A-Team creator Stephen J. Cannell combined the names of his mother and daughter to get Tawnia Baker
The investigative reporter joined the team for a handful of missions in season two.
The majority of The A-Team’s 97 episodes revolve around the four core members – Hannibal, Faceman, Murdock and Mr. T’s B.A. Baracus – but that wasn’t for lack of trying. We’ve noted how Melinda Culea thought her character Triple A (Amy Amanda Allen) would be a big part of the show only to get let go after a season and a half.
Three episodes after Triple A’s final adventure, a new woman crosses paths with the crack commando unit. In “The Battle of Bel Air,” L.A. reporter Tawnia Baker investigates a shady security firm. She finds out that the A-Team’s recurring adversary, Colonel Decker, is on the verge of capturing Hannibal and company. Tawnia’s discovery of an assassination plot also makes her a target of the firm, and she works with the A-Team to get away.
Marla Heasley played Tawnia in six more episodes of season two and came back for the two-part story “The Bend in the River” in season three before leaving the show for good. Her first A-Team appearance came in the episode “Bad Time on the Border” as a one-off character named Cherise before becoming a recurring cast member.
Her skills as an investigator and journalist helped out on most of the missions during the second half of season two, but her place on The A-Team wasn’t meant to be. Still, the character clearly meant something to creator Stephen J. Cannell, who took inspiration from his own family members when coming up with a name.
Tawnia is the name of Cannell’s daughter, who followed in her father’s footsteps working behind the scenes in television. She began directing in the 1990s and has helmed episodes of many crime series including NYPD Blue, Monk, Criminal Minds and NCIS.
The last name Baker is relatively common and has no doubt appealed to many writers when coming up with characters. In this case though, there seems to be a pretty direct inspiration – Carolyn Baker, the name of Stephen’s mother before she married his father, Joseph Cannell.
Though Tawnia Baker is only in a small number of A-Team episodes, she still has one interesting bit of behind-the-scenes trivia to her name… literally!