Having already returned from cancellation once, 24 is truly the show that will not die. But it's going to have to do without its similarly unkillable protagonist, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), for its latest incarnation.

24: Legacy is an all-new series with an all-new lead character in the form of Eric Carter, an ex-Army Ranger played by Corey Hawkins, the rising star who broke out playing hip-hop icon Dr. Dre in the 2015 mega-hit Straight Outta Compton.

The actor says he grew up watching the show's original incarnation, a recollection designed to make everyone reading this feel old.

"I was like a huge 24 fan," Hawkins tells TimeOut in Los Angeles. "I was 13 years old, I was a young kid watching that growing up, I saw Jack Bauer - that was the hero that I looked up to. And now children who look like me get to see that hero, you know, and that's really exciting to me."


As Hawkins says, this is no longer the Jack Bauer story, but Eric Carter is well-placed to serve as a marginally more cheerful replacement, and Hawkins resists the idea that he's stepping into Bauer's shoes.

"I can't look at it like that. I mean, the only shoes I'm stepping into are Eric's shoes, and that actually takes a lot of the pressure off of it too. Something that I have been stressing is just that we continue to do him justice, and in doing that, because there's no comparison to Jack - there's a natural comparison, but because there's no implicit comparison to Jack, it makes it fun and it makes it easier for me to just do that."

Like its predecessors, 24: Legacy is presented in the "real-time" format, a narrative gimmick that remains more-or-less unique to the show. Some peripheral characters from the universe will show up, and the story will still heavily involve the fictional CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit), Jack's ex-employer. High profile co-stars in the new series include Aussie actress Miranda Otto (Homeland) and Jimmy Smits (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as a Washington DC power couple.

The principal point of difference is in how the lead character is now someone swept up in the high-stakes world of global terrorism, as opposed to someone whose job it is to deal with such matters on a daily basis.

"Jack Bauer was a hardened CTU veteran," says Hawkins. "You knew you could depend on him. We don't know if we can depend on Eric, and so we have to take that time to get to know if we can, first and foremost, see the demons and the skeletons in his closet, and then see what happens after that."

Eric Carter quickly demonstrates that he's no slouch in the action hero department. When we first meet him, he's living in hiding with his wife because of his involvement in a controversial raid on a terrorist leader, which is what brings him into the show's line of fire.

"I'm still discovering where he's coming from. I clearly know where he's going, but I'm just still gathering things that make him tick and the things you're gonna have to watch out for. We see a hero who looks like he's all put together, but we watch it all fall apart towards the end of the series."

Hawkins says Sutherland, who's currently starring as the US President in Designated Survivor, offered his blessing, and an empathetic ear for the pressure of being 24's main man.

"We didn't speak at the beginning. I didn't have any time to, 'cause I was coming from shooting Kong: Skull Island in Vietnam and got off the plane and went straight into the big table read. But then when we finally spoke, it was like 'Phew, somebody who gets it', you know what I mean? Cause nobody else understands what it's like to not just be number one on a call sheet and lead a TV show, but this particular TV show is a different kind of beast, the real-time aspect of it all. We talked about a lot of stuff and he's just a good sport in passing the baton on."

Who: Corey Hawkins
What: 24: Legacy
When: Premieres next Tuesday at 8.45pm
Where: TVNZ 2