After ten years of absence, In Treatment returns with a season 4 that is getting a makeover. In the psychiatrist’s chair, Uzo Aduba takes care of his patients and listens to them with all his empathy. Interview with the actress and the authors on this revival.
We did not really expect it and here is In Treatment back, after ten years of absence and a French version In Therapy which has just been successful in France. To better understand the challenges of this new season, the change in casting and the need to bring the series back in 2021, we spoke with Jennifer Schuur and Joshua Allen, the showrunners of this new season, and Uzo Aduba its main actress.
AlloCiné: It’s been 10 years since season three. Why come back now? Was it necessary to come back after Trump’s tenure?
Jennifer Schuur: In a way, yes. (laughs) It got us out of things that had been brewing for four years. But there are plenty of different reasons. In our country right now, we have to face the issue of racial injustice. There is also a class struggle. The distribution of wealth is far from fair. And then there was the pandemic which added to all these problems that have been around for a long time. So we said to ourselves that we had an opportunity to address all these subjects that affect our daily life. There was something cathartic about doing this series.
When did you first have the idea to change your shrink?
JS: Before we started doing this season 4, we wondered what was important to say. What did it seem urgent to do? There is such a lack of acceptance when it comes to mental health in various communities. People really have a hard time understanding why this is important, in some parts of the country anyway. There are very few black therapists as well.
So we needed to show people another side of therapy. I needed to open a door, the idea that it’s for everyone. Not just for the upper middle class and white. It is something that is useful for every person and that everyone should be able to benefit from. So creating this character of Dr. Brooke Taylor, giving that role to Uzo, that was a way of opening the doors for us.
What is season 4 worth with Uzo Aduba in the role of the shrink?
What are your challenges as writers to write this character? A Black Woman Therapist is a first on American television.
Joshua Allen: I was raised by a dozen black women, so it came naturally to me. The therapist side of the character hasn’t been so natural, although I’ve been in therapy for years. We had recourse to a consultant, an African-American psychotherapist. It was important to be fair and we gave her several scenarios, asking her what she hated to see on TV in terms of therapy, which made her cringe…
We made sure to describe things honestly. We also asked her what pitfalls she encounters professionally, and what she wants to see on TV that reflects her own experience. She was very generous with us.
It is said that African American communities are more affected by mental health issues than white communities. Did this influence your decision to take on this role?
Uzo Aduba: I am not sure African American communities are more affected by mental health issues. I think it is access to healthcare that is more complicated for them. I accepted this role because in the past I have seen different representations around this issue of mental health but I have never seen this story told through the prism of someone who looks like me. And I hadn’t seen patients from such different backgrounds either.
All the actors who have played the shrink in other versions of the series say how exhausting this role is. Did you feel the same?
UA: Yes, it was very difficult. And at the same time it was very exciting because I have been in therapy before. So it was fascinating to be able to see what it is like when you are sitting in the other chair. I realized that it is not just an hour a day. For the person who receives, it is their whole day. This person is like an empty container that receives everything that people come to bring him.
Along with all this, they have their own obstacles and their own struggles. And having this responsibility to receive all the difficulties, all the sorrows of these people who come to you on a daily basis, is a very heavy burden. Every day they have to show a mask of impassivity and pretend that everything is going very well in their personal life. They have to do all of this without being judgmental.
Did you do this season 4 because of the mental health issues that came to light during the pandemic?
JS: This is indeed largely what motivated us. Life has died out for everyone. All the distractions are gone. And it forced us to look at our own lives in a deeper way. Of course, this caused a lot of sadness. And this pandemic has allowed us to remind people how important therapy is. And how important, mental health is.
Uzo, you have declared that this character is the closest to you among all those that you have played. What are the common points that you share with her?
UA: I think what resonates with me the most is having to resume a normal life after grief. Just before starting this project, I lost my mother to whom I was very close. I had to say goodbye to him and jump on a plane the next day. To experience this and at the same time tell the story of someone going through the same ordeal, it was pretty crazy. I know what she was feeling. I know what her pain looks like, that of mourning. So all this also allowed me to mourn, it helped me.
Why did you choose to shoot this season in Los Angeles? What does this change of scenery bring to this season?
JS: Visually already, it brings something very different. We have daylight, the sun. We have palm trees in the background. There are all these warm colors that are part of the palette of the series. As we are emerging from a pandemic, we said to ourselves that people don’t necessarily want to be on a series that takes place in a dark office. The cabinet with woodwork, with books, leather as we are used to seeing it.
In a way, we wanted to invite people to this series. So we made it visually pleasing. The diversity of Los Angeles is not exploited that much on television. We thought it was an opportunity to talk about Baldwin Hills which is a very nice neighborhood that few people know in Los Angeles. It’s called the Black Beverly Hills.
The house in the series is a character in itself. How did you imagine the house by making the link with the profession and the family path of Brooke?
JA: We thought about it very early on. We reflected on her complicated relationship with her recently deceased father. What will it look like? What did he do for a living? Maybe he was an architect because architects work with wood, stone and hard materials, just like he was a hard man. And it made sense to us, both emotionally and physically, that she lived in a house he designed.
At the same time because of the pandemic, she had to leave her office and move her work within her own home. So she had to rearrange the house. But her father’s ghosts are all over the place, which is intentional of us as she’s struggling all season long with this complicated relationship and all these things that she couldn’t resolve with him.
Interview by Emilie Semiramoth on May 3, 2021.