt real and very American.”

Hawkins, who played Dr. Dre in the film “Straight Outta Compton,” and veteran actor Jimmy Smits, who will play the show’s president, were proud to be able to bring their characters to the screen and said the show backs that up with a diverse and talented writing team.

“As far as diversity in the writers’ room goes, we had very long conversations to make sure our voices were in the writers’ room,” Hawkins told Business Insider. “And we do have black writers in our writers’ room. I’m very proud of that. We have women writers, strong writers. But the point is that we have great writers. We made a point to go after writers who understood the voice. At the same time, we wanted writers who knew how to write for this genre.”

“24: Legacy” premieres Monday, February 5 on Fox.