The Knockturnal was on the scene Monday night at the Paley Center as the cast of Lifetime’s UnREAL gathered for a special screening of the second season premiere. After the screening, six members of the cast joined the executive producers for a panel moderated by Bachelor/ette alum Andi Dorfman.
UnREAL is what you might call a breakout hit. The dramedy premiered last summer chronicling the (totally fictionalized) behind-the-scenes antics of a Bachelor-esque show called ‘Everlasting.’ But after just a few episodes, the soapy program became a proverbial hit, both critically and in viewership.
UnREAL stars TV vets Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer as the two showrunners, Rachel and Quinn respectively. This season, the two are back and making history — the suitor is African American, the first in ‘Everlasting’s’ history. But it’s more than that — neither the Bachelor or the Bachelorette have ever seen a person of color in the title spot.
B.J. Britt, who plays the new suitor Darius Hill, told Knockturnal he wanted to get involved when he found out the show was making history.
“Once I found out that [my character] was going to be the first black suitor, I had to be part of this project because it’s never been done before,” he said.
Britt said it’s about time that diversity take center stage. “There should have been a black Bachelor years ago,” he said. “[UnREAL] is breaking down doors, kicking them wide open, and doing things that people are afraid to do on TV.”
But co-creator and executive producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro took that fear and ran with it.
“There’s no repressing conversation in the nation right now,” said Shapiro on the panel. “I thought it was an interesting thing to explore in terms of black masculinity, but also really scary to do as a white woman.”
Still, while Darius may be the center of ‘Everlasting,’ it’s Rachel and Quinn at the center of UnREAL.
Executive Producer and Showrunner Carol Barbee tells The Knockturnal that Quinn and Rachel are “essentially the love story of the show.”
“I feel like it’s such a great relationship and you get to talk about mentorship and female empowerment,” she said, “but you also talk about jealousy, smallness, and manipulation. They aren’t perfect people.”
And none of that is more clear than in the writer’s room, where the writers take inspiration from another show.
“We always say that the dialog should be like Jesse and Walt, not ‘Gossip Girl,’ she said. “It should be two strong women doing what Jesse and Walt would do.”
The first season was a fight for Rachel’s soul, Barbee said. But season two doesn’t necessarily redeem her.
“In the first season, we wondered if she was going to the light side or go to the dark side and the jury’s still out,” she said. “This season, Rachel goes darker, but the battle isn’t over and she’s trying to make the best of her circumstances.”
“I didn’t think we could go this dark,” said Zimmer on the panel. “It gets pretty dirty.”
While the first episode starts out with Rachel and Quinn as thick as thieves (the two got matching tattoos), it’s clear that won’t last forever.
“This season, what’s been hard for us is Rachel and Quinn are at odds with each other,” Zimmer said on the panel. “We’re always plotting when we’re apart.”
So what does Quinn has in store for Rachel? Apparently, the return of Adam, “Everlasting’s” last suitor and Rachel’s love interest, according to Barbee.
Adam will return as “a manipulation on Quinn’s part,” she told The Knockturnal.
“The way it ended with him and Rachel, there’s still so much more to be played out,” Barbee said.
UnREAL premieres on Lifestyle on June 6th at 10pm.