After a year-and-a-half wait, Lifetime's UnREAL is finally returning on Monday, Feb. 26 at 10/9c. A lot has changed in 18 months, both in the world and on the TV show. First of all, former senior writer Stacy Rukeyser has taken over as showrunner, and her presence is going to make a big difference for both viewers and the behind-the-scenes crew. The biggest difference? This time Everlasting is going to have a Suitress, and she's a bad-ass feminist with an amazing career!
"We were really interested in exploring a feminist suitress, a smart, strong, beautiful, successful woman who, the higher up the ladder she climbs at work, the harder it is to find a man," explained Stacy. Quinn and Rachel have some feelings about men of their own that they're going to project on the "strong, 30-something Silicon Valley venture capitalist (played by Caitlin FitzGerald)." Stacy feels that the story of having to downplay your success to get a man is something many women today can relate to, and many will see themselves in Serena.
"She comes on a show to find a husband, she’s tried everything else so, why not? What she doesnt count on is the sausage factory that these shows are, in the sense that you’re produced and can be edited any way they like. Serena, by the second episode, is susceptible to Chet and his producing when he's telling her she needs to be a more demure, less strong-willed version of herself to get a man. She’s really willing to try anything, so she starts to go down that road. It actually works for a while, which is even more maddening."
Stacy's decision to open up about her #MeToo experience while working on One Tree Hill with Mark Schwahn made it even more important to her to make sure powerful females get a storyline. "It’s had an affect on how I want to run the show and what kind of a leader I want to be," she explained. "But it's also important for me to be able to tell these stories about real, messy, complicated women, because those are the stories that feel personal to me. When it's a male showrunner and you're in the minorty as a female writer, things that feel real to you might not feel real to the showrunner. With a feminist suitress I knew how personal that character felt to me, so I was willing to put my ass on a line to say, 'no this is relevant this is important it's worth telling this story.' You really need a female showrunner to have a fighting chance to get that kind of thing through."
As a boss, Stacy has also been inspired. As soon as her #MeToo story went public, she made an announcement to her team to contact her anytime something bad happens and she will personally make sure it is rectified. "I care very deeply for the experience that everyone has working under me," she said. "TV is a collaborative medium, and it’s important to me that everyone feels heard and feels ownership of this production, and that they feel safe."
Stacy Rukeyser. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The show will also try to tackle mental illness on top of sexism. "[This season] Quinn hires a shrink as a safety net [for Rachel], but he is a real shrink and he does force her to confront her own responsibility and help her to start to unravel where this darkness comes from," said Stacy. "She'll explore the trauma of [having been raped] and the way that her family reacted. We’re looking at what is wrong with Rachel Goldberg, but the answer that we come to is that there’s never just one thing."
And if you were one of the fans that were unhappy with Season 2, don't worry. Stacy is setting out to fix that. "One of the things I felt was that there were a lot of plot turns that happened in Season 2 that were exciting, but we didn't have the chance to explore the emotional and psychological effects of those big plot points," she said. "I didnt want to ignore the things that happened, but I did want to sit in the hearts and minds of Rachel and Quinn and tell the story from an honest point of where they would be after all these things happened and start from there. There’s certainly shirtless guys and 'oh my god' moments, but also there are deeper character stories and deeper emotional work that I'm excited about." We can't wait to see! Tune in to UnREAL on Mondays at 10/9c on Lifetime.