Poppy Montgomery is grateful that enough people didn't forget her latest series. When CBS' 2011-12 schedule was announced, one of the big surprises was that "Unforgettable" wasn't on it. In its freshman season, the mystery series about a New York police detective with heightened recall averaged more than 12 million viewers a week . . . an audience most shows don't come close to drawing these days.
Two years later, though, "Unforgettable" lives again: It returns to CBS Sunday night at 9 with new episodes. Soon after the CBS cancellation, Lifetime and TNT were mentioned as networks "Unforgettable" might be shopped to. In the end, though, CBS made the very rare decision to retract the pink slip and continue the show.
"Nothing surprises me anymore," Montgomery says with a laugh about resuming the central role of Carrie Wells. "Television has become extraordinarily competitive, so when shows get canceled, I almost understand. There's just so much out there to choose from.
"I trusted what CBS was doing, both when they decided not to pick up the show and then when they decided to bring it back. I'm just along for the ride. And I had a baby in between, so it worked out great for me!"
With that said, Montgomery adds she's pleased "to be back with this revamp. The great thing about doing a summer show is that you get to have more fun. We were a little heavier in tone in Season 1, and we're kind of brightening things up. I actually get to show my teeth and smile every now and then! Carrie's not quite as tortured this time, and when they told me about the new direction for the show, I got so excited."
AN EASY TRANSITION
Fans who carry over from Season 1 of "Unforgettable" -- in which Carrie was haunted by her sister's murder -- will be able to make the transition easily, Montgomery promises, thanks to what she terms "a watershed moment" early in the new stories. "She decides to move forward in a positive way and also go to Manhattan."
Going with her is Al Burns, Carrie's professional partner and ex-boyfriend, played again by Dylan Walsh. Also back for the new round is creator and executive producer Ed Redlich, who previously worked with Montgomery on her preceding CBS show, "Without a Trace."
"You rarely get a second chance," he acknowledges, "and it's kind of like starting the show all over again. We have the same production designer and director of photography, and a lot of the same directors are back, but a lot of the crew is new. Plus, we built an entirely new set, and we have new cast members, so it feels like the first time, even though it's the second time."
A huge benefit in coming back so much later, Redlich reasons, is that "you really get a chance to say, 'What did we do well? What did we do not so well? And what can we improve upon?' One of the opportunities we have is to take the characters out of Queens and bring them into the city. We started to find that Carrie's gift of memory was almost too big for the simple cases we gave her, and we wanted her to have more opportunity to use that in interesting ways."
Another change is the addition of Dallas Roberts ("The Walking Dead") as Carrie and Al's new boss in the NYPD Major Cases unit. "The first season, we tried to avoid having that character who sometimes can be a bit of a cliche, the sort of 'TV boss,' '' says Redlich, "but Dallas is an interesting actor who does interesting stuff, and it gives us a whole new dynamic."
HENNER STILL A CONSULTANT
Tawny Cypress and James Liao also are new cast members as fellow detectives. Jane Curtin is the only other major cast member to have survived Season 1, returning as New York's chief medical examiner.
Actress Marilu Henner ("Taxi") remains a consultant on "Unforgettable," primarily because she has hyperthymesia, the memory condition experienced by the show's heroine. "I don't get to see her nearly as much as I'd like to," Montgomery says, "but she's always available, should I need any help or have any questions, and she's a delight. She guest-starred on the show the first season, and I'd love to see her do it again. She's great."
Thirteen episodes make up the second season of "Unforgettable," but not all of them are slated to air this summer. The Australian-born Montgomery hopes the show's return will fare well enough for those to be scheduled by CBS before long . . . along with additional episodes yet to be ordered.
"It's very familiar and brand-new at the same time," she says, "and that's a great creative space to be in. You trust the people you're working with, but you also have the excitement of starting all over again. That makes for a really good energy. And just being in Manhattan, there's nowhere else like it in the world to film in."