By Yolanda Crous
As the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan unfurled, United States of Al star Elizabeth Alderfer channeled her horror into action. On the show, Alderfer plays Lizzie, the sister of a Marine veteran (Parker Young) who brings his Afghan interpreter (Adhir Kalyan) to the U.S. In real life, Alderfer and her castmates joined forces with No One Left Behind, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Afghan interpreters and allies.
“Here’s this incredible organization helping the very people whose story we’re trying to tell [on the show],” says Alderfer. “I’m so grateful to them for putting me to work.” Alderfer waded through a tsunami of desperate emails, working to ensure that families had the documents they needed to leave Kabul.
“On the morning of the bombing [at Kabul airport], I received an email from someone at the airport 45 minutes before that bomb went off,” she says. “I still don’t know what happened to him.”
No One Left Behind
United States of Al star Elizabeth Alderfer
Photo credit: Storm Santos
You started filming the second season of United States of Al in August 2021, around the time the U.S. started to pull out of Afghanistan. What was the mood on set?
EA: It was emotional, tense. But the overall emotion was this determination to get the message out.
We’re exploring many points of view about the Afghan immigrant on our show: from an Afghan refugee to a member of the Afghan diaspora to a veteran who fought in Afghanistan. For my character, the fiancée of a fallen warrior, being able to help other people through their crisis is going to hasten her own closure.
No One Left Behind has been involved with the show from the very beginning, right?
EA: We have a military consultant [and veteran] named Chase Millsap [on the show] who put us in touch with them. They’ve been huge champions of ours and we of them.
Helping Real Refugees
Parker Young and Adhir Khaliyan with Elizabeth Alderfer
Photo credit: Robert Voets/CBS
What comes next?
EA: We need to focus on refugee resettlement. Tens of thousands of refugees have already arrived in the U.S., and more are on their way.
No One Left Behind is very involved in making sure people have what they need to start over. The nonprofit Welcome.US is also a great place to look.
What has surprised you during all this?
EA: The first is how universally people want to help. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t agree that these refugees deserve what was promised to them.
And the second is the hopeful nature of the people who’ve seen the absolute worst things in their life. I’m in awe of our writers, who channel their experiences into our show and do it in such a graceful and vulnerable way. I’m so grateful to them for sharing that with us.