The ABC political drama series “Designated Survivor” had a lot going for it upon its 2016 premiere. It had the interesting premise of a low-ranking Cabinet official becoming President after everyone ahead of him in the line of succession is killed in a seeming terror attack. The lead character of “accidental President” Kirkman is played by Kiefer Sutherland (“24”). Where it stumbled was in the telling of its overall plot, leading to ABC cancelling after two seasons. Netflix rescued the series and secured it a 10-episode season 3 that premiered last week. The platform move and necessary retooling gave the show a markedly different atmosphere.
Right from seeing the new episode naming convention of using social media hash-tag, one can tell that the new season of “Designated Survivor” on Netflix is changing tack on its storyline. Rather than focus on an ongoing storyline (like discovering the truth behind the Capitol attack that sent Kirkman to the Presidency), season 3 tries to be more episodic in its narrative. While there is still an arc – Kirkman running for a full term as President – the challenges are compartmented and framed around current issues. This was a decision of the new show-runner, Neal Baer.
One of the little issues that weave into the plot threads of “Designated Survivor” is the close-to-home matter of ethnic identity. Kirkman’s Chief of Staff Aaron Shore is running as his independent-ticket Vice President. The thing is, Shore is a Mexican-American Latino whose ethnicity is working against him on campaign even if he is competent enough (leaking a classified video notwithstanding). The current conflict facing Shore is beautifully portrayed on-screen by Adan Canto, a Mexican actor through and through. But his striking physical presence on his scenes, carried over from the ABC run, can easily keep the audience riveted with the eye-candy and ready to invest in his character arc.
Canto started acting in his native Mexico in 2009 on both television and film. His star appeal was quickly noticed north of the border. By 2013 he was in “The Following” on Fox for 10 episodes. In 2014 he was a bit-player mutant in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” for marvel and 20th Century Fox. He has been a constant US TV and steaming presence since then, with his impressive acting range that goes way beyond the expected Latino archetype roles. In fact, his “Designated Survivor” character of Aaron Shore really shines a good spotlight on the real-life general situation of Mexican-Americans even in the viewpoint of a fictional program. It speaks a great deal on Adan Canto’s acting prowess.
“Designated Survivor” season 3 is wholly available stateside on Netflix since June 7. Canadian mass media company Entertainment One handles its non-US distribution. Elsewhere and recently, Canto has also started in “Hypnotist’s Love Story,” a new drama pilot for ABC.
Image from Adan Canto’s Twitter