HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — With advice from CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler to “find a character whose story we wanted to tell,” producer Lori McCreary said she and Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman set out to develop the new series “Madam Secretary,” which premieres Sunday night on CBS.

The one-hour drama, which stars Tea Leoni as a secretary of state who has to balance her job and family, will normally air at 8 p.m. on Sunday nights, although the first episode will also be shown at 10 p.m. tonight

After she and Freeman met with Tassler, McCreary said they worked with Tracy Mercer, the vice president of development for their production company, Revelations Entertainment, “trying to come up with a great character.”

The recent congressional hearings on the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Bengazi, Libya, provided them with an idea, McCreary said.

“We started asking ourselves what really happens in those American  embassies overseas?” McCreary told City News Service.  “What’s life like for the secretary of  state, especially how does that translate overseas when rights for women are not necessarily the same as they are here?”

Trying to handle those responsibilities while also maintaining a family life sets up the conflict faced by Leoni’s character, Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst turned University of Virginia professor who has just been named secretary of state as the series begins.

Series creator Barbara Hall, who also wrote the premiere episode, said McCord gives her a lead character with a background that viewers might understand better than that of a career politician. Hall also wanted McCord to “have to have a recognizable and active home life, a successful marriage and children who are still at home.”

In addition to exploring the demands of work and home, “Madam Secretary” will also draw a lot of its conflict from the inter-office politics of the State Department, Hall said.

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