Regina Taylor, The Unit: "Lethal Beauty"
In " Sex Trade" – this week's installment of The Unit –Jonas and the team goes undercover to contact a nuclear weapon's smuggler who's also involved in smuggling young women for prostitution. Bridget Sullivan (Nicole Steinwedell) as the new female operative on the team continues to prove herself. Meanwhile the wives take on their new identities. Molly becomes VP of marketing for a mystery company, Tiffy becomes a high school teacher, and Kim becomes a nanny- a bittersweet reminder that she had to leave her own children behind in the transfer.
All the women are navigating their way through uncharted territory with various degrees of success. How they are seen – how they want to be seen and how they see themselves is a constant negotiation as they move through their new lives towards an unknown destination and purpose.
The writers of The Unit have a mission to broaden and strengthen the female roles. This exploration in redefining these roles comes in this election year when (besides the race bending campaign of Barak Obama) Americans are being challenged in how we view gender roles in the form of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Michele Obama.
It is a season where it seems that some are more concerned about Clinton's pantsuits than her issues. Some question whether Palin should stay at home with her five children more than question her political stances, while others wonder whether Mrs. Obama will sprout a 'fro in the white house – let alone wonder what charities this possible First Lady might champion. By questioning how we see them we are at the same time reassessing how we see ourselves.
Nicole Steinwedell says, "I made the mistake of reading the negative blogs about joining The Unit's all male team." Comments such as "A woman couldn't do that" to "She's too pretty." Still Nicole declares, " I believe in her spot there. There is no question [Bridget] can be there alongside the men."
And she is quickly garnering support from viewers who have taken note of the resilient Bridget Sullivan from the premier episode. Most importantly she has the support of Bill and Barbara Steinwedell, her parents. Her mother and father met in Pensacola Florida. Both were enlisted in the Marine Corp. Nicole says playfully, "Mom had joined sixty five days ahead of my Dad and technically outranked him."
Bill and Barbara soon got married and had their first child, Nicole; four more children were to follow. Nicole was born in Pensacola and was around six weeks old when the family moved to San Diego. There she attended Rancho Buena Vista High school where she got involved in student theater. "When I was young I always felt like an outsider. I wanted to act since I was in high school because you could be an individual. I was looking for my voice and I found it in acting."
She is the first in her family to follow this path. And ironically the role of Bridget leads her back in the footsteps of her family. Nicole's grandfather was an Army Colonel. Her father flew Cobra's. Her mother was an officer in the marine corp. for two years and a reservist for twelve. Nicole often consults with her mother on her role.
A tall fresh-faced blond- something about Nicole reminds me of Candace Bergen in her "Carnal Knowledge" days. She is a little self-deprecating and quick to utter a full bodied- throw back her head kind of laugh. She is absolutely tough and determined and at the same time she is genuine- sweet and open.
"Mom was a marine and the most beautiful woman. She would wear her foundation under her greasepaint- to keep from breaking out. When the guys found this out- they started wearing her make up under their grease-paint too-‘ Nicole laughs. " To be a good soldier you have to use whatever you have" Her mother confided- "You can use beauty as a weapon. People will be distracted- and that can be a good thing."
Sometimes the distraction was not welcomed as Nicole's mother recalled her early experiences. "Mom was invited to a civilian function hosted by the wife of a very strict warrant officer. The other wives were very wary of her. The officer's wife asked what it was like for my mother being separated from my dad for periods of time. And then my mother asks the officer's wife the same. The officer's wife then let down her guard. Sometimes it takes reaching out to someone as a human being to gain their trust." Her mother also applied this lesson in the field as she more than proved herself among her male peers.
Nicole acknowledges that there is a physical difference between men and women in the field. " Women work differently There's another way of thinking. They are resourceful and bring a different set of skills. Putting those different skills together is what makes us stronger." Nicole says of the gender integration that reflects the modern army. "Women are good for recognizance. They go under cover easily because people don't suspect."
"The biggest challenge of playing Bridget is letting my own insecurities get in the way. Feeling free enough to do a good job." Nicole speaks of being slightly intimidated about joining a well established cast of actors that she respects. ‘I'm just soaking it up. It's great to watch."
Nicole's favorite quality in Bridget: "Her tenacity."