'State of Affairs': 5 things to know about Katherine Heigl's CIA drama on NBC

katherine-heigl-state-of-affairs-NBC.jpgKatherine Heigl is returning to television after departing "Grey's Anatomy" in 2010 with a new drama on NBC called "State of Affairs," in which Heigl plays Charlie Tucker, a CIA analyst whose job it is to brief the president (Alfre Woodard) every morning on the state of the world's political landscape.

In the course of the premiere episode, viewers learn of a connection Tucker has to President Payton that goes beyond the White House halls. Here are five other things viewers can look forward to when it premieres this fall:

EP Joe Carnahan says they're out to make something that is "cable quality":
"We all set out to do something that would move in lock-step with a cable program ... In terms of progression and dramatics and pathos and ethos, it's really impressive. Our goal was always just to out-do what with cable, let's face it, has become the standard-bearer."

Heigl finds the story compelling:
"This is an actual job and I had never realized that. A lot of people have asked me does this really happen, does the president have a briefer? And I thought the opportunity to delve into that and show this side of the CIA was really compelling.

"To play such an intelligent woman who is a real patriot who can make a difference and help her country and help the president do her job, the idea that this is rife with all kinds of fascinating stories about this country and this world and what goes on that we don't really know much about, it felt like an extraordinary role and story to tell for me."

Carnahan says the president being a black female shouldn't even be a discussion: "I think it's funny that there would even be a conversation, in this day and age, that we could have a black female president. I love Alfre and when we first s tarted discussing it, why couldn't it be Alfre? You get an exceptional actor, I don't care what their creed, what their color -- I can't believe that's even a topic.

Woodard adds it's more about her being a woman: "I think the gorilla in the room is we all know the world will not spin off its axis if there's an African-American as president, so the gorilla in the room is I'm a woman. Hopefully everyone will get accustomed to saying 'Madame President' in their homes and they won't freak out when there is a 'Madame President.'"

The air of authenticity: Former CIA White House briefer Rodney Faraon is an executive producer on the show and he says, "The spirit of everything we do here is authentic." Heigl says the process of preparing for the role was actually "really fun" because "there was a lot of getting to just talk to Rodney and hear all these incredible stories about his time as a briefer."

"State of Affairs" premieres Monday, Nov. 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Photo/Video credit: NBC