The Stars Turn Out for “Madam Secretary” Premiere

Executive producer Morgan Freeman and Madeleine Albright were among the guests at Thursday night’s event.
The Stars Turn Out for “Madam Secretary” Premiere
Executive producer Morgan Freeman at the Madam Secretary premiere. Photograph by Caroline Cunningham.

Despite the name and setting, CBS’s new drama Madam Secretary isn’t very political.

In fact, Keith Carradine, who plays the President, isn’t even sure what term of his presidency he’s in. 

“We don’t talk about party in this show,” he said. “We are leaving it to the audience to make their own decisions about where we might fall ideologically.”

On Thursday night, the stars and producers of the new CBS drama gathered at the Institute of Peace, just down the street from the State Department, for a screening of the pilot. (The show premieres Sunday, September 21, at 8:30.)

Madam Secretary follows Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni), an ex-CIA agent who is dragged away from her bucolic family life by the President (an old friend) to become Secretary of State after her predecessor is killed in a plane crash. 

Though the pilot launches McCord straight into a geopolitical crisis, writer Barbara Hall said she was most curious about the life behind the powerful woman—what she still has to deal with at home after saving the world. 

“The most interesting thing to me was contextualizing her job with her home life­—giving people an idea of what it’s like to do a job like that and to maintain a home life that isn’t a shattered, broken home,” Hall said. 

Tim Daly, who plays Elizabeth’s husband, Henry McCord, said he was drawn to the realistic presentation of the couple’s marriage. 

“I think we’ve seen so many dysfunctional marriages on television, and so often we’ve seen women on television and in movies who, if they achieve some level of notoriety, their personal life is a disaster,” the actor said. “This gives people something that they can really relate to. Not only is she dealing with geopolitical stuff, but they are also at home being a passionate couple.”

Though many have speculated on who inspired the character of Elizabeth McCord—Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand are two of the top guesses—executive producer Morgan Freeman attests that she is “completely fictional.” Even so, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was present for the premiere, due to the educational role she played: She grabbed a cup of coffee with Leoni before filming (“She paid,” Leoni said), and shared some State Department dos and don’ts with the writers and cast members. 

“You can’t be calling Hillary [Clinton] or Condoleezza [Rice] or Madeleine in the middle of the night and saying, ‘If you had this situation handed to you, what would you do?’” Freeman said. 

The show may be more dramatic than political, but with the cast and team of producers behind it, it’s likely to be entertaining. Check back soon for our recap of the pilot episode.  

For more arts and entertainment coverage, follow After Hours on Twitter at @afterhoursblog

See also: “State of Affairs” Vs. “Madam Secretary”—Which Should You Watch?

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.