'Madam Secretary' Bosses on Season 2's White House "Crisis," Morgan Freeman's Audition

Barbara Hall and Lori McCreary talk with THR about what's next for Tea Leoni's character after the president's plane disappears.
Courtesy of CBS
A scene for Sunday's 'Madam Secretary' premiere

A missing plane brings major changes to Sunday's Madam Secretary season-two premiere. 

In the CBS drama's season-one finale, Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni) learned that there wouldn't be espionage charges pressed against her, while Elizabeth and Henry's (Tim Daly) daughter Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) began a potentially problematic relationship with President Dalton's (Keith Carradine) son, Harrison (Jason Ralph). 

Executive producers Barbara Hall — who created the show — and Lori McCreary spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about Elizabeth stepping up to the plate when the president's plane vanishes and executive producer Morgan Freeman auditioning for his role in the premiere.

Read more 'Madam Secretary' Bosses on "Dramatic" New Storyline, Notes From the Oval Office

It sounds like there will be serious tension within the White House in the premiere. What are the big moments?

Hall: The big moment in the premiere is that Air Force One goes missing. From that point on, we get to see what the process is when something like that happens. We explore the line of succession and the complications that could ensue. 

McCreary: One of our biggest moments is the appearance of a new character, the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, played by none other than the episode’s incomparable director, Morgan Freeman. 

How is Elizabeth impacted by Air Force One's disappearance?

Hall: Elizabeth is engaged, as is everyone in the inner sanctum, in getting to the bottom of what has happened to Air Force One and how to proceed inside the White House until they know what is going on. At the same time, she is hosting nations from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, hoping to pass a new trade agreement. She has to carry on with her State Department duties even as the White House is in crisis. 

What was it like having Morgan Freeman directing the episode and making a cameo? 

McCreary: The entire crew was on their best behavior. And Morgan has such a love for the process of filmmaking that he brings a sense of reverence for the process, which inspires the entire crew.

Hall: It was so much fun having Morgan direct the season premiere. He had great enthusiasm for the story and a strong point of view about how to tell it. Everyone loved working with him.  

Had you always assumed that he would eventually make an appearance, or did you have to twist his arm a bit?

McCreary: When Morgan agreed on to direct, we didn't expect him to also play a role, although we have been hoping since last season that he would at some point appear in the show. During ‎auditions, we discussed who should play the chief justice. I said, "Do you think we could get a Morgan Freeman-type actor?" Mark Saks, the casting director, looked at Morgan. And then Morgan got up and said, "Well, I guess I'll put myself on tape then." And he got up and auditioned. Needless to say, he got the role!

What can you tease about what's ahead for the characters this season?

Hall: We are examining the dynamic of Elizabeth's sophomore year. She has clearly established her place in the inner sanctum, but this will become threatening to some and people will step up to take her on directly. She encounters a strong challenger, with the potential to become an opponent, in the form of the National Security Advisor played by Julian Acosta. The White House team begins to focus on the not too distant election which will affect some of their decision making. We will introduce a story arc involving U.S. relations with Russia. And we will continue to explore the question of what really happened with Air Force One.

What's in store for Elizabeth and Henry's relationship?

Hall: Henry begins his new job at the National War College, a position which brings him more deeply into the intelligence world.  He and Elizabeth begin to follow parallel tracks on a few international issues, with some of their covert paths crossing over.

Madam Secretary airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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