‘In Treatment’ Returns to HBO: Meet the New Therapist & Her Patients

In Treatment Brooke Taylor Season 4 Uzo Aduba
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

The doctor is in session once again on HBO’s In Treatment, and this time it’s Uzo Aduba’s Dr. Brooke Taylor. But the new season doesn’t forget its past, particularly Gabriel Byrne’s Dr. Paul Weston, the therapist in the original (which aired from 2008 to 2010).

“We wanted to keep Brooke connected to Paul,” co-showrunner Joshua Allen tells TV Insider. “We’ve set him up as her mentor. You might call her his protégé. They both have the same wave machine in their offices, just in different colors. We wanted everybody to know that we’re not doing a whole new show and calling it In Treatment, even though we’re re-imagining it in different ways.” (And if you haven’t seen the original, don’t worry: you can jump right in.)

That being said, there are a few differences, and for Allen, “it was very important to me early on that whatever therapist that we had in Season 4 just kind of look and sound differently from Paul. That’s not to knock Paul or impugn him at all. There were many times when I was watching the original In Treatment where I thought, ‘Oh, I think Paul could help me. I wish I could go to Baltimore and find him.’ But we wanted both the therapists and the patients to just reflect a little bit of a different slice of America.”

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The patient pool is more diverse. “We wanted to try to tackle some really pertinent issues in our culture and society today, so we touch on things like racial injustice and white privilege and the class disparity that exists in our country,” co-showrunner Jennifer Schuur explains.

Because there are only three patients over the course of the season, “we always tried to look at how each patient is going to ultimately bring up resolved or unresolved things for Brooke,” Allen says.

Get to know Brooke, her three patients (Anthony Ramos’ home health aide Eladio, John Benjamin Hickey’s white-collar criminal Colin, and Quintessa Swindell’s distrustful teenager Laila), her longtime on-again, off-again boyfriend (Joel Kinnaman’s Adam), and her confidante and friend (Liza Colón-Zayas’ Rita) below.

In Treatment, Season Premiere, Sunday, May 23, 9/8c, HBO

In Treatment Season 4 Uzo Aduba Brooke Taylor
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Dr. Brooke Taylor

When it comes to Brooke, they had to make her both “a very effective, insightful, and empathetic therapist and a very juicy TV character,” Allen notes. Aduba did just that with her performance. “She just took Brooke and ran with her and the depth and the empathy and the passion and the creativity with which she plays Brooke, she’s ruined me for all other actors,” he admits. “Any other actor I work with is gonna have their work cut out for them..”

Brooke is such a great therapist because “she’s incredibly intuitive,” Schuur says, and she does use self-disclosure as one of her tools. “She really believes that in being able to talk about her own life, in an honest way, without asking anything of her patients to make her feel better about it, it allows them to be vulnerable with her,” the co-showrunner continues.

However, that’s also where she becomes that “juicy” character. “Because this is TV, there are always a few moments here and there where she opens the flood gate a little bit and she’s like, ‘No, I wanted it to be a trickle,’ and the gate is like, ‘Well, I’m open, so now it’s a flood,” Allen teases. In doing so, that allows them to show “your therapist is also a person who’s going through a lot.”

It’s because of her patients that she must face some parts of herself and her past she’d rather not. She does cross and uncross some ethical lines with Eladio and must make “a lot of choices she may not have otherwise,” Schuur previews.

“With Colin, she finds herself dealing with her disappointment that this is her pro bono patient and having to confront white, straight male patriarchy in her living room,” Allen says. “With Laila, she’s looking at her younger self, at the expectations that were placed on her when she was a teenager and how, in her mind, she failed those.”

In Treatment Season 4 Patient Eladio Anthony Ramos
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Eladio

While most of Eladio’s sessions are done remotely, Ramos and Aduba did shoot them on the same stage. “I wanted to be in the room with her every time,” he admits. “There’s nothing like being in a room with someone and really catching that vibe and shooting back and forth, but in real-time and feeling each other’s energy.”

But the way their sessions start does allow Eladio to end one if he wants, simply by closing his computer — and he does that once. That session “was very awkward for him,” Ramos previews. “He can’t even bear it anymore.”

Eladio does slowly start to “peel back the layers” — look for him to reveal a lot in his second session — and trust Brooke, he continues. There’s “a comfort that he feels with her that he doesn’t feel with anyone else. He starts to look forward to these moments where he can just talk to her this way.”

