'Unforgettable' remembers what makes a good cop show
Poppy Montgomery stars in "Unforgettable" Tuesday on CBS.
What they earned on a third-grade spelling test is as readily accessible in their minds as what they ate half an hour ago. In CBS' Tuesday drama "Unforgettable," Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery) is one of those people.
Thin, with bright red hair that must be touched up constantly to cover blond roots, Montgomery wears black jeans and a black tank top. Her gold detective badge is on her hip. She looks fit and tough as the crew rearranges the lighting on set.
It's a rainy early September morning on Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land between Manhattan and Queens, and in a nondescript building, sets for the procedural crime show are bustling.
"That's the secret of this character," Montgomery says. "All of the minutiae of her life is there, but the great moment of her life is not there."
Carrie is haunted by the murder of her sister when they were girls. She became a cop because of this traumatic crime, and eventually, when she could not solve the murder, quit the Syracuse (N.Y.) Police Department.
Carrie moved to Manhattan, supports herself as a card shark and visits her mom in a home. In a bitter twist, her mom has Alzheimer's and doesn't recognize her.
When a neighbor is murdered, Carrie encounters Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), a former colleague and lover.
"Al is a blue-collar guy trying to go up the ladder," Walsh says. "I think he's a lot more ambitious than he lets people know. Syracuse wasn't enough -- no offense to Syracuse."
Proof of his ambition is evident in the Tuesday, Oct. 4, episode shooting on this day. Burns and his girlfriend check out pricey Upper East Side apartments. In this episode, a hotel maid accidentally kills a guest she says tried to rape her.
As detectives, Al and Carrie connect, easily sharing information and talking in shorthand, but their connection runs deeper. Though Al has a girlfriend, he remains in love with Carrie.
"She's the one that I always think back to," Walsh says. "She would completely break their relationship up," Montgomery says, laughing at her character's audacity. "She's still not forgiven him. They were working together to solve the murder of her sister. Carrie cannot get over it; she cannot let it go.
"When you have a memory like this, everything happened like 10 minutes ago, and it's very difficult to let go of," she says.
Montgomery met with Marilu Henner ("Taxi"), who really is one of the few people in the world with this super memory. "It's a little crazy in my head; it is such a strong Venn diagram," Henner says at a Beverly Hills party for the network.
Henner, who consults for the show, says she wanted to ensure that Carrie "wasn't this somber person tortured by life but that she has a joie de vivre."
When she watched the pilot, Henner's only complaint was when a day and date were referenced. She instantly knew the day was wrong and called the producer.
Henner completely impressed Montgomery when they met recently, and Henner recounted an earlier time they met, then told Montgomery what she had worn, what she ordered and how she didn't eat her salmon that day.
Using that super memory to solve crimes and making Carrie fearless and sexy is an irresistible combination for an actress.
"I love her," Montgomery says. "She's a badass. I see her as almost superhero-esque."