FUBAR: Are Luke and Emma Brunner Based on Real CIA Agents?

Netflix’s ‘FUBAR,’ is an action comedy series created by Nick Santora. The series stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Monica Barbaro as its central father-daughter duo, alongside Gabriel Luna, Milan Carter, and others. On the verge of retiring as a CIA undercover operative, Luke Brunner plans to fix things with his ex-wife, Tally, and finally enjoy the perks of civilian life. However, the CIA pulls him back in to help with the extraction of another agent: Brunner’s daughter, Emma. Forced to work a mission together, The Brunners must now work past their differences to catch Armsdealer Boro Polonia.

FUBAR heavily focuses on themes of fatherhood while delving into the complications a double life presents. As such, the relationship between Luke and Emma and their own personal character arcs play significant roles in the story both narratively and thematically. Due to the authentic dynamic between these two characters, viewers might wonder about their connections to reality. If so, here is everything you need to know about the origin of Luke and Emma Brunner from ‘FUBAR.’

Luke and Emma Brunner Are Fictional

No, Luke and Emma Brunner are not based on real CIA Agents. Both Schwarzenegger and Barbaro’s characters are works of fiction penned by showrunner Nick Santora and his team of writers, including Cait Duffy and Lillian L Wang, among others. However, according to Schwarzenegger, ‘FUBAR’ is loosely inspired by his 1994 spy film, ‘True Lives’ directed by James Cameron. ‘True Lives’ follows the story of Harry Tasker, a secret agent who tries to save his marriage while battling international terrorists on the job.

The similarities between Luke Brunner and Harry Tasker are quite easy to spot, and the two characters possess similar storylines within their respective stories. In ‘True Lives,’ Harry primarily deals with the consequences of his profession in terms of his dwindling marriage with his wife, Helen. Comparatively, ‘FUBAR’ presents a similar challenge for its male protagonist but ups the ante by introducing a daughter in the mix. As such, even though Luke’s character takes inspiration from Harry Tasker, both are distinct original characters with little relation to each other.

Through Luke’s character, ‘FUBAR’ needles the concepts of accountability when he tries to repair his relationship with his daughter. Many parents might be able to relate to this aspect of Luke’s storyline and find a reflection of their own experiences. Similarly, Luke’s storyline involving his relationship with Tally post-divorce may also add to his relatability as a character.

Likewise, Emma’s character also has no basis in real life and is only brought to life by the show writers’ and actress Monica Barbaro’s authentic depiction of her. In ‘FUBAR,’ the driving thematic conflict that Emma struggles with is her constant need for perfectionism. Due to the same, she finds herself playing dual roles in her life: one of her cover as a perfect daughter with a grounded relationship and model job, and the other of a brash and impulsive CIA Operative. As such, when her two worlds collide after she finds out her father is also a CIA Operative, it throws her in for a big loop.

Emma repeatedly finds herself making decisions to set herself apart from her father. However, those decisions inevitably end up complicating things for her even further. Her inability to reconcile with her childhood with a caring but often absent father informs a significant part of her storyline. Therefore, her complicated history with her father lends another layer to her overall relatability factor among viewers.

The relationship between fathers and daughters has been a topic of discussion within many pieces of media over the years. From sitcoms like ‘Modern Family‘ to dramas like ‘Fleabag‘ and ‘The Last Of Us,’ the exploration of the father-daughter dynamic has always compelled viewers. When discussing the dynamic between herself and Schwarzenegger, Barbaro said, “In terms of chemistry, it’s not always something you can rehearse. I think the two of us [Barbaro and Schwarzenegger] just got along really well.” She added, “We both have close and dynamic relationships with our counterparts like my father and him with his daughter and so I think we let that infuse our characters for sure.”

Ultimately, Luke and Emma Brunner are not based on real people. Nevertheless, the driving force behind each character stems from a deeply personal and relatable aspect of real life. They’re both distinct characters that present authentic experiences. Their storylines revolving around family are well-written and reminiscent of real-life father-daughter dynamics. Still, neither of them has a connection to a real-life CIA Agent.

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