“The Bachelorette” has a competitor for Monday night television ratings.
“Unreal,” a scripted farcical take on “The Bachelor,” and it’s female varietal, returns to Lifetime for its second season on Monday, June 6. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer star in the original series as producers on the show’s fictional competition “Everlasting,” which was inspired by cocreator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s experience working as a field producer on its real ABC channel counterpart. “Unreal” is the first show fully produced and distributed by A&E Networks, and has brought in the youngest demographic for Lifetime.
Appleby discussed the upcoming season last month while taking a break from filming in Vancouver. “I think this season is really going to surprise people. It’s definitely hard-hitting and asking some interesting questions,” she said. The actress plays Rachel Goldberg, a producer who resorts to manipulative tactics behind the scenes to shape the direction of “Everlasting.” Zimmer portrays her boss, executive producer Quinn King.
“The show this year starts off and Rachel is actually running the show this season, so the roles that Rachel and Quinn are in are different,” Appleby detailed. “This season we have the first black suitor, so the dynamic of the show is different. Because it’s really Rachel’s and Quinn’s push to have this suitor, Rachel feels like she’s really making groundbreaking television.”
While “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” franchise has been criticized for lack of on-screen diversity, “Unreal” dips into the conversation this season. “You start to see why Rachel and Quinn want to have a black suitor, what’s the pushback that they receive, what are the limits or parameters with which they need to behave if they are going to tell that story,” Appleby explained.
Her character may take charge this season, but it’s Appleby who moved into the directorial seat. “Overall, it was the best experience I’ve had from set,” she remarked about directing one of the episodes. “I felt like it used all of me, in terms of all of my sensibilities and everything I’ve learned on set over the years. I felt like I was prepared to roll with the punches.”
She cited a familiar name as a role model for the task of simultaneously acting and directing.
“The big question mark I had in terms of how it was going to go, was how it was going to be to direct and act myself at the same time. Having worked on “Girls” and watching Lena [Dunham] doing it, I felt like I had a good sense of it, but not until I was actually in the driver’s seat myself and I could start to figure out the process for myself, did it become more clear to me,” Appleby continued. “It was about relinquishing control a little bit, and trusting the people I was working with.”
Despite the drama of “Unreal” centering around the tactics employed by producers to drive reality television, working on the series hasn’t altered Appleby’s perception of the genre.
“I think what has changed is more about my perception of how is media made, what do people do to get what they want in life?” she said. “What is success, what is the allure of power, what will people do to obtain it? I think those are really the big questions the show is asking, more so than some exposé of reality television. I think we’re just telling the story of two driven, no-holds-barred women through the lens of reality television.”