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'UnREAL' postmortem: Creators talk finale, look ahead to season 2

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James Dittiger/Lifetime

UnREAL wrapped up its first season with nary a happy ending to be found, as Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) burned Everlasting to the ground, only to be sucked back into the show’s grasp. We talk with executive producers Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro about the stunner of a finale — and what to expect in season 2. (They also commented on Chris Harrison’s criticisms of the drama here.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As we saw on Monday night, no one ended up with a happy ending. Was this always the ending you had in mind?

NOXON: Actually, the finale was the hardest for us to kind of figure out. For a while, I was stuck on being even darker [laughs].

SHAPIRO: We definitely knew that Rachel was going to have to watch the guy she had fallen in love with propose to somebody else. That was like, our mark. We talked about it as the ‘Walter White moment,’ when he’s burning down the warehouse [in Breaking Bad]. Like, she’s gone, she’s on the other side now.

NOXON: I think that’s true to where we wanted her to end up. It’s a great hole to dig herself out of in season 2, you know

What about Quinn and Rachel together? They triumphed in bringing down Everlasting, but why have them decide to stay on?

SHAPIRO: Because the princess fantasy was such a big theme for us, [we liked] the idea that even though Quinn and Rachel should be immune to it because they create it for a living, they both fall prey to it.

NOXON: Yeah, from the top, we were determined they would fall prey to their own trap.

SHAPIRO: My favorite scene in the whole season is that scene in the hotel room where Quinn wakes up and Rachel’s just staring at her. At the end of the season, Rachel’s in bed with Quinn, because she has just absolutely screwed up her life.

NOXON: They deserve each other… Quinn and Rachel are the core of the show, and they always will be, whether they’re bonded like a strange mother and child or at each other’s throats. They’re the central relationship, and I think for me and Sarah, the thing that helped us unify the nuttiness of season 1 is we really understood that overarching idea. 

Looking back, were there any storylines you wanted to spend more time on in the first season?

SHAPIRO: We’ve talked about the idea of just talking about the race issue a little bit more. We’re not committed to that yet, but that’s something we definitely think is something very crucial to us. In terms of casting the next season of Everlasting, that’s a big thing we’ve been talking about… I think we did what we could with the small amount of time we had allotted for it. It’s funny, it’s like Shamiqua’s [played by Christie Laing] parting line, “This was a waste of my time.” I think that was the best we could do to sort of say, “Sorry, we couldn’t service this storyline more this season, because we obviously care about it a lot.”

NOXON: To me, the thing that’s keeping me up at night is we went pretty far in terms of consequences without losing our minds, [so] how do we keep pushing the show to be as juicy and as fun and as surprising as it was last year without pushing it over into Crazy Land? To me, the tone is critical of that. If you get that wrong, the whole thing goes.

The last time we talked, we discussed those early reactions from people watching the show, like some viewers were becoming invested in what was going on in Everlasting over UnREAL at times. Have you been following reactions to the show?

SHAPIRO: It’s just so gratifying to see people connect with the characters. I feel like the fact that there’s a BuzzFeed quiz about whether you’re more Quinn or you’re more Rachel was my happiest moment, so I just love that people love them. I love that people love Rachel and Adam. I love that people are fighting about Jeremy versus Adam. I love seeing people talk about like, is Quinn a bitch or do I love her? And calling her a boss instead of bossy. And in regards to people focusing on the Everlasting parts, that’s long gone. It’s the Quinn and Rachel Show, which is what we’ve always wanted.

What can you tell us about season 2? Will the show still revolve around Everlasting?

NOXON: I think it’s going to be Everlasting. We don’t know exactly if it’s going to be Everlasting in Paradise or Everlasting: To the Death, or Catfight Edition. [Laughs] But it’s going to be that kind of format. We just haven’t had it quite figured out what shape it’s going to take.

SHAPIRO: Again, that’s all in service of our characters dealing with love and work, and career versus work, and life and femininity and all that, so the romance genre is just ripe for our characters, because of the stuff they’re dealing with. 

And what about Rachel’s love interests — Jeremy and Adam? Assuming you continue off that cliffhanger of Adam talking to Rachel’s mother, will we see the two circle Rachel again next season?

NOXON: Oh, we’re very open to options on that right now.

SHAPIRO: Yeah… There’s three things we know for sure [about season 2]: Everlasting, Quinn, and Rachel. [Laughs]

An edited version of this interview runs in Entertainment Weekly issue #1376, on newsstands Friday, Aug. 7.

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