UnREAL dramatizes dating competition TV programs

Soon-to-premiere television drama UnREAL takes viewers into the inside world of producing dating competition reality television.

Words by Imagine TV Network

Provocative television drama UnREAL brings to life the chaos and drama surrounding the fictional dating show Everlasting. Constance Zimmer (Entourage, House of Cards) stars as Quinn King, the executive producer of the show and Shiri Appleby (Life Unexpected) plays Rachel Goldberg, the show's producer.

Image credit: Lifetime

Co-created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, the 10-episode drama gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of unscripted television. Appleby shares that from reading the script, she got the impression that the world created within the show was something that had not been portrayed on television. "I was really excited about the idea of creating a show that will push the boundaries, that was going to take us behind the world that we have never seen before," she says. She described her character, Rachel Goldberg, as someone who was in constant conflict with herself.

As the producer of Everlasting, her responsibility is to manipulate her relationship with the contestants in order to get the required dramatic and outrageous footage. To get insights into the character she was portraying, Appleby shares that she talked to reality show producers. One of women she spoke to mentioned how she had previously used her sexuality to get people to do what she wanted.

"I also asked her and the other producers if [they] felt guilty about what they were doing to people... They didn't feel a tremendous amount of guilt," she recalls. The reason, she reveals, was because the producers felt that the contestants knew what they were getting themselves into before taping these type of dating shows.

Image credit: Lifetime

Zimmer agrees that reality shows have become more manipulative. An avid watcher of reality shows in the early days when the reality genre first developed, she recounts how it began as a fly-on-the-wall coverage of what happened to people in the real world. "They were just like running cameras on people... Now... There are so many similar shows that are so watered down that they have to create so much more."

She also says her on-screen character is opinionated and very unfiltered. "A lot more is riding on her shoulders... Her stakes are much higher and in that sense, [it] makes her more desperate and more vulnerable," she says of King's demeanor. "She will not let anyone stand in her way to get her job done... She's definitely the meanest one I've ever played."

She confessed that she was initially scared and nervous of playing this character. "I was very scared of her. She's pretty mean," she remarks. However, she says that talking to the creators of the television drama helped put her mind at ease. In the drama, she shares that viewers will get to see King's vulnerability and insecurity, and realize that she is a human being with a heart. "I can understand where her anger and her drive come from," she adds.

Image credit: Lifetime

Appleby shares that her character is constantly trying to win King's approval and says their relationship resembles a mother-daughter relationship. Zimmer concurs but adds that it a mother-daughter relationship in a weird and twisted way. "Our relationship is the most complicated on the show. It is very much [a] love-hate relationship," she adds.

Although the drama pokes fun at the reality television, Zimmer stresses that they are not trying to send out the message that reality television is bad. "It [should] make people think, 'Wow, maybe I should watch this t try to understand it better for what it is -- for the entertainment that it is as opposed to taking it all so seriously.'" The manipulation does not only happen to the contestants, she says. "We’re showing the manipulation of the audience as well."

Image credit: Lifetime

Appleby admits that she has become more cynical since filming the drama. When she watches reality television programs now, she says she is able to see the elements of producing and editing in the shows. "You can tell when people are doing things that they don’t necessarily want to be doing." The drama takes you down one road but switches the path at the last minute, Zimmer says. "I think that you’ll be surprised at how entertaining it is to watch people manipulated in front of your eyes and how you might actually like it."

UnREAL premieres June 4, 2015 on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) every Thursday at 9pm.



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