THE UNIT: 10 Facts About the Action Series Starring Dennis Haysbert, Robert Patrick, and Scott Foley
“You aren’t in the Army. You’re in the Unit,” Molly Blane (Regina Taylor) says to the wife of a new recruit in The Unit, an action-drama about the lives, loves, and missions of a U.S.-based special operations force.
This popular 2006-2009 series has the look and feel of a feature film with the soul of a nighttime soap opera, and we mean that in the best possible way. You can see for yourself when The Unit joins the getTV lineup!
Dennis Haysbert stars as Command Sgt. Major Jonas Blane, Molly’s fifty-something husband and the senior member of the super-secret “303rd Logistical Studies Unit.” His fellow team members include eager-to-impress newbie Sgt. First Class Bob Brown (Scott Foley), hotheaded and ambitious Master Sgt. Mack Gerhardt (Max Martini), and Sgts. First Class Charles Grey (Michael Irby) and Hector Williams (Demore Barnes). All serve under Col. Tom Ryan (Robert Patrick), a by-the-books commanding officer who secretly keeps company with one of his soldier’s spouses.
While the specialists complete missions in exotic locales, their wives — Molly (Regina Taylor), Tiffy Gerhardt (Abby Brammell), and Kim Brown (Audrey Marie Anderson) — deal with the stresses of rapid deployments and classified missions while trying to keep things together on the home front.
Gear up for getTV’s newest series with these fun facts!
1. The Unit was inspired by a true story.
The Unit is based on Command Sgt. Major Eric L. Haney’s 2002 memoir Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorism Unit. Now retired, Haney was a founding member of the United States Army counterterrorism unit commonly known as Delta Force. The series is inspired by his eight years as a Delta Force commando, beginning in the late 1970s. Haney also wrote seven episodes of the series and served as co-executive producer.
2. The TV series was born on a movie set.
In 2003, Haney served as technical advisor and weapons expert on Spartan, an action thriller written and directed by David Mamet. The film’s lead character, a special ops marksman played by Val Kilmer, was based in part on Haney and his experiences in Delta Force. While shooting the film, Mamet and Haney discussed creating a TV series based upon Haney’s memoir, and the seeds for The Unit were planted. “David and I drink a lot of rum together and I tell stories,” Haney said in 2006.
3. The Unit was nearly a film.
In 2006, Haney told NBC’s Today that plenty of “offers were being dangled” for a movie version of The Unit, but he believed the story was best-suited for the small screen. “I was so disgusted with the normal Hollywood portrayal” of the military and special-ops, Haney said. “I want a television series because it tells the story more fully about this world and this life.” He got his wish — for four seasons and 69 episodes!
4. The Unit was produced by the creator of The Shield.
Mamet — a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright (Glengarry Glen Ross) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter (The Verdict, Wag The Dog) — created The Unit, his first television series. He also served as executive producer, wrote 11 episodes, and directed four. The showrunner was Shawn Ryan, Emmy-nominated creator of the police procedural The Shield (and, more recently, the S.W.A.T. reboot). Ryan, who got his start as the winner of the Norman Lear Playwrighting Award, also wrote four episodes. Mamet first worked with Ryan when he directed an episode of The Shield in 2004.
5. The Unit was informed by September 11.
Although it has a contemporary look and feel, The Unit began production at a time when the attacks of September 11, 2001 were still a recent memory. There’s an urgency to the storytelling that’s informed by that proximity. It’s also set in wartime, during a period when thousands of American soldiers were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The show is not pro-war, it’s not anti-war,” Mamet told The New York Times in 2006. “It’s very much pro-military.”
6. The Unit was produced without U.S. military involvement.
As Ryan explained to NPR in 2006, movies and TV shows can get military cooperation in production — and access to planes, tanks, weapons, etc. — in return for script approval. Ryan and Mamet chose not to take this path, in order to retain control over the storytelling. “It’s harder to make a show about World War II, with dozens of planes flying overhead, three dozen tanks, and 3,000 men all shooting at each other,” Ryan said. “We have a team of five men at the center of our show. It’s on a smaller scale that we’re able to produce.”
7. The star of The Unit was a former “president.”
Star Dennis Haysbert had just completed four seasons as President David Palmer on the action drama 24, a role that earned him a Golden Globes nomination. His lead character on The Unit is loosely based on Haney, who trained Haysbert on special ops techniques before filming began. His single most memorable instruction? “Move like warm honey,” Haysbert told The Los Angeles Times.
8. The Unit had its own “president.”
Haysbert found himself on the other side of the desk when the president — played by William H. Macy – assigned him to protect a U.S. senator (Lindsay Frost) in the season two episode The Broom Cupboard. Mamet and Macy have collaborated for their entire careers, stretching back to acting school. Macy also worked with Mamet and Haney on Spartan.
9. The Unit was Robert Patrick’s favorite role.
Robert Patrick plays Colonel Tom Ryan, the gruff commanding officer at fictional Fort Griffith. Patrick has been a familiar face for more than 30 years, from his breakout role as the T-1000 android assassin in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) to The X-Files and most recently Scorpion. “Ryan’s my favorite character that I’ve ever played,” Patrick told TV Guide. “He’s flawed, but I think he’s just — a fair, capable leader.”
10. Scott Foley directed an episode.
Scott Foley, who plays new recruit Bob Brown, first rose to fame on the college-set drama series Felicity in 1998. In recent years he’s had roles on Grey’s Anatomy, True Blood, and Scandal. Foley is also a director and helmed the harrowing season four episode “The Spear Of Destiny” in which his character battles addiction.
11. BONUS! Two cast members of The Unit reunited to benefit soldiers with PTSD.
Max Martini (NCIS: Los Angeles, Pacific Rim) visited Iraq and Afghanistan during filming on The Unit. Since then, he’s been committed to shining a light on servicemembers dealing with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Martini wrote, directed, and starred in Sgt. Will Gardner (2019), a film about a returning Iraq War veteran who struggles with reintegration into society. Robert Patrick reunited with Martini for the independently produced film, which will benefit veteran’s charities. It’s scheduled for release on January 11, 2019.
The Unit premieres soon on getTV. For more, visit the getTV schedule.