In a world where beauty and beastly-conduct rule, it is always a delight to discover a genuine treasure right in the midst. In the new Lifetime drama series UNREAL, star Breeda Wool portrays the quiet, yet confident Faith, a girl of conviction, beliefs and unwavering commitment to the good values she was raised with. Unfortunately for Faith, those qualities will be used against her in fictional reality TV show “Everlasting.” In Lifetime’s UNREAL, the story is the behind-the-scenes antics and exploits of the contestants in a reality show called “Everlasting.” Breeda’s character Faith is one of the contestants selected to win the heart of a prince. Alas, while Adam (Freddie Stroma) may be a prince in title, his true nature seems a bit less princely. So it makes one wonder if the genuinely sweet and honorable Faith, no matter how much she deserves to win, would be be better off not winning the hand of a prince that may be just in it for the fame and money — like many of the other contestants.
In an exclusive interview, star Breeda Wool talked about the unexpected joy she had in playing Faith and what she appreciated most about working in the hilarious world of UNREAL.
How were you first introduced to the show and what drew you initially to the role of Faith?
BREEDA: I was shooting BETAS, which is an Amazon show, when I got this call and there were two pages of dialogue and this link to a short film, which is Sarah Shapiro’s short film that she did for AFI Women’s Directing Program. But, after watching it, I was like, “Oh yeah, this is gonna be good!” Then, in terms of my story as Faith, I felt like I could very much relate to it. In the story, she has this dream of finding love on the show, but it’s very controlled and she doesn’t know what she is doing. Her community is sort of put her up to it and encouraged her. She doesn’t know how to deal with romantic love at all and this is like her worst attempt and her best attempt. So when she shows up on the show, she is a little bit naive and she quickly finds out that the main purpose for her being there is to be exposed and humiliated at her expense and for the entertainment of others. That’s how she’s introduced to the show.
Faith is not the only one. All the women are being exploited to various degrees. How do you describe Faith?
BREEDA: Faith reads the Bible everyday. She takes care of her grandmother. She is a barrel racer in Mississippi rodeo. And she believes in the best in people and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, which makes her extremely vulnerable on a show like “Everlasting.”
If you were to pick out one quality you most admire about Faith, what would it be?
BREEDA: Probably believing the best in people. But if you’re horribly, terribly wrong, then you’re horribly terribly wrong. But ’til then you might as well give it a go.
I like the fact that she seems confident in herself as well. She doesn’t seem to be a wallflower. She’s got a confidence about her.
BREEDA: She’s an extremely competent person in the story, and maybe even more competent than the other women who are there. (Laughs) But she’s very incompetent when it comes to love. She also takes care of people and she looks out for people. She’s a good community member.
She’s also there to find love. What is her relationship with Adam (Freddie Stroma) like initially? Could there be a romance there?
BREEDA: I think Faith and Adam have great chemistry. They get along great from the get-go.
He might see that she is more genuine than some of the other contestants. Some of them have ulterior motives and are not really there to find love. So Faith’s quest for love must be reassuring for him.
BREEDA: I think her naiveté about the show and how it works and how dating works in general is so inexperienced that it actually ends up being an advantage for her.
Adam seems bemused. It’s like her naiveté and innocence kind of comes across as sweet.
BREEDA: I think so too! I had a great time making this TV show. There’s so many beautiful revelations. When people are put under pressure and people are pushed to reveal things about themselves, I think sort of true character emerges. You really get to find out who these people are because they are being pushed, almost ferociously by the producers of “Everlasting.” You get to know very quickly who they are at the core.
Does Faith have any friends on “Everlasting”? I couldn’t tell if she trusted Rachel (Shiri Appleby) enough to want to be her friend or if Faith is just going into this game thinking, “I’m going to give it my best shot.”
BREEDA: That’s the hard thing because Rachel, what makes her such a good producer is that she’s actually everybody’s friend and she’s actually everyone’s worst enemy. It’s not false manipulation. It’s actually a fully committed polar-swing. Not polar as in bipolar, but Rachel’s committed to whatever she is doing at the moment. So when she behaves like Faith’s friend, she’s her friend — in that moment. So within the series, you see this woman trying to find out what’s real within herself and that’s what we sort of follow from the beginning. What is real: is she a cutthroat producer or does she have a gift for empathy?
Rachel is hard to put a finger on. Shiri Appleby did a phenomenal job portraying that duplicitousness in Rachel, as well as showing a kind of genuine wanting to help these people.
BREEDA: I think that is what makes Rachel so good at her job. Her relating to the contestants and her relating to Faith. She’s not disingenuous, but she crafts it afterwards. She builds the structure and then she crafts it afterwards. Like whatever happens afterwards might not be congruous with the previously sympathetic human being that we saw.
Would you say that UNREAL is representative of some of the things that actually go on in the industry of reality television?
BREEDA: I don’t have any experience in reality TV, but as an actress, the idea of sort of going after the dream — the purest sense of playing make-believe and having a very active child-like imagination in order to create these suspended realities for people mixed with this exposure, and that you can’t control — and it’s ironic that I’m doing an interview with you while talking about this. (Laughs) Like do I know myself, Breeda, well-enough to feel being exposed in front of the world. So I think that is what these people do when they go on reality TV. They have this idea that they want to be seen and they want to be exposed, but they have no control over how. But at some point, you have to go: who am I? Does the person have enough resolve in themselves when they are being judged by millions of people on television, do they have the resolve to maintain their identity in a business where they buy and sell identity?
