There’s this strange aspect of shipping couples on TV in which we actively root for relationships that emerge from cheating. Can a healthy bond ever really be forged from dishonesty? And why are we so willing to encourage it?
There are a few instances of cheating on “UnREAL,” the Lifetime drama which takes place behind the scenes of the (fictional) dating competition show, “Everlasting.” (Spoiler alerts ahead!) For engaged cameraman Jeremy, hooking up with producer Rachel might be his only observable flaw. He is otherwise a sort of moral center on set, a counterpoint for the slimy practices behind actively manipulating contestants. And yet, that one “mistake” speaks to the entirety of his character: his selfishness, impulsivity and willingness to treat his fiancée as a placeholder bring his supposed goodness into question.
The Huffington Post spoke to actor Josh Kelly about playing Jeremy and how his role fits into the tricky set of ethics that rule the “UnREAL” universe.
Jeremy is set up as such a “good guy.” How do you think he allows himself to cheat? What kind of explanations do you think cheating required?
He didn’t really look at his fiancée Lizzie as who he wanted to be with. He looked at her as who he should be with and what he should be doing with his life. Then Rachel came in. It was a struggle, and then he finally hooks up with Rachel. But he feels bad about it. You know, people make mistakes. He’s not perfect. But no one’s perfect, you know?
Do you think a successful, healthy relationship can stem from cheating? Could that ever be the case for Jeremy and Rachel?
Even in life I feel like that happens a lot! You start with a bad situation and you never feel like it’s based on honesty. As a whole, I think Jeremy feels like a lot of the people in the show. He feels like he doesn’t really want to be a part of any of it. He doesn’t want to do bad things.
That’s interesting. A lot of the ethics of the show hinge on this perceived necessity, ranging from a need for a paycheck to the total lack of options for Rachel.
None of the producers or the crew want to do bad things, but then again they still want to be a part of this process and this program. Jeremy wishes that he had the fortitude to cut it off, to leave and become a director of photography or a director of feature films, but he’s swept up in this world. His excuse is Rachel and his excuse is his paycheck.
Rachel was drawn to Jeremy, but as soon as he responds to her advances she hooks up with (the “Everlasting” suitor) Adam. Is she just being destructive? What do you think is going on there?
I think you’re correct! It seems like she’s being destructive. A lot of chaos happens in finding out who you are as a person and who you should be with. And a lot of time you end up hurting people, you end up hurting yourself, you make the wrong decisions first or before you make the right ones. Before you can make the right decisions you have to know that you’ve made the wrong ones. So, I feel like Rachel is exploring who she wants to be with and who she should be with.
How do you see Jeremy? Do you think of him at all as a moral center behind the scenes of “Everlasting”?
Yes, he is. Some of the contestants are as well. But no one is innocent. It’s just like in life, you know? I think Jeremy is relatable. That’s important to have when some characters are just terrible. I also think it’s really cool that he is a crew member. I’ve noticed from working that a lot of the crew members are some of the hardest-working, most awesome blue-collar guys. Still, it’s important he has that flaw. No one is perfect.
Do you watch reality TV? How do you think of it since working on “UnREAL”?
I had never watched dating reality shows before. I have since and I find it fascinating. I enjoy watching them and seeing the parts that are produced. It adds another layer of entertainment for me. Some people really get into it, like, “How could she do that?” And I’m like, “She was produced.” When you really start paying attention to the acting, you can tell when they’re being produced or being made to say things.
Did you see that Chris Harrison commented on the way reality TV is presented on “The Bachelor” (and called it “really terrible“)?
Ha, I don’t think I’m supposed to really comment on it. I’m flattered that he took notice of our show!
A few weeks ago, “UnREAL” was renewed for a second season. Do you know if you’ll be a part of that or if Jeremy will continue to be a part of Rachel’s life?
I think I am! But you never know until a show comes out. I really try never to get my hopes up with a character. I mean, I look forward to the work, but it feels like any time I’ve gotten my hopes up about where someone is going or something happening, it doesn’t turn out well. I hope he’s going to be there. Were I a betting man, I’d bet on Jeremy being involved in Season 2.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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