On the Set: Unforgettable's Lively New Spirit
Much has changed on the Unforgettable set since the drama about NYPD cop Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery), who has near perfect memory, was canceled more than a year ago by CBS, then miraculously brought back to life. The action has moved from a grimy Queens precinct to the shiny, high-tech Manhattan Major Crimes Section, and the show's tone has been similarly lightened, in keeping with its off-season scheduling (the first of eight summer episodes aired July 28, with five more new installments to follow later).
But nothing has changed quite so much as how Montgomery spends time between takes. "I'm breast-feeding and pumping — it's like a dairy up in that makeup room," says the star, who gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Violet, four weeks before returning to work (her son, Jackson, is 5). "Literally, I never stop running, I eat with my fingers and I'm always attached to something."
Montgomery's coworkers marvel at her multitasking. "The workday is really hard for her," says Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), who plays Carrie's partner and on-off love interest, Det. Al Burns. "I had another child [his fifth, a son named Hudson] during the time off, but it's a little different for men. I don't have to do any breast-feeding."
Montgomery has proved herself an adept juggler. "She's in almost every scene and is pretty much an action hero," says Ed Redlich, who previously worked with her on CBS's Without a Trace and executive produces Unforgettable with his best friend since high school, John Bellucci. "Poppy never loses her energy or good cheer. She's a model for everybody."
It helps that Montgomery has returned to a sunnier series in every sense of the word. "It feels like a lighter show, which is always more fun and closer to my personality," says the bubbly 38-year-old Aussie. "I'm like, 'Oh, s--t! I don't have to act nearly as hard. I can just be myself.'"
Walsh agrees: "It's a little less heavy than last year. We got a little gloomy at times. We have a faster pace now."
They're also not constantly dealing with murders, which allows the characters to loosen up. "You don't want to be laughing all over someone's crime scene when there's a body lying dead on the floor," Montgomery says. "But if it's a bank robbery or a heist, we get to have a lighter tone." Cases this summer include Carrie going undercover with criminals planning a bank job and trying to prevent a Day of the Jackal-style assassination.
The sexual tension between Carrie and Al will be reexplored, but it's clear from the first new episode that they've pulled back from rekindling their romance, which was implied in the Season 1 finale. "Their status is, it's problematic," says Walsh. "It's fun that we don't overexplain everything."
But Redlich does explain: "They're in a holding pattern. They value their working relationship and friendship, and they don't want to jeopardize it by being romantically involved."
Carrie will continue to investigate the unsolved murder of her sister, but that subplot will be downplayed as well. "It's not nearly as prominent," Montgomery says. "But I do feel like Carrie has to know who killed her sister, just to tie it up for her personally, or she'll be walking around with unresolved issues."
Some cast changes have also been made: Michael Gaston, Kevin Rankin and Daya Vaidya have been replaced by Dallas Roberts, Tawny Cypress and James Hiroyuki Liao. But Jane Curtin, who joined the cast in the middle of Season 1, will return as sardonic medical examiner Joanne Webster. "I completely forgot the names of all the characters on the show!" says the SNL and Kate & Allie alum with a laugh. Her comic-relief role will remain the same. "I haven't been kidnapped or run with a gun in my hand. I don't know if I could do that seriously. That would be really frightening."
One other thing hasn't changed on the Unforgettable set: Montgomery still isn't allowed to show her tattoos, including one of her son's name on her wrist. "Even though she's an edgy character, no tattoos are allowed on CBS dramas," says co-exec producer Shana Stein, who has appointed herself the "tattoo police." (Exceptions were made for Elementary's Jonny Lee Miller and NCIS's Pauley Perrette.)
But sometimes even the body-ink cops fall down on the job. "I have some tattoos on the back of my neck, and one time we tied my hair up and forgot to cover them," says Montgomery. "There was a lot of money spent in postproduction to get rid of them!"
Unforgettable airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.
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