As you have said, it is a question of a person asking: why am I here and what am I hoping to get out of it? Most people are looking for fame and fortune. But is that truly what they are looking for?
BREEDA: I don’t even know! What are you looking for? It’s like asking: what is life? But as an artist, fortunately or unfortunately, I have to ask myself that on a daily basis. (Laughs)
What for you was the funnest part of working on UNREAL?
BREEDA: I liked everything about it. My overall experience was absolute joy. I was up in Vancouver and the cast was so supportive and the producers were very supportive and the directors. I got a lot of love on this show. It was like creative summer camp. It was so great. Everybody supported each other on set. Sarah Shapiro is my hero. She really supported me creatively. And Constance Zimmer is like Super Woman. She is brilliantly smart and looks out for people — and looked out for me.
Do you think as an actress you learned something from working on UNREAL?
BREEDA: So much. When I make up my character’s life, as Faith, like in the show she believes in God and that is not necessarily my, Breeda Wool’s, belief system. So there was a huge set of circumstances in UNREAL that I got to walk in the shoes of this lifestyle and this belief-system that so many people in America have and it was incredibly illuminating to me, as a person and as an artist. There was so much that I learned walking in Faith’s shoes. I learned about sort of the duty of being a church community member and being accountable to God and having your actions be seen and reflected by a god that is watching you all the time. I had quite never understood that until I did this project, and it was like, “He’s there. He’s really there all the time.” And there were some cast members who were Christian and they talked to me a lot about their beliefs in the after-life. There was a lot around the topic of religion that I learned as a person by working on UNREAL.
That’s amazing, actually. It’s not what you expect to hear about working on a show about reality television. But it’s cool.
BREEDA: Whenever I act in a project, I am incredibly illuminated by being able to live by altering the perspective. So I had time on UNREAL to really work and really come into communion with some of these issues in the story. So at some point, if you make-believe long enough, at some point you get it.
You have obviously learned something from your character. That’s actually fabulous.
BREEDA: So much! I also learned about the rodeo. I learned so much. In my story on the show and in everyone’s story on the show, there’s this huge swinging pendulum of striving towards your hopes and dreams, and striving away from them. (Laughs) That’s sort of vague, but when you watch the show, it will all become clear.
If you had the opportunity to sit down with Faith, what kind of advice would you want to give her?
BREEDA: Gosh, I feel like Faith would give Breeda more advice than Breeda could give Faith. (Laughs) I guess I would say, “Be true to yourself.”
What was it like working with Shiri, Constance and Freddie?
BREEDA: Oh my gosh, Shiri Appleby and I had a blast! I worked with Shiri a lot. Strangely, because Constance’s character was so in charge of the production side of the show, she is not an in-field producer and doesn’t interact with the contestants the same way that Rachel (Shiri Appleby) does. But Shiri and I — one of the producers Peter Warner was always saying that we were Lucy and Ethel. We had a blast. It’s so funny because we are all adults and we have this job where there’s a lot of stress on set and, for the first two weeks we were there, we were like Canadian vampires: we’d go to work at 8:00 p.m. and get back at 5:00 a.m. There’s a certain difficulty to what we do, but like there’s a hundred crew members are there so me and Shiri Appleby can play in the “sandbox.” And Shiri shows up like that. She’s number one on the show and she is working wild hours, and yet every time we had a blast. She’s ready. She’s always ready to play and it makes everything — it’s the best part of our work. Everyone’s on point and having fun. I had a lot of fun with Shiri.
Sounds like they should have done a “behind the scenes” for the behind-the-scenes of the show.
BREEDA: There’s a lot of meta on the show. You definitely feel like you want to win. Like I wanted to win a fake, scripted reality TV show. You get into it. I was like, “I am gonna win this!” (Laughs) Then Freddie, Freddie is a goofball. Freddie is hilarious. Freddie and I had a lot of fun together. We would hangout a lot outside of shooting, as well — me, Freddie and Josh Kelly. They lived right around the corner from me in Canada. So, yeah, Freddie is hilarious. He is incredibly smart. He is a very educated, smart actor. Talented actor. And then Constance, I would just see for fun.
Sounds like working on UNREAL was an amazing experience for you. Are there other projects that you’re working on that you can share and talk about?
BREEDA: I have another film in post-production called “AWOL.” It’s with Lola Kirke, Britne Oldford, and Bill Sage, and directed by Deb Shoval. I just finished it. We won the Tribeca Film Festival Finishing Grant and we got nominated for a Gotham Finishing Grant. So I shot that coming off UNREAL, and we were out in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania in thirty below weather. So talk about a completely different perspective: very economically-depressed Pennsylvania, getting stuck in a town with sort of no hopes or dreams. Just a very different mindset. I learned a lot from that as well. It should premiere sometime next January.
In addition to keeping an eye out for her film “AWOL,” be sure to tune in for the premiere of UNREAL to find out just where Faith’s journey leads her and if there is a chance for happiness for her after all. UNREAL premiere on Monday, June 1st at 10:00 pm on Lifetime. (Also be on the look out for our exclusive interviews with stars Shiri Appleby and executive producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro for more information about what crazy stuff goes down in the first season of UNREAL. And, as a special treat, big congratulations are in order for UNREAL’s Critic’s Choice Award nomination for Best New TV Series of 2015!)