Not even the cast of UnREAL — Lifetime’s drama about the behind-the-scenes dysfunction on a Bachelor-like reality dating show — could have predicted its success.
“When they told me about it, it sounded like it was something on Lifetime about reality shows, so I thought, ‘This is it. It’s over [for me],'” admits Craig Bierko, who plays Chet. “I was leaning towards judgment before I read it, like, this is gonna be a soap opera, you know? But there was this other element where none of the characters were easy. Everybody had a duality, which is fascinating.”
Critics agreed, awarding the first season a Critics’ Choice award, a Peabody award, and an AFI award for TV Program of the Year for its provocative material — material that, across 10 episodes, covered everything from themed dates that Bachelor Nation would approve to weighty subjects like mental illness and domestic abuse. Yet, going into season 2, UnREAL co-creator and executive producer Sarah Shapiro says she’s not fazed by the attention or by the possibility of a sophomore slump.
“Frankly, I try to ignore the hype as much as possible,” says Shapiro, adding that she calls her outlook on season 2 her “Lebron moment,” in which all she and the show must do is, well, go for the hoop and hope they don’t miss. “I’m just not nervous, because this is the exact same me that made season 1. It’s the same Shiri, it’s the same Constance.”
She’s referring to Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, who star as producers Rachel and Quinn, respectively. Appleby says there’s still some anxiety over delivering a second round of juicy drama and thought-provoking ideas.
“I’m really trying hard not to compare it to the first season,” she says. “I just feel pressure myself with wanting the show to have that same quality that people responded to.”
Adds Zimmer: “It definitely feels a little more anxious because we still want to keep that up.”
Still, for Bierko, doubt over whether the show would resonate with viewers has evaporated for the actor since working on season 1.
From the beginning, there’s been an air of ‘We know what we’re doing, we know where we’re headed,'” he says with a shrug. “It’s exactly the opposite [of pressure].”
UnREAL returns June 6 at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.
For more secrets to UnREAL season 2, pick up a copy of Entertainment Weekly issue #1417-1418, on newsstands Friday or available here.