'Designated Survivor': LaMonica Garrett Takes You Behind the Scenes of All the White House Drama

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Designated Survivor- KIEFER SUTHERLAND
Sven Frenzel/ABC

Even when cameras aren’t rolling, Garrett is protective of Sutherland. “We’ll be out together and I’ll find myself on guard,” he says. “If a stranger takes a few steps toward Kiefer, I’ll move my body to get in between them—it’s weird!”

Designated Survivor - LaMonica Garrett

Between takes, Garrett makes a beeline for the study adjacent to the Oval Office. “That’s the most comfortable couch to crash out on!” he says. “I’m a big guy—6’3″—and it fits my proportions well. People know that I’ll be there.”

Designated Survivor - LaMonica Garrett

Maggie Q (FBI agent Hannah Wells) is often joined in the makeup trailer by her BFF, pup Caesar. “A lot of us have dogs on set, but he might be the most popular,” Garrett says. “Caesar is so well-behaved. He runs errands with Maggie and rides in the passenger seat of her car.”

Designated Survivor - Italia Ricci

Like Sutherland, Italia Ricci (acting Chief of Staff Emily Rhodes) hails from up north. “They have their Canadian pride!” Garrett says. “It’s funny when fans find out that we’re not shooting in Washington, D.C. We’re doing a show about something that’s as American as it gets in Toronto. Hey, man, it’s movie magic!”

Designated Survivor - LaMonica Garrett

Isn’t it bromantic? “We gravitated toward each other right from the start,” says Garrett of Adan Canto (former Chief of Staff Aaron Shore). “He’s physically fit—we vibe out on that—and we’re both from California and can’t go home at the drop of a dime. So we started hanging around!”

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If you think it’s stressful being Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland)—the constantly imperiled POTUS-by-default on ABC’s Designated Survivor—imagine how the guy who’s tasked with keeping him alive must feel. Which explains why head Secret Service agent Mike Ritter rarely cracks a smile. “Most of what my character is involved in is heavy stuff,” LaMonica Garrett says. “Ritter is usually coming in with bad news!”

There may be more of that in store on the April 19 episode, which tackles gun control, and again on April 26, when a surprising new twist develops in the Capitol bombing investigation. But while the series’ subject matter gets dark, there’s plenty of levity on the Toronto set. “If a scene is particularly weighty, then the atmosphere tends to go a different way and people start making jokes,” Sutherland says. Another welcome distraction: the ongoing chess rivalry between cast members, who face off between scenes. As for the reigning master? “I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, and Kiefer is at the top,” says Garrett, who took a camera to the set and captured the gang during downtime. “My plan is to practice online and get my weight up for next season.” Hail to the chief!

Designated Survivor, Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC