‘The A-Team’: How Creator Stephen J. Cannell Used His Family to Name a Major Character

by Taylor Cunningham

Tawnia Baker may not have been a lasting character on The A-Team, but she held a special place in creator Stephen J. Cannell’s heart.

The classic TV character, played by Marla Heasley, joined the series during season 2. Tawnia was an investigative reporter who took over for Triple-A (Amy Amanda Allen) when she abruptly left the team.

In an episode titled The Battle of Bel Air, the guys meet Tawnia while she’s investigating a suspicious security firm. And after turning the investigation on them, she figures out that Colonel Decker is hot on Hannibal’s trail, which saves the team from ruin. Tawnia also puts her life on the line when she uncovers an assassination plot. And The A-Team helps her escape.

During the entire run of the show, Triple-A and Tawnia were the only women to have a semi-regular role in the story. And creator Cannell intended Tawnia to stick around for a while. But unfortunately, she never gained momentum with the audience. And the character was gone after 10 episodes.

But because Cannell planned on seeing her help The A-Team for years to come, he gave her a special name that paid tribute to two of the most important women in his life, his mother and daughter.

Tawnia is the name of the creator’s eldest daughter. The now 52-year-old followed her father into the television industry in the 1990s and soon found her place as a director. During her career, she has worked for series such as Criminal Minds, Bones, and NCIS.

The surname came from his mother, Carolyn, who was born Carolyn Baker before marrying his father, Joseph Cannell.

‘The A-Team’s Tawnia Baker Followed Triple-A’s Exit

The namesake character may have stood a chance with The A Team if she had joined the series under better conditions. But some awkward tension with the aforementioned Triple-A actress gave Tawnia Baker an unfair start.

Amy Amanda Allen’s Melinda Culea was an original on the series. She first appeared in the pilot and went on to recur in 24 episodes.

Her place in the story as the only female made her an obsession with the media. Culea was constantly asked for interviews, which she gladly accepted. And in them, she always made it a point to speak about Triple-A’s future.

“Now that [The A Team is] established, we’ve talked about my character and where she’s going,” she told The Sheboygan Press. “And I have faith in the writers. It’s a natural progression, and two things I’ve learned from it are humility and patience.”

Culea seemed to believe that she would go on to be a series regular. And she felt secure in her role. But unfortunately, the producers weren’t fond of her many interviews and musings on the show. So they fired the actress, which caused bad blood all around.

“It didn’t work out the way we or she intended,” Cannell told TV Guide in 1983. “There were misunderstandings regarding the size of her role and the sorts of things her character would be doing.”