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The Diplomat’s Daughter

Kathrine Herzer on the intrigue and appeal of Madam Secretary

To find out what’s going on in the world, you can easily tune into the nightly news broadcasts, but you could also do a lot worse than watching Madam Secretary. The CBS drama, now in its second season, follows the titular diplomat, played by Teá Leoni, as she navigates not only treacherous political waters in Washington, but sticky global goings on that can be eerily close to what’s happening in the real world.

Kathrine Herzer plays Alison McCord, the Secretary’s daughter, and has had the chance to embody a character growing up in an usual, exciting situation. Here, the actress explains what makes the show exciting, how real-life politics come into play and why this new season has become her character’s time to shine.

You’re not just filming Madam Secretary, but you’re also in school here in New York. How’s that treating you?

I recently moved here, so I’m still getting used to it but I adore New York. It is my favorite city. It’s so much better than L.A., I think.

Meanwhile, the series is about Washington. How’s the second season treating you?

Honestly, it’s unbelievable. The writing on this show is absolutely killing it. It’s so good. And it’s such an exciting show to be on and be a part of. It’s such a community, which is nice. I’m very lucky. 

You play the Secretary of State’s daughter. What’s in store for her this season?

We’re going to get to know my character a lot better, to learn what she likes and what she doesn’t like and how she feels about her relationship with her parents. You’re going to definitely see a lot more about how Alison feels about what she wants from her relationships. Alison matures so much this season, and it’s really nice to play and see as it develops.

What about the character initially appealed to you?

Working with Tim [Daly] and Téa [Leoni] was a huge draw for me. And Barbara Hall’s writing is so great. Also, Alison to me seems like a real character and that’s important for me to play. I want to know that the characters that I play are in touch with reality and actually bring something important to the viewers.

How has she changed for you since the show began?

Alison stared out being a 15 year old, starting a new school, figuring things out. Now, she’s really becoming her own person. She matured a lot, and it’s nice to see her develop.

Has being on a show like this made you more politically savvy?

I’ve always been very into politics, I definitely think that’s an important part of being in society and being a part of any community. The really cool thing about the show is that because it is a political drama it’s always in the dialogue, and we’re always talking about what’s going on in the world behind the scenes and in between takes, how it’s relevant to what’s going on now—how the show is relevant to the world we live in. It’s always keeping me on my political game.

The show is still filming, but what’s up next for you? 

I am really focused on doing the show and being in school—I’m taking macroeconomics, psych and a class called “Aesthetics on Trial”—so it’s a lot.

Main image by Jeff Forney