Elizabeth McCord may soon trade in her State Department desk for a seat in the Oval Office.
It’s where fans have been hoping CBS would take the script of the political drama “Madam Secretary” since its inception. And now that the possibility of a President McCord is on the horizon entering season 5, we’ve found ourselves feeling sentimental about the setting where so many crucial moments have played out.
Granted, there could still be as many as two full seasons before actress Téa Leoni gets the chance to become Madam President — Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine) is only midway through his term. Or, it might not happen at all.
“We think it’s going to be really fun to unpack what it’s like to declare a candidacy, what you have to go through to get the nomination and hopefully, what it will look like if she does or doesn’t finally decide to run,” executive producer Lori McCreary was quoted telling ET.
If McCord’s name does eventually make its way onto the ballot, she’ll have plenty to pack up in her current Washington, D.C. office — which is actually located in Brooklyn on one of Broadway Stages’ 53 New York City-based studios. “Madam Secretary” is one of 21 productions currently filming at Broadway Stages locations located in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
We made an appointment with the secretary of state ahead of Sunday’s season premiere to find out what exactly she’d be leaving behind.
A purposefully cluttered desk
As the drama surrounding Elizabeth’s post evolved throughout the past four seasons, the clutter on her desk did, too.
“If you go back to the first several episodes, you’ll notice a lot of the things in her office were personal to the previous secretary of state and over time we changed those out,” says set decorator Sheila Bock. She wanted to give Elizabeth’s territory as authentic a feel as possible by creating the illusion the character was slowly accumulating papers, awards and documents.
Now, Elizabeth’s bookshelf is topped with faux achievements in excellence awards with her name etched in and the table behind her desk is cluttered with multiple family photos.
“Those are actually Téa’s real family photos. We picked photos of her family that are not recognizable as any people in particular,” Bock says. “The photos are the same forever. It’s like I think so many people have in their offices, the same photo of them and their baby and it never goes away.”
On her desk, her calendar is up-to-date and filled out with realistic appointments and she actually has the CIA, FBI and husband Henry (Tim Daly) on her speed dial. Her newspaper subscriptions — to The New York Times and four other publications — are properly labeled and addressed and neatly folded, unread.
“The truth of the matter is a lot of what we do we do for our colleagues and people visiting, so when they look at the set it all makes sense,” she explains. Everybody wants to look at the real thing. It motivates characters and makes us feel like we’re legitimate.”
What’s on the secretary of state’s bookshelf?
Bock says many cast members are involved in the set decoration process, but none more so than Téa. In the second season, an open bookshelf spanning an entire wall was added to Elizabeth’s office at the request of the actress.
“She wanted more books and was very involved in the decision to have those bookcases be open rather than closed so it would add to the amount of clutter in there,” she explains.
Creating that clutter is dozens and dozens of hardcovers, both new and old, like 2000’s “Politics & War,” 2011’s “Henry Kissinger On China,” 2013’s “The Future” by Al Gore and a fiction novel titled “The Secretary.”
“There’s nothing you’ll pick up on that shelf that won’t make sense to what she does,” Bock adds. “There’s stuff she can use for references (in episodes) and a lot of contemporary literature. She spends a lot of time in there, sometimes just winding down.”
The most recent addition: a book penned by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who visited the Brooklyn set along with Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright while filming an episode set to air this season.
“Madam Secretary” airs Sundays at 10 p.m.