UNBELIEVABLE showrunner Stacy Rukeyser: “We are past the point of not being able to take reality television seriously”

o8sbnktu2zbarmthifuw - UNBELIEVABLE showrunner Stacy Rukeyser: “We are past the point of not being able to take reality television seriously”

Rachel and Quinn in UnREAL (Photo: James Dittiger/Lifetime), and showrunner Stacy Rukeyser (Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images). Graphic: Natalie Peeples.

In the 18 months because UnREAL aired its second-season ending, a previous reality-TV star was chosen president of the United States, while a various, likewise effective sexual predator was ousted from his Hollywood kingdom. Because time, UnREAL author Stacy Rukeyser was promoted to showrunner, managing a 3rd season that marks a very first for the Lifetime drama, though not always for its Bachelor/ Bachelorette– esque show-within-the-show: Caitlin FitzGerald stars as “suitress” Serena, a high-powered executive looking for a true love on the imaginary dating competitors Everlasting The shrewd Silicon Valley magnate is a special difficulty for the shrewd manufacturers at the center of Everlasting, Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), whose defend control of the program is now made complex not just by their own disputes, the tricks they share, and the colleagues who attempt to weaken them, however likewise by the methods they see themselves shown in Serena. Ahead of the season’s February 26 best, Rukeyser spoke with The A.V. Club about reality imitating UnREAL, handling the fallout from the program’s 2nd season, and why we not have the high-end of not taking truth TELEVISION seriously.

The A.V. Club: How does it feel to enter the showrunner position?

Stacy Rukeyser: It’s extremely amazing to have this chance, to have an opportunity to choose exactly what stories we’re going to inform and styles we’re going to explore this season. And I’m truly thrilled about the chance to speak about gender politics in the manner in which we are.

I had actually dealt with Marti Noxon in the past, on another program called Gigantic, and she had actually brought me into run that when she was not going to be around. Which was a comparable thing here on UnREAL, since she had 2 programs on the air when UnREAL began– she had this, and Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce Therefore I check out the script and was so drawn to the main, internal dispute in Rachel, who is this feminist who discovers herself dealing with [a dating reality show] and sort of dislikes herself for it, and dislikes that she’s in fact great at it and gets off on controling these females. It simply seemed like such abundant area for me.

AVC: Do you seem like your previous UnREAL experience assisted you out because shift?


SR: Yeah. The showrunner is an author. Which is exactly what I have actually been doing because season one. And I’ve been likewise in the trenches with Sarah Shapiro, who is the other co-creator of the program, because season one, in regards to composing the stories and modifying. I definitely go to Vancouver a lot more [Laughs.] now as the showrunner, and deal with the stars. When I took over as showrunner, and that was one of the things that I truly desired to make sure of. Usually when you’re shooting in a various city from where the authors are, it can be tough, and individuals feel bifurcated and not all part of this one group that’s making this program. I desired to make sure that Shiri and Constance and all the stars truly felt heard and that we were having these truly deep discussions about story and exactly what we were doing thematically and I believe that’s one of the things I’m proudest of: We’ve truly been doing that for the 3rd season as well as the 4th.

AVC: The program feels especially appropriate this year, offered the continuous conversation about misogyny, unwanted sexual advances, and power characteristics in the show business. You’ve stated somewhere else that season 3 was prepared to air by August 2017– that’s prior to the Harvey Weinstein story re-surfaced, prior to #MeToo went viral, and prior to Time’s Up wased established. Does that timing feel strangely coincidental?

SR: It truly does. We were, naturally, nervous to obtain this season out there, and Lifetime has this larger scripted slate that we’re a part of, and I get all that, however we were simply champing at the bit to obtain the season launched. now, it appears extremely fortuitous that this is the minute when it’s coming out. And I want that I might state that we were prescient, which we might feel that there was a modification coming, which’s why we began composing these things– however we truly didn’t. Exactly what we are are humans who have actually resided in the world, however likewise in specific, that we are females in Hollywood, we have experiences here, therefore much of this program has to do with females at work, and the challenges and battles.

I was extremely thrilled to have a chance to discuss these things. Not simply for Rachel and Quinn and their own battle in Hollywood– that is extremely cathartic, to direct any disappointments or obstructions that I might have had in my own profession into their stories– however likewise with Serena, the feminist suitress. The story was extremely individual to both me and Sarah Shapiro. I was 37 when I fulfilled my other half, I certainly had actually begun to believe I’m most likely not getting wed, I’m most likely not going to have kids. Which was sort of all right, since my profession was working out. I was disappointed and unfortunate within and likewise truly kind of puzzled: “Why isn’t it happening for me the way it happened for my friends?” It felt like a really relatable thing for a lot of females, and likewise a really particular predicament of some females who discover the greater they climb up the ladder at work, the more difficult it is to discover a man.

