Joanna Hunkin is the Head of Entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Show takes The Bachelor to UnReal levels

Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby star in the second season of Lightbox's UnReal.
Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby star in the second season of Lightbox's UnReal.

Growing up in Hollywood and acting from the age of 4, Shiri Appleby has seen her fair share of scheming and manipulation.

Yet even she was shocked by the twists and turns of UnReal, a drama based on the real life experience of former Bachelor producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. If you thought Jordan dumping Fleur was harsh, you'd better strap yourself in.

Season one saw Appleby's character Rachel - a mentally unstable reality TV producer - manipulate her way to the top by cajoling, blackmailing and secretly tampering with one contestant's medication, resulting in her suicide.

Actress Shiri Appleby stars in the UnReal television series.
Actress Shiri Appleby stars in the UnReal television series.

It's high-stakes drama that hooks viewers in, much like the reality series it parodies. And yet, according to those with firsthand experience, it is chillingly accurate.

"We've heard from reality show people that it's quite real. Producers and contestants ... the response that we've received back, they say it's a pretty honest depiction."

Speaking from the set of UnReal in Vancouver, where the cast and crew are about to wrap on season two, Appleby says the series has opened her eyes to just how manipulative the industry is.

"I always imagined that if you worked hard and treated people nicely that you got ahead. I had no idea that people were as manipulative and cunning as they are depicted on this show."

The show, which taps into the public obsession with reality television, became a critical hit last year, hailed as one of the most exciting new dramas of 2015.

Shiri Appleby stars in UnReal. Season 2 coming to Lightbox in June.
Shiri Appleby stars in UnReal. Season 2 coming to Lightbox in June.

"I thought the initial idea had a lot of potential," says Appleby. "But I could never have imagined the writers would be able to craft a storyline that covers so many important topics, from feminism to mental health."

Likewise, she never could have guessed just how quickly viewers would embrace the series.

"I think people's appetite for this kind of stuff has been really amazing. People are really fascinated by what goes on in the making of reality shows." The former child star, who led the cast of Roswell from 1999 to 2002, has seen the best and worst of Hollywood. And though she admits it's not quite as bad as the world of UnReal, it's not too dissimilar.

A scene from UnReal's first season.
A scene from UnReal's first season.

"I think you can get away with doing things in reality television and treating contestants in a way that maybe you couldn't treat an actor or actress. At the same time, it's still the entertainment industry and everyone's really fighting for power and manipulation. I don't know that the manipulation and plotting is that different."

Season two will see Rachel embark on a fresh power struggle, after ending season one as a woman scorned on multiple levels.

"Basically Rachel starts out running the show and that soon falls apart. She really has to figure out 'Who am I going to team up with? How am I going to get to the top but sort of going around the back door?' It's really a season of watching this girl survive and trying to stay in control of her life, which is becoming increasingly difficult.

"A lot of people and a lot of forces own Rachel. She's really got quite a mountain to climb." Appleby has faced struggles in her career, limited at one point by the idea she could only play the "nice girl", until a breakthrough role in Lena Dunham's Girls helped to rebrand her.

"Girls definitely shifted my career. It showed people I was ready to start taking risks and not afraid to go to uncomfortable places in stories ... I really think that Girls was the first time people could see me in a different way."

Tune in

What: UnReal, season 2
Where: Exclusively on Lightbox
When: Episode one premieres on Tues Jun 7, with weekly episodes every Tuesday

- TimeOut

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 21 Oct 2016 13:37:21 Processing Time: 376ms