CBS’ Unforgettable (Tuesdays at 10/9c) stars Without a Trace alum Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, a retired Syracuse police detective who has reteamed with her former partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Nip/Tuck‘s Dylan Walsh), to solve homicides. What Carrie brings to the table – and what torpedoed her and Al’s on- and –off-duty relationship years prior – is hyperthymesia, or a “super memory” through which she can recall every little detail about most anything (save for her sister’s murder).
Now that the groundwork has been laid for the procedural, TVLine invited Montgomery to tease some of the juicier episodes to come – as well as ponder the potential for some “Carrie-on-Carrie” action.
TVLINE | I want to start off by saying that I give this show props if only because of the shout outs to Syracuse, where I went to college. Just don’t go shooting on location – Syracuse has two seasons, Winter and July.
[Laughs] Is that really true? Oh, wow. I had better tell them that! And Syracuse is featuring more and more prominently in each episode, because with the murder of her sister she’s peeking back into her past.
TVLINE | How are things going to progress with the mystery of who killed Carrie’s sister back when they were kids?
I don’t know what the outcome is, which I kind of like, because it helps me. That will play out over at least the first 12 episodes, and if we get picked up for a back 9 we should find out by the end of the first year what happened. I’m as eager as anybody else to know!
TVLINE | What kind of feedback are you getting on the show’s numbers thus far? Is it doing what it needs to do?
I’m assuming so… ? Honestly, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I try to stay out of all of that because I don’t understand it. And I really don’t know what the expectation is for television shows anymore, because the landscape has changed so much. My first TV series, Relativity, was on a Saturday night and we were getting like an 18 share – and it was considered a bomb! That was 16 years ago, before cable, the Internet….
TVLINE | Now that Unforgettable has had time to set things up, let’s talk about a couple of the upcoming storylines. For one, Carrie’s ability is going to draw scrutiny from the Assistant District Attorney (played by Omar Metwally)?
She’s got this kind of woo-woo gift, and there are people who are skeptical of it and not really believe in it. I think her and this DA have a loooove connection, too, so there’s a weird dynamic going on there. We’ve got Al, played by the wonderful Dylan Walsh, trying to keep what she does under wraps form the higher ups because it’s a little cuckoo to them.
TVLINE | Speaking of Al, I understand that just as things start simmering anew for him and Carrie, his girlfriend of all people comes to Carrie for relationship advice.
Yes, she does, and Carrie doesn’t really understand how to deal with that very well. [Laughs] Elaine, played by the fantastic Annie Parisse (As the World Turns), is trying to figure out how to get Al to connect to her when he goes through something that is very traumatic and his first instinct is to go to Carrie. It’s all just so inappropriate and out of place as Carrie is put in the position of trying to help another woman succeed in the relationship that she really wants to have with Al.
TVLINE | We of course learned early on about the relationship problems Carrie and Al had in Syracuse. Was Poppy Montgomery a difficult girlfriend back in the day?
I still am a difficult girlfriend! I wouldn’t want to date me, not for all the money in the world. And if I had Carrie’s ability, I’d be even worse. But I have selective memory – anything inappropriate or negative or unhappy, I block it out. That’s my philosophy, it never happened. But yes, sometimes I can hold a good grudge with the best of them.
TVLINE | Marilu Henner (Taxi) is one of the few people known to actually have hyperthymesia, and she’s a consultant on the show. Has she shared with you any of the real-life drawbacks to this ability?
She really embraces it and it’s a real gift for her — she’s got this quick, incredible mind, and she’s written books — but there are other people, like Jill Price, who wrote The Woman Who Can’t Forget, who has a much more difficult past with it. It’s up to the individual.
TVLINE | Talk about shooting the scenes where Carrie “steps outside of herself” to remember something she saw. What’s the secret to making it not look like you’re checking yourself out?
[Laughs] It’s all very technical, and none of it is green-screened. We use a stop-motion camera, and I have an earpiece into which someone who’s watching what I shot before talks me through it, telling me where to look at what to look at. And sometimes I have tennis balls on sticks to establish eyelines!
TVLINE | Well if they need to jack up ratings, maybe at some point you have the two Carries get a little too cozy with each other….
Yeah, get a little make-out session on! Carrie-on-Carrie! [Laughs] That’s hysterical. When Carrie watches herself we call her “Traveling Carrie,” but the crew calls her “Traveling Barbie.” They have all these Barbies around the set, and my hairstylist dyed all their hair red.
TVLINE | Carrie is perhaps the only woman who doesn’t need to ask her guy, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” — because she can actually see for herself.
That’s a good point! It’s like, “You know what, you look pretty damn good in those jeans.”