We were pitching the concept for the season prior to Donald Trump was even president. And everyone believed Hillary Clinton was going to be president. And there was sort of the idea of, well, is it truly still going to matter, since Hillary’s going to be president, and isn’t really everyone passed that? Which, even if Hillary Clinton had actually ended up being president, I believe is extremely positive. I believe we came to see, to a terrific degree, how there is absolutely nothing scarier to a terrific part of America than a clever, strong lady. Which made it much more essential to inform that story.


( Photo: James Dittiger)

AVC: Were there any other methods that the outcomes of the governmental election, and exactly what has followed it, may have moved the method you were approaching season 3? There’s a life-imitating-art sensation to viewing the brand-new episodes, because fact and truth in our world seem like they’re simply as quickly controlled as the fact and truth on Everlasting

SR: And isn’t really that so unfortunate. [Laughs.] We are past the point of not having the ability to take truth tv seriously, since it has actually offered us our existing president. Which line in the very first episode wehre Rachel states to Serena–“You’re smart, pretty, and successful: Half of America already hates you”– that came right out of seeing the vitriol that Hillary Clinton got on the project path. And, honestly, how nearly half of America was completely great that Trump has actually discussed females. Which’s frightening to me, and disturbing. It made it much more essential to inform this story.


It is, honestly, puzzling today, to find out how or who you’re expected to be as a female. Since we’re motivated at work to be “Rah rah! You go girl! Reclaim your time! Lean in! Demand equal pay!” And yet, when you go on a date, you are expected to amazingly develop into a various animal who is a far more demure, standard meaning of womanhood. That’s truly tough, that’s truly infuriating. Those exact same qualities of being strong and wise are simply quickly reversed into important terms: “She’s difficult, she’s opinionated, she’s bitchy, she’s intimidating.” It’s extremely simple to kip down on yourself and go, “Is it me? Am I doing this all wrong, who am I supposed to be, what will make me attractive?”

And who is the best partner for a female like that? We’re discovering increasingly more females who are the main income producer in households, therefore for a female like Serena, should she be with an alpha male who, together they would be a power couple? That’s commemorated a lot, which sounds excellent. Or should she be with more of a more “beta” man, who will let her be the star at work and he can remain at house and look after the kids? Is that the method we should be setting up these type of relationships or households? I do not believe there’s any one response for anybody, and I do not believe there’s a simple response. I believe we’re simply asking these concerns and aiming to figure all of it out. Any of these choices is much better than stating, “We should go back to 1950 and have women stay home and bake cookies.”

Genevieve Buechner (left), Craig Bierko, Constance Zimmer, Shiri Appleby, and Caitlin FitzGerald (Photo: James Dittiger)


AVC: Do you seem like those are concerns you can ask not just of Serena, however likewise of Rachel, Quinn, as well as Madison?

SR: Oh yeah, for sure. Part of the need to do that story– aside from simply how interested I remained in that sort of predicament for a ladies, personally– is that Serena ends up being an avatar for Rachel and Quinn to predict all their own problems about being wise, strong, effective, but single females. I feel that Rachel, it’s her entire concept to do the feminist suitress, it’s like, “Yes, Rachel always has high-minded ideals for the kinds of stories and people that she’s going to put on the show.” But much more so it feels extremely individual in regards to Quinn. She discovered at the end of the last season she cannot have kids, she preemptively broke up with her sweetheart, and all that was great for her since her profession was going so well. At the start of the 3rd season, the program’s been closed down for 6 months, her profession’s truly taken a hit, therefore there’s a genuine panic below to obtain the profession back. Since that’s a lot of how she self-identifies.

Rachel, I believe, sees all this prior to she chooses to come back. And part of her factor in selecting Serena is to show to Quinn that she– and females like her, however she in specific– is adorable. Obviously, Quinn does not appreciate any of that. She simply desires a great TELEVISION program and an effective TELEVISION program and excellent rankings. Even she, by the end of the season, has to choose if that is enough for her, or if she desires some sort of romantic human connection.

With Madison, she has actually constantly wished to avoid to the front of the line. [Laughs.] and has actually constantly wished to not put in the time and the effort, and searched for the simpler method to obtain ahead. And I believe that’s genuine, too, in regards to exactly what some females do, and how it exercises for some females. Exactly what’s even more disturbing to me about the story is how Quinn responds when she finds exactly what Madison is doing. Since that naturally is another stereotype about females at work: We do not support each other, and there’s just space for one at the top. And I believe that Quinn’s response is a truly unexpected one, and I’m truly pleased with it, since I do not think that that’s real. Which’s not how I run, that’s not how other females that I understand run. That’s an amazing thing to look at. And it’s extremely appropriate in this minute in time, and we had– yes, going both methods– unwanted sexual advances cases and problems in this season prior to the world understood exactly what a beast Harvey Weinstein was, not to mention everyone else that’s entered the news.

