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UnREAL: Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer previewseason 2 power struggle

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Sergei Bachlakov

Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) may have shared a toast to their success at the end of UnREAL‘s first season, but don’t expect that to last when the drama about the reality of reality television returns.

“They’re definitely at odds,” Appleby says of where the women begin. “They’re two incredibly strong women who have the similar goal of having a successful television show, but the stories they want to tell are different.” At the outset of season 2, the pair have pulled off the coup of recruiting football star Darius Hill (B.J. Britt) as their suitor — the first black suitor in their reality dating show Everlasting‘s (and real-life television’s) history — but they’ll fail to see eye-to-eye on how to drum up drama after the intial shock wears off. 

And to Zimmer, that’s how Quinn and Rachel should be: They’re partners who happen to perpetually fall in and out of love. “They both grow together, but they can’t,” she explains. “It’s super, super challenging to play… It’s the power struggle that women have, the fight to be equal in positions.” In other words, as much as both Quinn and Rachel are feminists, how feminist would it be for them to tone down their ambition, compromise, and share the throne?

That’s the question UnREAL co-creator and executive producer Sarah Shapiro aims to explore in the new season. “Mentorship is complicated, because you can outgrow your mentor, and that’s how the dynamic works,” she says. “At some point, either they’re going to be equals or Rachel’s going to outgrow Quinn… I’m obsessed with feminism and the complications and limitations of feminism, so I thought it’d be super interesting to test that [through them].”

But if Quinn and Rachel will always struggle to work together, Appleby and Zimmer say they’ve always been a team. “[Constance] would read a script and be like, ‘Shiri, there are some character moves in here that I don’t buy for Rachel,’ and I’ve done the same for her,” Appleby says. “To be honest, we’ve been on the publicity train together for almost a year and that’s not necessarily grounds for two actresses becoming the best of friends, but in our case, we’ve really been partners.”

In fact, it only helps them portray their characters’ tug-of-war. “We know each other so well that we can really push each other’s buttons in all the good ways,” Zimmer says. “I do think it is what makes the characters really palpable, because you feel the love underneath. Obviously you can act it, but it’s an added bonus that we have a strong bond off-screen.” If only Quinn and Rachel could find a way to get there, too.

UnREAL returns June 6 at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

For the complete feature on UnREAL’s second season, pick up the Entertainment Weekly’s Ultimate Summer Preview, on newsstands now or available here.

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