The United States will have a female president next year — on the Fox TV series "24."

Tony Award-winning actress Cherry Jones will play President Allison Taylor when the show about the exploits of counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) returns in January for its seventh season, the network announced Sunday.

Jones' term will coincide with Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid, but Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori said fiction and real-world politics will not intersect.

"It's a dramatic decision. ... The president is a very important piece of '24," Liguori told The Associated Press. "We've had a broad array of presidents on the show; why not a female president?"

The series has been an Oval Office groundbreaker before, with Dennis Haysbert playing President Palmer, the nation's first black president.

Asked whether Fox would scrutinize scripts for potential election-year political content, Liguori said that, as with any show, "24" will be looked at "from a dramaturgical perspective, not a political perspective."

Series co-creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran and fellow executive producer Howard Gordon have always kept real-life politics from the show, he said.

"'24' took place in an election year in the past," Liguori said. "How you see Joel, Bob and Howard articulate drama is telling on how they deal with politics. The two are separated."

In a February article in The New Yorker magazine, Surnow described himself as a rare conservative in Hollywood. But show producers say they hold a variety of political viewpoints and deny "24" takes a solely conservative approach, the magazine reported.

Jones, winner of best-actress Tony Awards for "The Heiress" and "Doubt," has appeared in films including "Ocean's Twelve" and "The Perfect Storm" and has guest-starred on TV shows including the White House drama "The West Wing."

Liguori and newly appointed Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly appeared Sunday at the summer meeting of the Television Critics Association to discuss the upcoming TV season on Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Liguori said he wouldn't call the past season "disappointing," when asked about the fact that "24" failed to gain a best drama series Emmy nomination last week after winning the award in 2006.

He said he admires the "creative courage" of the producers as the show "re-sets the table each season" with a new story. "It's fun to see them spit-ball ideas," Liguori added.