In Treatment Colin John Benjamin Hickey Patient
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Colin

“You’ve never met somebody as screwed up as this guy,” Hickey says of his character. His therapy is court-mandated, but what does he need to see someone about? “You name it. How long do you have? I could start [now] and we’d be done sometimes tomorrow,” he laughs. “Everything. He’s messed up as a human being in a deeply upsetting but very entertaining way. There’s nothing about Colin that doesn’t need to be worked on.”

First, however, there’s a question of just how truthful he’s being. “I was happy when I would read something in the fourth or fifth episode [and realize], ‘Oh my God, so that thing I said in the second episode, I thought I was telling her the truth.’ I’m glad I didn’t know that because he’s such a good liar that I didn’t want to play [it differently],” the actor admits.

That will change, he previews. “Fortunately for his mental health, he ends up being honest in ways that he did not mean to be and reveals himself to be deeply damaged.”

As a self-proclaimed “misunderstood, straight white privileged male [who] thinks he’s an exception to the patriarchy because he’s a mass of contradictions,” he’s “strangely unaware of some of his very rigid notions of women, of Black people, people of color,” Hickey says. “And because his therapist is a person of color who is a female, it upends him in a way that he never expected. He thought he was just going to go to these four therapy sessions, charm the F out of whoever was going to be talking to him, get the thing signed, and go back to his wonderful life on Venice Beach.”

So even though Colin does say some “jaw-dropping” things that Hickey thinks should have gotten him thrown out, Brooke “works to find a way to understand the source of pain that it’s coming from in him. She is remarkable because she keeps letting him come back in.”

In Treatment Season 4 Laila Patient Quintessa Swindell
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Laila

“I don’t think I had ever done anything as intense or as rewarding,” Swindell says of their work on In Treatment. That’s due to the format of the series, which spends whole episodes devoted to one character. “For me, that was constantly unlearning and relearning a lot of my own personal judgments of what the character was going through. … How do I accurately display a younger person going through all of these things for what seems to be the first time and not judge that process?”

For Laila, who doesn’t know who she is, being in therapy is “out of her control,” Swindell explains. It’s “a last resort almost to get Laila on what seems to be the right track in her grandmother’s eyes,” due to concerns about her sexuality.

That plays a role in her interactions with Brooke. “She walks into therapy making a mockery of it,” they admit. “She’s saying everything that she thinks these adults want to hear and she’s willing to say anything to get herself out of it because she can and that’s what’s worked for her in the past.” But what Laila has to realize, Swindell says, “is that the sessions are only as good as the client is willing to open themselves up to it.”

In Treatment Season 4 Joel Kinnaman Uzo Aduba Adam Brooke
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Adam

Brooke’s relationship with Adam — they’ve been on-again, off-again for more than two decades — is complicated, to say the least. “There’s a lot of love, but neither really knows if they’re good for each other,” Kinnaman shares. That love “makes them right for each other, but everything else might make them wrong for each other.”

For example, “he’s insecure and not successful and she is very successful and very sure,” he says. “She might not always be a source of confidence-building for him. He’s not a person that really thinks deeply about things and he avoids things that are painful. He’s trying to glide through life without too much disturbance, and Brooke is the absolute opposite. She has a need to go to the bottom of things and look at them hard. He’s drawn to Brooke because he has found a new depth in himself in the relationship with her.”

But through their ups and downs, should they be together? “There’s something about having a really long-term relationship with someone, even if it’s not continuous that it’s hard to break the patterns that exist in a relationship like that,” Schuur says.

While Brooke may keep Adam at arm’s length, “he wants to be all up in her face,” Allen explains. “She wants that too, but they’re just not sure how to go about it, which I feel like is very, very real.”

In Treatment Season 4 Rita Liza Colon Zayas
Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Rita

While Brooke is there for her patients, she has her friend and confidante Rita there for her. “Rita pushes her and Brooke pushes back and there is conflict, but there’s a really deep love at the heart of that friendship between those two women that we thought was a really important thing to play,” Schuur says.

“Rita is her own person, but she’s a little bit of the conscience of the show,” Allen says. “She loves Brooke dearly, but also she’s been where Brooke’s going. She is wrestling with the line between mentor and friend that can often get blurry.”