Unforgettable: If memory serves correctly

By Lydia Jenkin

An incredible ability to recollect comes in handy when fighting crime. Lydia Jenkin talks to the star of Unforgettable.

Poppy Montgomery stars as Detective Carrie Wells alongside Dylan Walsh as Lieutenant Al Burns. Photo / Supplied
Poppy Montgomery stars as Detective Carrie Wells alongside Dylan Walsh as Lieutenant Al Burns. Photo / Supplied

Poppy Montgomery has developed something of a reputation for her sassy performances as a crime-fighting woman.

After many years in smaller parts in a variety of shows and television movies, she garnered attention as determined FBI agent Samantha Spade in seven seasons of Without A Trace.

Now the 37-year-old has her own starring role in Unforgettable, playing Detective Carrie Wells who has "highly superior autobiographical memory", or hyperthemesia.

It means she can visually remember everything, which is pretty handy when it comes to solving crimes.

"She's a fascinating character, but she also has a dark past", Montgomery explains.

"When she was younger, her sister was murdered and she witnessed it, but it was so traumatic that she blocked it out, so it's the one thing in her life that she can't remember. And she's spent her life trying to remember it and solve that crime."

Her talents can also make her maddening to work with, as her colleague Lieutenant Al Burns, played by Dylan Walsh, can attest to. Even more so because they have history as a couple and are still in love.

"So there's a lot of stuff going on," she laughs, "a lot of romance, a lot of intrigue, and mystery and action."

For fans of Without A Trace, it may sound somewhat familiar, but Montgomery points out that Carrie has quite a different personality to Samantha Spade.

"Carrie is much more reckless and angry, she's a rule breaker and a risk taker. She's an illegal gambler, and she's very independent and headstrong, whereas Samantha was much more even. Samantha was much more a play by the rules kind of girl, and really looked up to Jack as a mentor. Carrie is always the smartest person in the room, and she knows best."

That reckless attitude gets her into a few sticky situations which require a stunt or two to escape, but Montgomery has revelled in the active nature of the role, even if it's meant a rolled ankle or twisted shoulder here and there.

"I feel like she's a true life superhero in a lot of ways. You know she has the real life condition, which is like a genuine superpower and that's a lot of fun. And she's an action hero too, I like that. I loved doing the scene where I was hanging off a building eight floors up - though really I was on a green screen hanging about 50 feet [15m] up, but it was still pretty fun."

Director Niels Arden Oplev, who was behind the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed the pilot episode of Unforgettable, plus two subsequent episodes, and helped to bring a particular stylistic aspect to the show.

"He brought a real darkness and edgy coolness to it. He made [New York] look very Gotham-like and dark. It was wonderful."

CBS also asked a woman named Mary Lou Henner who has hyperthemesia, to act as a consultant, and tell Montgomery about some real-life experiences, in order to create an authentic picture. But despite greatly enjoying her interactions with Henner, Montgomery remains unconvinced that she'd want the special talent herself.

"It would be helpful in an argument - you'd never lose. No one would ever be able to disagree with you, because it would be like 'well, I remember everything'. But I think it would be a blessing and a curse. It's a very unique ability, so it probably comes with some baggage."

What: New crime show Unforgettable
Who: Poppy Montgomery
When and where: TV One, Monday 8.30pm

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