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ABC's Designated Survivor was one of the biggest new shows of the 2016-2017 television season, as it brought 24 star Kiefer Sutherland back to the small screen with a strong ensemble of actors around him. As it turns out, that ensemble is going to be shaken up in a big way due to the looming departure of one of the most significant players. Natascha McElhone will leave the series after the end of Season 2.
Natascha McElhone has played Alex Kirkman, who very suddenly became the First Lady of the United States after a terrible terrorist attack killed much of the federal government and left her mostly unqualified husband as the President. Alex's new role wasn't easy for her throughout Season 1, and many fans have been looking forward to seeing more of her story in Season 2. Unfortunately for those fans, Variety confirms that Natascha McElhone will leave Designated Survivor after the conclusion of its second season.
The good news is that Natascha McElhone isn't being written out because the Designated Survivor team doesn't have a place for her or because (as far as we know) she is sick of working on the show. No, McElhone is leaving Designated Survivor because she landed an exciting new gig on a different show. She has signed on for a role in The First, which will be a new series on Hulu.
In The First, Natascha McElhone will star along with Sean Penn. The show will follow the story of a group of people attempting to send a manned mission to Mars for the very first time. It has not yet been announced what kind of character she'll be playing, but rumor has it that she'll play the CEO of a major company that just so happens to be funding the mission to Mars.
Hulu gave a straight-to-series order for The First back in May, so we don't have to worry that the project will get the axe if Hulu doesn't like a pilot episode. Natascha McElhone will appear in at least one season of the new show, which is slated to begin production before the end of the year. It will debut at some point in 2018. Even if we won't get Alex Kirkman back as a regular for a Season 3 (if it happens), at least Natascha McElhone will still be able to be found on television.
The big question now is how Designated Survivor will write Alex out of the series. She's a major figure in her husband's life and the White House, so it's not like the show can just sell Alex as being suddenly off-screen. It's possible that she needs to go into hiding or leave her husband for some greater purpose, but we have to consider the tragic possibility that Alex will be killed off by the end of Season 2. If she's only written out, there's always the chance that Natascha McElhone could reprise the role, even if only for an occasional guest shot. If Alex is killed off... well, it would be a bummer.
The Season 2 premiere of Designated Survivor will air on Wednesday, September 27 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule for your other TV choices.