Entertainment Television

24 hours with Natascha McElhone

By Sean Fitzgerald, 24 Hrs

Natascha McElhone attends the 'London Town' screening during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at Haymarket Cinema on October 11, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for BFI)

Natascha McElhone attends the 'London Town' screening during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at Haymarket Cinema on October 11, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for BFI)

British actress Natascha McElhone, known to TV audiences for her work on Californiacation, has returned to the small screen as First Lady Alex Kirkman in the conspiracy thriller Designated Survivor [which is on hiatus this week, but returns next Wednesday on CTV]. The new series, which also stars Kiefer Sutherland and Kal Penn, is filmed in Toronto. "I love it," the mother-of-three says of the city that became a second home for her family during production. "I find it incredibly easy to be here."

FIRST FORCE

The nature of the First Lady role has changed so dramatically. Thankfully, it's come away from the style icon, into something that's a little more interesting.

DESIGNATED REACTION

When I first heard about Designated Survivor, I thought it was a terrific idea. I thought it was a great premise. I didn't know at that time that things on the real political stage would be quite in the place that they are, which, in a very strange way, dovetails quite well into our show.

SCREAMING FOR ICE CREAM IN THE SIX

We were hanging out a lot in Trinity-Bellwoods. Our mecca was Bang Bang, the ice cream store. And obviously, we went up the CN Tower because my kids wanted to. I have to say, I loved it in the end. I was a little resistant at first, like, 'Jesus, do we have to do this touristy stuff?' But we did, and I was happy.

CALIFORNIA VACATION

My kids haven't really seen me on screen a whole lot, to be honest, because the world inside the house is so focused on them - and jammies, and homework, and sports activities, and their friendships and peer groups, and all the usual stuff that anyone has in a house. My work happens outside of the house. There are no pictures of anything [about my acting career] around. So, I'm quite boring in their eyes, like the wallpaper. For years, they thought the show I filmed in L.A. was called California Vacation, which is great. I just let that ride. I didn't bother correcting them. They've never seen it, thank God.

KIEFER'S A GUITAR HERO

Kiefer's a big raconteur. He loves playing chess. He's a really hard worker. He takes nothing for granted. He's tireless in his search for truth and authenticity. And he plays his guitar all of the time. It's a form of relaxation for him. You can hear it coming out of his trailer. It's nice, really nice.

FAME GAME

When someone comes up and says, 'You look just like this actress called Natascha McElhone,' I'll just nod and smile, and my older kids smile. They love this game, and they'll be like, 'Yeah, she gets told that a lot.' And now my little one, who used to pipe up and say, 'But she IS Natascha McElhone,' he's now just got in on the thing, and he goes, 'Yeah, she gets told that a lot,' and sort of buttons his lip. But he's such a giveaway. He's just beaming with, 'There's a secret, and I know it but you don't.'