The cast and producers of the critically-acclaimed dark comedy gathered Saturday evening at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood, Calif., for a night with the Television Academy. Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer and Freddie Stroma joined executive producers Stacy Rukeyser, Robert M. Sertner and co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro for a screening and panel discussion, moderated by Variety‘s Elizabeth Wagmeister.
The scripted series offers a fictitious behind-the-scenes glimpse at the chaos that ensues during the production of a reality dating competition called “Everlasting.” The first season debuted Zimmer as Quinn King, the ruthless head producer of the reality series, with Appleby starring as Quinn’s right-hand producer, Rachel Goldberg.
“UnReal’s” sophomore season will feature an African-American suitor (played by B.J. Britt), as the first “Everlasting” suitor of color. The new season, which premieres Monday, will also introduce a fresh crop of female contestants vying for his heart.
“We don’t ever want to be one-to-one or a mirror of another show — we want to be breaking boundaries,” said Shapiro, a former producer on ABC’s dating show “The Bachelor.”
As for featuring an African-American suitor, the producers noted it’s not to draw comparisons to the lack of diversity on real dating shows, but rather a great storytelling tool. Rukeyser explained, “It’s all through that prism of what it’s like for two white female producers to decide, ‘This is the story we’re going to tell this season.’ It’s that additional layer that makes it really interesting.” She added, “We have a wider range of races represented in the contestants, as well.”
With the show recently renewed for a third season, Shapiro says she’s thought about plans for Season 3 — and beyond. The co-creator confirmed that she knows how “UnReal” will end, and is considering ending the show after five seasons.
“When I sold the show, I sort of had a five season arc in my head about what each season meant,” Shapiro said. “I don’t know if we’re going to stick to that.”
As for Season 2, there will be a different power dynamic between Rachel and Quinn, whose roles have shifted since the conclusion of last season.
“The majority of the season is really spent with Rachel wanting to assert her independence from Quinn — this fight between power of the protege growing up and the mentor not wanting to relinquish control over it,” said Appleby, with Zimmer adding that the dynamic duo is “definitely dirtier” in the forthcoming episodes.
Season two of “UnReal” premieres June 6 on Lifetime.