Designated Survivor’s Maggie Q previews the many layers to her character

ABC/John Medland
ABC/John Medland

Through just two episodes of the new hit series Designated Survivor viewers can already tell that F.B.I. Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) will be a force to be reckoned with. Despite not being the lead investigator into the bombing on Washington that left Kiefer Sutherland’s Thomas Kirkman as the newly sworn in president, it’s clear that she’s already got some ideas about who is responsible for the attack. On Wednesday night’s new episode, “The Confession,” Agent Wells will move forward in developing some of her theories as President Kirkman prepares for his first television interview.

During its first two weeks on air Designated Survivor found enough of an audience to already warrant a full season pickup. ABC announced last week that the show’s first season will consist of 22 episodes. The TV Junkies recently spoke with Maggie Q (Nikita, Stalker) about Agent Wells’ ideas on the bombing, her next steps and her return to Toronto to film the series. She also previews a little about what fans can expect as the show’s conspiracy starts to unravel.

The TV Junkies: Congratulations on the full season pickup. How exciting is that to get after airing only two episodes?

Maggie Q: It’s really kind of unprecedented and doesn’t usually happen like that. It’s a rare gift where the network is confident enough in what you’re doing that they are like ‘yes, we’re with this show 100%.’ It’s a great morale booster.

TTVJ: You shot Nikita for many years in Toronto and now are back with Designated Survivor. How does filming in Toronto compare to other locations?

MQ: I’m back. I can’t stay away from Toronto! It’s interesting though because one of the reasons filming up here has become so popular is that you can double for a lot of cities. There’s many faces to Toronto and it’s not very far away, there’s a lot of access to it. A lot of east coast cities you can use Toronto for and so it’s a huge asset this city has.

ABC/John Medland
ABC/John Medland

TTVJ: It seems like the show is shaping up to be much more about the conspiracy investigation than a political show. Will that be true going forward?

MQ: I think that one of the more compelling elements is going to be the conspiracy theory for sure. It is really center to what decisions are going to be made in government because it was so big and so disastrous. The questions that are being asked about it will dictate a lot of the decisions the President will be making in the future. So weirdly you have a show that is political, but because of the conspiracy element and how it influences politics, they go hand in hand.

TTVJ: We’ve only just scratched the surface with Hannah after two episodes, so what can you tell us about her and her background?

MQ: She’s done some things she’s not proud of for sure and she definitely has secrets she needs to live with. It is affecting her involvement in the investigation, but going forward, by virtue of her job and her own character, she’s a very mysterious character. She’s one of those characters you are not sure of right away–not bad or good–she’s just very layered and incredibly experienced. Until you really see her unfold what she will unfold you won’t actually get the depth of that experience until it starts happening.

TTVJ: We’ve started to see her doubt the direction Deputy Director Atwood (Malik Yoba) is leading the investigation in. Can we expect some clashing between Hannah and her boss in the future?

MQ: Yes and no. The reason I like their relationship is that they really do have a deep-rooted friendship which is beautiful. He respects her–she definitely works under him–but there’s a respect for her where she’s on a leash, but it’s pretty long for someone of her ranking because her instincts have been correct in the past and she’s proven theories before. There’s a modicum of respect he affords her, but at the same time Malik and I didn’t want that barking at each other thing that you have in a lot of shows. It’s so much more layered than that because if you work with someone on a daily basis, on things that are a matter of national security, you have a bond that’s deeper than just ‘hey boss! What’s up today?’ So we really wanted to show that and there to be more of a support than there was challenge.

TTVJ: Will we find out who is behind the bombing sooner rather than later? Or will it be an overarching mystery throughout the first season?

MQ: The conspiracy is so layered that I do think it’ll take a season to unveil. I think we’re doing it very carefully and we’re doing it very smart. As one person who has a vision for what this might be, the chips are going to be stacked against her. What I love about Hannah and Kirkman’s relationship, which will be revealed later in the season, I like to talk about our relationship as a touch and go. She and the President–even in the first two episodes–have the same mentality about this. He’s asking the same questions as she is, on two different sides, without even having a conversation with each other. So we’re building their relationship and thought process without even being in the same room, which is very clever.

ABC/Bob D’Amico
ABC/Bob D’Amico

TTVJ: You guys have a really great ensemble cast but so far we haven’t seen Hannah get to mix with a lot of the others. Will we start to see her interacting with some of these other characters as the investigation goes forward?

MQ: Until this point I have not. The most hilarious thing is that I see Kal [Penn] at junkets or Comic Con. I see Italia [Ricci], Kiefer, Natascha [McElhone] and Adan [Canto] when they are leaving and I’m coming to work. It’ll be like a high-five in the hallway. I did a scene with Kiefer, but we still haven’t quite interacted and we’re doing that on purpose. There’s a reason for it, but I’m quite enjoying the island I’m on. [laughs] It’s fun and I’m sort of in my own zone. Malik and I have the most fun working together as actors so I’m actually quite happy.

TTVJ: We’re used to seeing you action films and series that require a lot of stunts. Is there any chance we’ll get to see you use some of those skills soon with Hannah?

MQ: Definitely not! I’ll probably use my gun training in this show and some of that will come into play, but other than that this is straight drama for me.


What do you think of Designated Survivor so far? Who do you think is behind the bombing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV.