Last week's episode of The Unit (Sundays at 10 pm/ET, CBS), "Dancing Lessons," continues into this week's "Inquisition" with team husbands having protested putting their wives in the line of fire as Molly, Kim and Tiffy are asked to spy for their country by rooting out cell families.
Molly's assignment is to keep a watchful eye on the mysterious Susan Gillum, played by Ann Cusack.
Ann is tall, smart and fierce, with sharp shards of humor reflecting in her eyes. As an actress, Ann is a shape-shifter in each of the various roles she has inhabited. She is gangly and awkward -- as in her breakthrough role of illiterate ball player "Shirley Baker" in the movie A League of Their Own -- or pulled up and outlined with red lips as in her role for The Unit.
A native of Evanston, Ill., Ann comes from an entertainment family. She is the eldest sister of Joan , John, Susie and Bill. Her mother Susan was a math teacher and played piano. Her father Dick Cusack was an actor playwright. Ann says her being an actress was "in the genes. It was all I ever wanted to do."
She naturally said yes when the call was made with an offer for the role on the Unit that was written by Lynn Mamet (David Mamet's sister). Ann belongs to a circle of actors that includes William H. Macy , Ed O'Neill and Rickey Jay, all with ties back to Chicago that David Mamet has called on through the years to collaborate on his various projects.
As Ann tells it, "My father wrote the play The Night They Shot Harry Lindsey with a 12mm Howitzer and Blamed it on the Zebras. Mamet acted in it when he was 20 years old. My dad gave Lynn Mamet her first pro writing gig. When I was 12, Mamet asked me to review his play Poet and the Rent. I think it was a children's play. Later, when I was at NYU, he ended up doing a workshop at Cabbot Vermont College. Bill Macy, Lindsey Crouse and Greg Mosher were there and I spent the summer studying acting with him. It was transformative for me professionally and personally. I gained a whole way of looking at acting. He helps you enter the world in a specific way."
Returning later to Chicago, Ann worked at the Goodman Theater and was there when Greg Mosher directed Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross that would garner the playwright the Pulitzer Award. Reflecting on their shared history Ann says, 'It's been interesting seeing him at first act and then evolve into who he is now, to see him put on different hats at different times. He's had a great impact on my life. He explores different outlets of creativity. I don't think your creativity lives in more than one place."
Ann enjoys plugging into other creative outlets. "As a kid, I sang. At Carnegie Mellon I studied musical theater. The American Musical is a wonderful art that this country has created. To sing, dance and act.... When you put those three disciplines together you can knock the socks off an audience. Helping the audience to experience whatever the story is and it shifts you."
In Los Angeles, Ann sings with a band called Blues Adjacent. "We play older blues. There are seven of us -- keyboards to guitar and drums. I play tambourine and sing." The band plugs in from different fields, from a director of photography and a writer to an actor and a guy in the solar industry. Ann has been with them for the past six years. "We play at clubs around L.A., like BB King's and Molly Malone's. Intimate clubs where you can see the eyes and faces."
Face forward, Ann shares what it's like being a guest on the show. "You're coming into a world where people have worked together for a while. Dynamics are already in place. There is a hierarchy. A guest artist is usually the low man on the totem pole. There's a dance to play, to get your work done. You navigate and hold your own. I felt welcome on the set of The Unit. People made me feel glad I was there. Polite, gracious and professional. It was great and wonderful."
As I speak to Ann, she is visiting her mother in Evanston -- "a break from palm trees. My family is in Chicago and L.A., and I go back and forth" -- and she's rooting for the Chicago, Ill. Senator to be the next President of the United States. "If he doesn't win, there is something really wrong."
Siobhan "Shivon" Carmody is looking forward to voting for the first time in the United States. Shivon, The Unit's Dublin-born assistant makeup artist, won her green-card in a yearly lottery 10 years ago. " I then had to be examined from top to bottom inside and out before I could come here," she states in her soft Irish brogue. " I always dreamed of living in the U.S." More specifically. she always dreamed of living in the U.S. of A. -- Hollywood, Calif. She now lives in Venice Beach pursuing her dreams of being a make-up artist/design artist ("I want to do a line of handbags") . She's also a talented painter showing at the Eighteenth Street Studio, a small gallery in Venice Beach.
This past month she stood in a two-hour line at the USC stadium. "American flags were given out to the first thousand or so people in line," Shivon recalls. " There were 6,000 of us being given U.S. citizenship in this enormous stadium. President Bush came on a video and congratulated us in crossing the hurdles and obstacles to becoming a citizen. We sang America and The Star Spangled Banner. The judge who presided was of Chinese immigrant parents who had 14 children born as U.S. citizens. He gave a speech that ended with, 'And now I'm here.' Afterwards I went back to Venice Beach and had dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant."
I voted earlier this month. I sent my absentee ballot back to Dallas, Texas. I think about my grandmother, Jazell, and my mother, Leannell, who didn't miss an election from as far back as I can remember and impressed on me the sacrifices that were made for me to be able to vote in this country in which I was born. They impressed on me the importance of making a stand and having one's voice be counted.
I think about them wishing they could have lived to see this day when the Senator from Illinois is on the brink of becoming the next President of the United States of America. I think about them in understanding how America has earned this moment to choose weighing the best candidate according to their merits, over color or gender or other visible and invisible lines.
My choice is Barack Obama. If you disagree or agree, it's time to vote!