10 months ago
Enlisting for 24: Legacy, Corey Hawkins knew he would be spending a lot of time running for his life, but he didn’t expect that job description to be so literal.
“I had a scene where I had to jump on top of a moving car, then jump off it as it was coming to a stop and continue full sprint down a road, dodging as a lot of cars were coming towards me,” the 28-year-old actor recalled. “And these were precision stunt drivers, but I’m not, I’m super clumsy.
“I had a moment when I realized I could fall and break my neck, but I also had a moment where I was like, ‘This is everything I dreamed of when I was a kid.'”
He’s not exaggerating: Hawkins remembers vividly racing home from Washington, D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts to watch his predecessor Kiefer Sutherland in action on 24, starting with the first season in 2001.
“It was the kind of show that after [each episode] was over on Monday nights, everybody would talk about it at school the next day,” said Hawkins.
Now, he’s the one punching the clock.
In the 12-episode 24: Legacy, which premiered on Fox after Sunday’s Super Bowl and continues on Monday nights at 8 p.m., Hawkins plays Eric Carter, an ex–Army Ranger who’s living in hiding after his unit assassinated a terrorist leader. This being 24, it’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that he’s forced into action when members of his team are murdered one by one within the first few minutes of the premiere.
And with Jack Bauer off the grid—Sutherland elected to be president on ABC’s Designated Survivor instead of returning to his signature role—Hawkins is responsible for saving both the country and the franchise.
Despite the stakes in filling that void left by Sutherland, co-showrunners Manny Coto and Evan Katz didn’t actually look too hard. Their casting search consisted of watching a few minutes of Straight Outta Compton.
After seeing Hawkins’ performance as Dr. Dre in that 2015 N.W.A. biopic,
“I thought there’s nobody else; he’s the guy,” said Coto. “He was just so charming and personable, but also intelligent. He radiated everything we wanted from this character which was a sort of youthful exuberance—coupled with someone who could have had a military background.”
That’s no small part of what makes Hawkins such a convincing action hero: He’s had previous tours of duty in onscreen military service. He served as a Navy Op in Iron Man 3; and was playing soldier and evading King Kong in the jungles of Vietnam on the set of the upcoming Kong: Skull Island, when he fielded the call from his agent about 24: Legacy.
Plus he burns a lot of calories fighting zombies on his other show, The Walking Dead.
“We took a little bit of a leap of faith, but even from watching [Straight Outta Compton you could tell] he was in good shape,” said Coto. “Look, Kiefer was not built like Dolph Lundgren, he was a regular guy as well, so handling the action, unless you have a physical problem, it’s not going to be an issue for a young guy who is in shape.”
More importantly, “he’s also a trained actor who went to [the acclaimed New York drama college] Juilliard, and he is extremely thorough about preparing,” added Katz.
Hawkins spent his downtime on the set of Kong: Skull Island, working with that film’s military advisor, an ex–special forces vet, and practicing with firearms from that production’s armory until he found one that would look the most natural in his hands for 24: Legacy.
All that preparation paid off with the best endorsement of all: from Sutherland, who remains on the franchise as a producer.
“He’s been one of my supporters,” said Hawkins. “He’s just been giving me all these pointers, because no one else knows what it’s like besides him. Nobody else knows what it’s like to lead this kind of television show.”
Well, one other person does now.
For a refresher on the original 24 series, click here.