“United States of Al” centers on the relationship between Marine combat veteran Riley (Parker Young) and his Afghan interpreter Awalmir, or “Al” (Adhir Kalyan), who finally lands a visa allowing him passage into the United States. Riley, who has separated from his wife, makes room for Al in his Ohio home, and together they struggle to adjust to their post-combat lives.
Creators David Goetsch and Maria Ferrari, who worked for Lorre on “The Big Bang Theory,” began kicking around the idea for “Al” after seeing stories on the plight of 17,000 Afghan interpreters who have been promised asylum in the United States, but are still waiting to be granted entry. Many of the stories depicted the bond that often developed between veterans and their interpreters.
In Season 1, Goetsch and Ferrari put together a team of seven writers, three of whom were Afghan or Afghan American; one was a military veteran; and one was the fiancée of a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan. Five of them were new to the Writers Guild of America, having joined the union thanks to the show.
When “United States of Al” debuted its second season last fall, it told a story that followed its production staff’s experience in scrambling to help those who had loved ones in Afghanistan during Taliban attacks.
“We had shot one and a half episodes during the week of the fall of Kabul and quickly realized that we were going to have to think that we had guessed wrong [about] what was going to happen and that we were going to have to adjust our plans,” executive producer Maria Ferrari said during a Television Critics Assn. press panel.
Lorre, Goetsch, Ferrari, Reza Aslan and Mahyad Tousi executive produced “United States of Al” for Warner Bros. TV. The show also starred Dean Norris stars as Art, Riley’s father; Elizabeth Alderfer as Lizzie, Riley’s sister; Kelli Goss as Vanessa, Riley’s ex-wife and Farrah Mackenzie as Hazel, Riley and Vanessa’s daughter.