The creators of the 24 series franchise designed a new Fox show, 24: Legacy, to continue its unique action-packed, real-time suspense with all new characters. With that, comes a new hero to fill the well-worn shoes of former series star Kiefer Sutherland, who endured for eight full seasons, through TV movie 24: Redemption, and on into the limited series 24: Live Another Day as iconic character Jack Bauer.
At the center of the latest new day is Eric Carter, a former Army Ranger who’s been in witness protection until a group of terrorists find him and his team. Now on the run, Carter has to protect his wife and work with CTU to stop the terrorists.
Corey Hawkins, who garnered so much praise for his role as Dr. Dre in 2015 film Straight Outta Compton, plays Carter and appears ready to take on the legacy of 24. Past the halfway point of filming the 12 episode series, the series star was naturally enthusiastic at a rooftop party for the Fox reboot series when he spoke to Rotten Tomatoes before the holidays.
Series fans will meet Hawkins after the Super Bowl on February 5, when 24: Legacy premieres. In that first hour, they’ll see Carter spring into action against bad guys in his house and in an epic construction site–set fight, which he briefed us on during our conversation.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: How did it feel to say those words, “The following takes place between…?”
Corey Hawkins: [Laughs] You know, I never actually thought about that, which is strange because it’s such an iconic phrase, but I never actually thought about it. I guess I was too busy trying to figure out how I was going to get inside of Eric Carter. Then that’s just Eric up there talking. But it’s an immense honor to be able to utter those words, man.
RT: Did they have you introduce all 12 hours in one recording session?
Hawkins: No, not yet. We go bit by bit by bit with this show, literally in real time. So as it comes, as the episodes come, that might change. So we’ll see.
RT: What was it like filming the construction site fight?
Hawkins: Well, we have an amazing stunt coordinator and that was a real pipe rolling down that thing and real dust. We worked there for two days, and they built out that whole construction site too. It was exciting, because I felt like a kid again. I was like, Oh my God. It was a real action scene to juxtapose the heavy character work. It was pretty neat.
RT: Did you have to clean off the dust and do take two?
Hawkins: Yes, and that was huge too. All of us. It wasn’t just me literally in all of that stuff all day long every day, and I was also battling a little sickness too. But the crew came in — costumes — clean it off, and roll back again.
RT: Did you have to learn a military style of fighting?
Hawkins: There’s a mixture, because Eric grew up where he grew up. He knows that world. Then also he’s an Army Ranger, so he’s learned over the course of his training techniques and moves and stuff. But at the same time, when you’re engaged in hand-to-hand combat for your life, sometimes the best thing to do is kick the guy in the knee or gouge his eye. That’s how we’ve been approaching the fights.
RT: By comparison to the construction site, how intense was the fight scene in the house?
Hawkins: Again, it’s all makeshift. It’s all figuring it out on the go. We literally sat in the room and we said, “OK, he’s trapped in this chair. How does he get out of this situation?” And he has to get out of this situation, because his wife is now in danger and they know where she is, and it’s only a matter of seconds. That’s where you lean in and you figure it out. That was fun, man. It’s different because he’s in the house. He grabs the chair hold that’s tied to his arm and he smashes the guy’s head in. That’s just what we were finding as we were going.
RT: Is there any manual they can give you for starting this? Because they’ve done nine years of 24, and this is your first.
Hawkins: The best manual that they gave me was the script. All I do is get the scripts as they come in and go by that. That’s my bible. I get the opportunity, the luxury to find out new things as we go, and then as an actor, I get to dig in.
RT: By the time you got to hours eight and nine, how did you keep up the pace?
Hawkins: We’re on hours eight and nine right now. We shoot with great directors: Stephen Hopkins directed the original 24 pilot. Jon Cassar directed pretty much everything else in terms of 24, all the episodes and the movie. And Nelson McCormick who also directed on 24. We’re in good hands, and I trust it. Right now it’s just sort of seeing where it goes, man.
RT: 24 portrayed a black U.S. president before the country had actually elected one and became a big hit. How important was it to you to become the main character in such a huge, groundbreaking franchise?
Hawkins: It was huge for me, because this role sort of came to me, and I got the opportunity to say yes or no to it. And I felt a huge responsibility because growing up, I didn’t see this, and I grew up in Washington, D.C., which is where the show is set. My father grew up in that world. My mother’s a police officer, and so this show reflects a lot of the reality of where I came from and a lot of people’s realities. If people don’t connect to Eric Carter’s struggles, I’m sure they’ll find a character in this series to connect to. That’s ultimately what it’s about for me.
It’s a huge opportunity, and it’s something I didn’t want to pass up. It’s a great responsibility, and I just hope I can continue to do justice to it, one second at a time.
24: Legacy premieres February 5 following the Super Bowl on Fox.