Regina Taylor: The Unit Comes Back to a Different Night
finally returns. We have moved from Tuesday to Sunday nights. The season premiere, "Sacrifice," is directed by David Mamet.
The show continues to focus on the men engaging in covert operations around the globe and their wives who keep their secrets. Last season we saw the ultimate sacrifice of these special ops who put their lives on the line for their country when Hector, played by Demore Barnes, was killed. This season we are introduced to a new character — Bridget Sullivan — who wants to become the first female to join the unit men in the field.
This episode depicts an America under siege. Fast changes follow with the Unit families as they are required to make sacrifices "Like having to walk from a burning home," Molly states, as they leave everything behind, including their identities (Kim has to send her children away to stay with her parents) as they relocate.
In shaking up the routine, Shawn Ryan and David Mamet place their fingers on the pulse of this country. The launch of the fourth season echoes the once sublimated and now constantly erupting fears of an uneasy America in transition as we face subprime mortgage foreclosures, failing bank institutions, falling stocks, rising unemployment.... We look outward and inward for the fires that threaten foundation and identity. Searching for water. Knowing that "the times, they are a-changing". A promising beginning for a new season.
The third season of The Unit ended prematurely with only 11 episodes when the writer's strike suspended the industry from last November to February. People jonesed for their favorite shows, while writers walked the picket lines. When the writers stike finally ended, with writers being given a piece of their future in new media, several shows including The Unit were either canceled or left in limbo.
During that time, I traveled around the United States catching up with old friends and making new ones along the way. Chicago, New York, Atlanta, New Harmony, Waterford, Connecticut, Utah… I also went to Spain - Madrid, Barcelona, Marbella, Barcelona — and over to Tangiers, where I saw a snake charmer and road a camel.
In between, I stepped back into L..A to receive the NAACP Image Award - thankful for the opportunity to have played such an intelligent and fierce woman on national TV not knowing if we'd return. I couldn't remember a word coming out of my mouth as I was up there — and had to recall it when I saw the video later. I enjoyed dancing with my shoes off at the after party to the very live performances of Doug E. Fresh, "the human beatbox" and the inimitable Stevie Wonder.
At that party I introduced myself to Shondra Rhimes, creator of Grey's Anatomy — I love her show. That led to a guest spot as a patient who has a brain tumor who may or may not be hallucinating a Prince Charming boyfriend. I loved that episode. I was in New Harmony Indiana writing a new play, Magnolia, set to premier at Chicago's Goodman Theater this season when I got the call that The Unit had been picked up. We are grateful to fans for voicing their passion and concern.
Coming back was like first day of school. Some faces were the same, some old faces looked new. Mamet is the first director up. We always have a good time when he's on set. While waiting for the pick-up, Mamet and Ryan started rethinking the women's roles. They wanted to find ways to put the women's roles at the center of the ongoing storyline.
Mamet is here to establish the tone of those changes. Ryan has stated, "This is an ongoing show and you want the show to seem familiar but you also want each season to feel there's something new, something worth tuning into."
It's good catching up with everyone inbetween takes. Dennis Haysbert, Robert Patrick, Max Martini and Michael Irby had visited troops in Kuwait and Iraq during the break. They say their experience moved them and changed them forever — meeting these men and women — airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who are based there. Dennis Haysbert said that he was moved to tears. They all have a glow talking about the experience and singing the praises of the real-life heroes. They each have returned with patriotic tattoos.
Scott Foley returns still with the warm and happy glow of a newly married man. Abby Bramell returns with the warm and happy glow of a newly divorced woman. Audrie Marie Anderson returns with the warm and happy glow of a new mother. Her son has her mouth and eyes. He is a gentle spirit. And we gravitate around this moon-faced cherub and coo at his every gesture.
We are grateful to be back and on a new night. We embrace the changes and challenges that lie ahead.