On the Fox drama series 24: Legacy, Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins), the sergeant in charge of an elite squad of U.S. Army Rangers that killed terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid six months prior, finds himself on a race against the clock to stop a devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil. With his hidden identity exposed, Carter must turn to CTU, as they figure out who they can trust and how they can save the world.
During this 1-on-1 chat with Collider, actor Corey Hawkins talked about how meeting the high bar that the original series set, why he was nervous about the challenge of taking this on, feeling blessed to be working on projects that he really cares about, the many possibilities he sees in this character, the show’s bad-ass women, and doing Broadway in his time off. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: Great job in taking over the reins on this!
COREY HAWKINS: Thank you! That makes me feel really, really good. I love the old show, but I love this one because the cast is good and the writing is good. It’s ambitious to take something like this on and do the next level iteration. Everybody loves this show and has an investment in it. Even my family was like, “Okay, so who are you playing?” I was like, “I’m the guy!” And they were like, “So wait, you’re Jack Bauer?!” And I was like, “No, but I’m replacing him.” And they were like, “Really?! Okay!” They were a little skeptical, but I think that’s good because that sets a high bar and we have to meet it. Hopefully, we can.
Were you ever skeptical about taking over a show like this?
HAWKINS: I don’t think I was ever skeptical that I could do it. I think I was just nervous. I knew that it would be a challenge, in that I really had to invest fully in this. It wasn’t a, “Oh, this will be great for my career moment.” This is an opportunity, in terms of the totality, in terms of television, in terms of the boundaries we’re pushing, and in terms of really stretching myself. I like to surprise myself. I like to surprise my fans, too. Right now, everyone knows me as Dr. Dre. And then, I was on The Walking Dead and everyone was like, “Oh, that’s Heath!” When people see this, I anticipate people will be like, “Oh, that’s Eric Carter!” But people won’t know Corey Hawkins, I kinda like that. I kinda dig that. I like being a chameleon and doing things that are just so different that people will be like, “Oh, that’s him?!” But it was nerve-wracking, and it still is nerve-wracking.
When you look at your recent acting projects, with Straight Outta Compton, The Walking Dead, 24: Legacy and Kong: Skull Island, is your career anything like you dreamed, hoped or wanted it to be?
HAWKINS: I don’t know. I don’t really have time to think about stuff like that. I’ll just put it this way, I’ve struggled enough as a working actor, and most of the times a not working actor, to know that anytime you are working is a blessing. I feel immensely blessed, not just that I’m working, but that I’m working on projects that I really care about and like. I’ve always been that way. Sometimes people are like, “Well, you’re fortunate enough now that you can choose or be more picky,” but I’ve always been that way. When I was living in my $350 a month apartment in Harlem, I was like that, much to my agent going, “Really?! We’re going to pass on this?” And I was like, “Yeah, it doesn’t make sense!” It’s always been about being very particular about the business of it, and remembering that the art drives that. But, I’m very happy with where I am. I guess I don’t look at success in the way that a lot of other people do. Success, for me, is to be happy with what you’re doing. You can make all the money in the world and do all of the shows, films and plays, but if you’re not happy with it, and you’re not surrounded by the people you love and care about, and have a good support system and team, that’s not success to me. But, I’m feeling good.
If this show is as successful as you hope a TV show will be, you could be doing this for awhile. Did you take that into consideration before signing on?
HAWKINS: Yes, that has entered my mind, which is why you have to love it. I don’t wanna be the guy stuck in a television job that I don’t love. I love this character. I see so many possibilities of where it can go. That’s why we started where we started, with this optimism. There are things you don’t know about him. There are skeletons in his closet. There’s a history there, with his wife and his brother. There’s a history there, with the Army. There’s a reason Grimes is the way he is, and Eric isn’t, and could Eric have been Grimes? All of that stuff is really, really fascinating to me. I feel like that, alone, could just go on for as long as possible, and if it does, that’s great. In my interim hiatus, I’m going to go and do the stuff I want to do. I’m going back to Broadway in February, as soon as we finish shooting. The fun part is that I get to do this, and then I get to have a little bit of a break and go do something completely different. There’s so much possibility, right now, with this character, and there’s so much, in their minds and in my mind, that we all want to do. I’m really excited about that.
What are you doing on Broadway?
HAWKINS: Six Degrees of Separation with Allison Janney.
Jack Bauer hasn’t had the best luck with women, but Eric Carter’s wife seems like she can really take care of herself. How nice is it to know that Nicole Carter (Anna Diop) is very capable of handling things on her own?
HAWKINS: She’s a bad-ass on this show! Anna is an amazing, beautiful actress, and she’s just so talented at getting to the heart of who Nicole is. She’s invested in trying to figure out how to make this character as fully realized as possible. It is an amazing testament to her and Miranda [Otto], who plays Rebecca, to see them playing these strong women on television. They can hold their own, and you’re going to see a lot more of that. I love that! It’s my face on the poster, but it’s a whole ensemble of amazing actors. I love that this show speaks to the power that women have. Eric loves Nicole immensely. She may be the reason why he is not like Ben Grimes.
This show always has a foreign or international adversary, but there’s also the friend who’s a thorn in Eric Carter’s side. What’s it like to have both of those elements to play?
HAWKINS: He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Eric feels very responsible for what has happened to Ben, so therefore, he feels responsible for everything that’s continuing to happen, during this day. People are dying around him, and that’s his friend. On top of that, we’re fighting the enemy. Eric has a loyalty to his squad member, and you’re going to get to see that, too. You’ll see how that plays out and how he navigates that. When CTU gets involved, where is Eric’s allegiance? You’re going to see Eric deal with that. He doesn’t have the time to deal with it sometimes, so he has to put the emotional side of it aside to be the soldier, but I think that’s going to come back to haunt him.
24: Legacy airs on Monday nights on Fox.