AVC: When you’re taking on understandings and stereotypes and subjects along those lines, how do you approach those and compose those and explore them without mistakenly strengthening them?


SR: You need to have a genuine perspective about exactly what you’re aiming to state. And I likewise believe you need to leave the conclusion as much as the audience. The other characters provide Madison a great deal of shit, for instance, about the past. It’s quite clear that the perspective of UnREAL is that sleeping your method to the top, or whatever she’s aiming to do, is not the method to go. Which we commemorate these females who are doing the real work, putting in the time, perhaps not getting all the credit for it they should have. That that is much more well known. I ‘d like to believe that that perspective is clear in UnREAL With Serena, raising these concerns of, “Is she perfectly lovable as she is? Or does she come across kind of abrasive, and should she tone it down?” I believe we’re aiming to raise all those problems and have all our characters have viewpoints about exactly what she’s doing, so that we can get our point throughout.

Caitlin FitzGerald (left), Shiri Appleby, and Constance Zimmer (Photo: James Dittiger)

AVC: Are Rachel and Quinn accustomed to dealing with somebody who can outmaneuver them the manner in which Serena can?


SR: This is certainly a brand-new experience for them. They speak about how the type of females that they generally have on the program– when they have had a suitress in the past– have simply sort of asked, “Do I look cute? And where should I stand?” That is a lot simpler to control. That was likewise why it was so enjoyable to compose this, to have another, 3rd female character– 4th, if you count Madison– who is truly strong and has a genuine perspective and a genuine intent of exactly what she desires, and she’s not going to simply be bossed around. Regardless of her excellent, sincere, objectives of attempting to discover an other half through this program, Serena does not expect how the candidates on these programs are controlled, how she herself can be controlled, the buttons they can press inside of you to feel a particular method and for that reason act out. It speaks with the wider style of UnREAL, which has to do with discussing truth tv and these programs and simply how destructive they can be.

AVC: Season 2 left you with some big effects to handle, in regards to the auto accident that Jeremy managed. When you compose something like that– it’s a bit of a cliffhanger, it’s something to handle down the line– does that feel intimidating? Does it provide you something to compose towards? Is it some mix of both?

SR: I believe it’s both. That was a huge plot twist, for sure. And not just that [Jeremy] did it, however that Quinn, Rachel, and Chet all learnt about it, and were sort of in on it. Then much more so, exactly what was especially intriguing to me was exactly what was Rachel’s obligation in making that occur? If you recall at the scene in the grip truck in the season ending, where she is speaking with Jeremy and stating exactly what a bad scenario they’re in, and how Coleman and Yael are going to journalism, and they’re all sort of provided for. Is she venting, as she declares to Jeremy in season 3, or was she producing him? And, once again, I believe we left it open enough so that the audience might pertain to their own decision. Personally, I do think that there was a component of producing him. I think she may not have actually understood exactly what he would do, or that he would reach he went, however I believe she understands Jeremy and she understands just how much Jeremy likes her, and for that reason she understood that he would do something. Which belongs to exactly what Rachel needs to pertain to terms with, with the aid of her “real-ass shrink,” as we call him, who she has on the set for the very first time.


I understood we needed to handle the effects of exactly what had actually taken place– not just with the auto accident however with all the other huge plot points that occurred in season 2. And I didn’t wish to pretend that those things had not taken place, or avoid them. I desired to take the time to truly sit with them and deal with the effects of those plot points, from a psychological and a mental viewpoint. And to truly take the entire season to check out the results on these individuals of exactly what had actually taken place.

AVC: Lifetime has actually currently purchased a 4th season of UnREAL, which will concentrate on an all-star season of Everlasting There’s an entire history of the show-within-the program that’s been delegated the audience’s creativity. Exists a program bible or anything that sets out the history or the tradition of the program within UnREAL?

SR: That would be a great idea! [Laughs.] We ought to get someone on that! It’s amusing since we have a script organizer and author’s assistants who assist us with this– the script organizer, whose task it was to track, “What are we saying? What season was it that this person was in? And what happened? And when did Rachel come to the show? And when did Rachel have her breakdown? What season was that?” It was all part of our development, truly, for the 4th season. There are definitely characters who are back who were on our very first 3 seasons, however then there are likewise other characters who we developed a history for, who the UnREAL audience hasn’t seen, however with whom Rachel and Quinn and everybody else has a history.


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