When Lifetime’s UnREAL premiered last summer, critics and audiences fell hard for the bold, Peabody-winning dramedy’s willingness to grab Bachelor-esque style programming by the you-know-whats and guide it not-so-gently to a good long look in the mirror. Equal parts social commentary and whip-smart entertainment, Season 1 took on matters of mental health, body image, feminism, fidelity and sexuality — and what people will do to one another for the sake of a buck — with searing style.
For Season 2, UnREAL creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro opted to steer the ship in the opposite direction and create a fresh set of waves. The pair — both Caucasian and avowed feminists — did some soul-searching, too, choosing to write against everything they know and tackle race and men’s right to act like men in the pale, estrogen-fueled world of UnREAL’s faux show, Everlasting.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Everlasting’s new suitor, pro quarterback Darius Beck (the character was previously announced as Darius Hill).
Played by Being Mary Jane’s B.J. Britt, Beck finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion and in need of proof that he not only loves the ladies, but he respects them, too. Shipping them home one by one with broken hearts and bruised egos seems an odd way to do that, but Beck’s cousin-slash-manager Romeo (Gentry White) thinks it’s a fine idea — and Darius hasn’t gotten this far by doubting the folks in charge.
Let’s step back for a necessary minute. If you’re like me, the thought that UnREAL cast a black suitor (something The Bachelor has sidestepped for 20 freakin’ seasons) and then made him a pro athlete — the one arena where Americans are perhaps most colorblind — seemed a bit of an eye roll. But chew on it a little bit more. It’s the one arena in which Americans are most colorblind. And most likely to turn the other cheek if laws and jaws — or worse — get broken as long our team gets the win.
And now the guy is also in the hands of a bitter Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby), a pair whose idea of victory, we’re guessing, looks very different from what Romeo has in mind.
Let the real games begin.
“My dad would always tell me, ‘Son, anything more than one woman is too many,’” Britt chuckles sympathetically. “I was like, ‘Dad, I’m just dating three girls — it’s fine,’ and he’s like ‘Boy, anything more than one is too many.’ I’ve learned that lesson. But Darius has not only one but two women — Rachel and Quinn — coming between that relationship, that bond that he and Romeo have.”
Not to mention the eager women wanting to, er, play ball with the charismatic athlete — a situation Britt admits sometimes gave him the giggles.
“I’m so completely opposite of Darius,” he says (though he began our interview by purring, “I’m still in character … talk to me!”). “I feel like I freeze up if I talk to a girl. I don’t know what to say and my hands get sweaty — but Darius, he comes in the room, it’s all about him. He’s that confident, cocky guy. For him, this is a walk in the park. It’s just interesting having to approach this character who is completely opposite of me, so to speak. It’s been a fun experience, I’m telling you.”
Britt admits he lobbied to extend the lesson.
“I’m like, ‘No! Why can’t he just date all of them? I don’t see my character doing that! I don’t see my character eliminating any of them! I think he would just ride it all the way out and just, you know, keep them all, keep them all, keep them all!’”
New episodes of UnREAL Season 2 premiere Monday nights at 10/9CT on Lifetime.