by: LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer Updated:PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - The clock is ticking and the nation's fate again is at stake in "24: Legacy," a sequel to Fox's white-knuckle drama series. But this time the hero is African-American and that matters, says the show's star and producers.
"In television, to be a hero and look like I look, that really stuck with me," said Corey Hawkins, who plays Eric Carter, an ex-Army Ranger who's drawn into a fierce new battle at home.
Now that he's helping create a character that's not typically black, the actor said, Carter's ethnicity will be more than skin deep.
We have to honor "where he comes from, not just his skin color but where's he's from," the southeast area of Washington, D.C., said Hawkins, who's also a native of the city. "That's the authenticity."
There's pressure in taking over the lead from longtime "24" franchise lead Kiefer Sutherland, who played U.S. counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer, Hawkins acknowledged during a Q&A session with TV critics Wednesday.
"Uh, yeah. I'd be crazy to say there wasn't any pressure," he said. "If the challenge wasn't there, there's no reason to say 'yes' to the role."
The series' two-night debut is set for Feb. 5, following the Super Bowl, and Feb. 6.
The first edition of "24" was more than a groundbreaker in format when it arrived in 2001. It featured black actor Dennis Haysbert as the U.S. president, well before Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
"If you show it's possible, it can become possible," said Brian Grazer, among the executive producers of "24: Legacy."
Anna Diop, who plays Carter's wife, said all viewers should find the couple familiar, race notwithstanding.
"I'm hoping people see this and see themselves in these characters and it transcends us being black," Diop said, adding that her character, Nicole, is trying to support her husband and remain true to her own beliefs.
Other cast members include Jimmy Smits as a U.S. senator and presidential hopeful, Miranda Otto as a former counter-terrorism unit head and Ashley Thomas as Carter's drug-dealer brother.
The familiar elements, including episodes that play out by the clock, are there for good reason, the show's producers said. The approach remains "a brilliant propulsive engine," said series creator Evan Katz.
"24: Legacy" also is bringing back the character of Tony Almeida, played by Carlos Bernard.
Katz said that reflects what a "dynamic" actor and presence Bernard is and his character's compelling nature. When he asked himself which of the former characters he wanted to see again, Katz said, "it was Tony."
Lynn Elber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber .
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