Emmy winner Uzo Aduba of Orange Is the New Black steps into the lead role on a returning favourite
It’s been more than 10 years since Gabriel Byrne as Baltimore psychotherapist Paul Weston stopped treating patients on the critically acclaimed and award-winning TV series In Treatment, but an unusual year in an unusual era inspired executive producers Jennifer Schuur and Joshua Allen to revive the series with a new star.
In Byrne’s place, on the show’s surprise fourth instalment, is three-time Emmy-winner Uzo Aduba. The Orange Is the New Black and Mrs. America star portrays Dr. Brooke Taylor, a Los Angeles therapist who finds herself redefining her professional boundaries after the pandemic forces her to practice in unconventional ways.
HBO CanadaSetting Dr. Taylor apart from her predecessor is that she brings more of herself into the room than Dr. Weston did. “She believes that—without asking anything of the patients themselves—offering her own life experience and her feelings in a session actually creates more honesty with her patients and an ability for them to become more vulnerable and open with her,” says Schuur, adding that they consulted with real-life therapists to make sure their approach to therapy felt accurate.
HBO CanadaUnlike the rest of us, who mostly only bothered to make our top-halves presentable, Dr. Taylor also shows up for her Zoom sessions—even during quarantine and lockdown—fully dressed and ready to be of service to her patients. To the creators and Aduba, none of this was a coincidence. “It’s a fixture of who Brooke is, in terms of how she views moving through the world, even if her professional world moves into her home. She has a desire to be the custodian of those delineating lines between home life and workspace,” says Aduba. “I also think there’s a face that therapists wear when they’re treating [patients], and a mask that protects from judgment and any sort of feeling that the patient might interpret from them, so that they feel like they’re getting a compassionate, open ear. I think this is just one of the ways in which she presents her mask.”
As before, the series will run multiple episodes per week, yet this time it will be a bit more of a hot-button drama, engaging with the big shifts of 2020, from racial injustice to the #MeToo movement. “It’s really an opportunity to be able to talk about the things that are touching us presently in a very deep and personal and meaningful way,” says Schuur. “There was a lot of thought that went into who we were going to treat as patients this season, and what Brooke would be also dealing with throughout her journey over the course of the season.”
For the writers, it was also a chance to discuss preconceptions that different communities have about therapy. “When I started seeing my first therapist years ago, my family was like, ‘You’re not crazy, so why are you seeing a therapist?’ There’s such a stigma attached to it, especially in communities of colour,” says Allen. “It felt important to me, personally, to put that on television to show that we all need this.”
Although the show feels almost like a separate entity from its predecessor, the creators wanted to maintain a certain connection to the “original.” “Josh always calls it the mothership. We would not be here without them. There was no way to go forward by starting over from scratch,” says Schuur. Fans of the original will even be able to observe Paul Weston’s wave machine in Dr. Taylor’s office. “We really wanted to make sure that people who loved, enjoyed and were moved by the first three seasons felt like, ‘There’s some connective tissue here, and I can still find a home here as a viewer,’” says Allen.
HBO CanadaIn observing and listening to her “patients,” Aduba has been privy to some amazing performances from guest stars like Tony-winner John Benjamin Hickey and Hamilton star Anthony Ramos, among others. “Without question, the actors in this show are absolutely incredible. They’re fierce. They’re dynamic. They are nuanced. They are strong. They just shine brilliantly. And you do feel like you get the opportunity to sit in the front row,” says Aduba.
Byrne was often candid in interviews about the toll this series took on him and how playing an active listener in every scene of a show was one of the hardest jobs in his professional career. For her part, Aduba concurs. “This is easily one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had in my life. But I cannot make that statement without also saying that it is also one of the most satisfying, fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. It’s theatrical, when you go to work—that nervous feeling. It’s nice to have that all the time and it stretches you.”
In Treatment airs Sundays at 8 p.m. & 8:30 p.m., (repeating at 11:05 p.m. & 11:35 p.m.) and Mondays at 8 p.m. & 8:30 p.m. (repeating at 12:40 a.m. & 1:10 a.m.) on HBO Canada