Elizabeth McCord (character)

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Elizabeth McCord
Madam Secretary character
Elizabeth McCord.jpg
Téa Leoni as Elizabeth McCord
First appearance"Pilot"
Created byBarbara Hall
Portrayed byTéa Leoni (2014–)
Full nameElizabeth Adams McCord
NicknameBess, Lizzie
TitleUnited States Secretary of State
  • Diplomat
  • College professor (former)
  • CIA Analyst (former)
AffiliationUnited States Department of State
FamilyBenjamin Adams (father)
Suzanne Adams (mother)
Dr. Will Adams (brother)
SpouseHenry McCord
ChildrenStephanie "Stevie" McCord
Allison McCord
Jason McCord
RelativesSophie Adams (sister-in-law)
Annie Adams (niece)
Patrick McCord (father-in-law)
Mrs. McCord (mother-in-law)
Erin McCord (sister-in-law)
Shane McCord (brother-in-law)
Sarah McCord (niece)
Maureen McCord-Ryan (sister-in-law)
Tom Ryan (brother-in-law)
John Ryan (nephew)
Kenzie Ryan (niece)
Kelly Ryan (niece)

Elizabeth "Bess" Adams McCord is a fictional character and the protagonist of the CBS TV series Madam Secretary portrayed by Téa Leoni. Elizabeth is the United States Secretary of State.


Born in Virginia, Elizabeth attended Houghton Hall Boarding School, where she was co-captain of the debate team alongside Bahrainian Crown Prince Yousif Obaid (Aasif Mandvi).[1] She attended the University of Virginia, and one of her professors was future Chief Justice of the United States Frawley (Morgan Freeman).[2] It was also where she met her future husband.[3]

In 1990, Elizabeth married Henry McCord (Tim Daly). They have two daughters, Stephanie "Stevie" (Wallis Currie-Wood) and Alison (Kathrine Herzer), and a son, Jason (Evan Roe). She also has a brother, Dr. Will Adams (Eric Stoltz), who is married to Sophie Adams, and with whom he has a 5-year-old daughter, Annie;[4] both of her parents died when she was young, in a car accident.[3] She speaks fluent French, German, Arabic, Persian and "a year of high school Spanish".[5]


Elizabeth worked for the CIA as an analyst for 20 years until she resigned from her position due to an ethical dilemma, just as she was being considered for promotion to Station Chief, Baghdad.[6] She then taught at the University of Virginia as a Political Science Professor. After the death of Vincent Marsh (Brian Stokes Mitchell) in a plane crash, President Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine) (her former mentor at the CIA) asked her to be the US Secretary of State. Not a natural politician, Elizabeth frequently clashes with the White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson (Željko Ivanek).[5]

As the Secretary of State, her first year in office was spent investigating her predecessor's death.

In "Tamerlane", Elizabeth is in the home of Iranian Foreign Minister Zahed Javani (Usman Ally) when a coup d'état orchestrated by Secretary Marsh, CIA Director Andrew Munsey, and CIA analyst Juliet Humphrey, is attempted; during the attack, both Minister Javani and her personal bodyguard, DS Agent Fred Cole, were killed.[7] In the aftermath, Elizabeth was left with some post-traumatic stress and has been seeing Russell Jackson's personal therapist.[8]

In "The Show Must Go On", during a communications blackout on Air Force One with both the President and the Speaker of the House on board, and with the Vice President in surgery and President pro tempore of the Senate found to be incompetent after a series of mini-strokes earlier in the year, Elizabeth is sworn in as Acting President for a number of hours.[2]

In "You Say You Want a Revolution", Elizabeth and her Cuban counterpart are instrumental in the restoration of Cuba–United States relations, including the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington and the U.S. embassy in Havana and the repeal of the embargo against Cuba. This has been viewed as a significant milestone in the Dalton presidency.[9]

During the first half of the second season, Elizabeth was instrumental in preventing a potential United States-Russia War (which ultimately was believed to escalate into World War III).

In "Vartius", due to the failing health and impending resignation of Mark Delgado (Alex Fernandez), President Dalton offered the position of Vice President of the United States to Elizabeth.[10] She initially accepted, but when President Dalton lost his party's primary, she advised him to run as an independent candidate and ask a popular senator, Teresa Hurst, from Pennsylvania to be his Vice President instead, as winning Pennsylvania would increase his chances of ensuring neither major party candidate would achieve a majority in the Electoral College. On election night, Dalton won the key states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, guaranteeing that neither major-party candidate would secure a majority. Thanks to the efforts of Russell Jackson, Dalton was re-elected by the House of Representatives.

In season 4, Secretary McCord is considered to be a favorite to run for president, even over Vice President Teresa Hurst. Russell Jackson even tells her that President Dalton would prefer to leave the Oval Office to her, his longtime mentee, instead of his Vice President, who has her own presidential ambitions. In the last episode of season 4, Elizabeth stated that she'd indeed run for President.


With the exception of her personal assistant, Blake Moran (Erich Bergen), and new policy advisor Kat Sandoval (Sara Ramirez) Elizabeth inherited her entire senior staff from her predecessor, Vincent Marsh.

Her personal staff consists of:

In "Blame Canada", she fired Allen Bollings (John Finn), the chief negotiator responsible for peace talks with Iran for threatening military action rather than the trade ban relaxations she authorized, and then lying to herself and the President about it.[11]

Starting in "Whisper of the Ax", Elizabeth recruited veteran political operative Michael "Mike B." Barnow (Kevin Rahm) as a special advisor to help her politically strategize; another politician once referred to Mike B. as her "personal hatchet man".[12][13]

In "The Essentials", Nadine retires from the State Department upon learning that she's about to become a grandmother in order to spend time with her family in San Francisco.[14] After her departure, Elizabeth names Jay her new Chief of Staff.[15]


  1. ^ "Chains of Command". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 13. January 11, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "The Show Must Go On". Madam Secretary. Season 2. Episode 1. October 4, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Invasive Species". Madam Secretary. Season 2. Episode 13. January 31, 2016.
  4. ^ "Catch and Release". Madam Secretary. Season 2. Episode 6. November 8, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Pilot". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 1. September 21, 2014.
  6. ^ "There But For the Grace of God". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 22. May 3, 2015.
  7. ^ "Tamerlane". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 16. March 15, 2015.
  8. ^ "Face the Nation". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 17. March 22, 2015.
  9. ^ "You Say You Want a Revolution". Madam Secretary. Season 2. Episode 7. November 15, 2015.
  10. ^ "Vartius". Madam Secretary. Season 2. Episode 23. May 8, 2016.
  11. ^ "Blame Canada". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 5. October 19, 2014.
  12. ^ "Whisper of the Ax". Madam Secretary. Season 1. Episode 14. March 1, 2015.
  13. ^ "Lights Out". Madam Secretary. Season 2. Episode 8. November 22, 2015.
  14. ^ "The Essentials". Madam Secretary. Season 4. Episode 3. October 22, 2017.
  15. ^ "Shutdown". Madam Secretary. Season 4. Episode 4. October 29, 2017.