It doesn’t take much to become the surprise TV hit of the summer—just backstabbing, lies, drugs, death, deception and, of course, cameras. On UnREAL, the new, scripted Lifetime series that follows the production of a popular reality dating show, all of this and more is apparent each week as contestants vie to win the heart of a slimy suitor—and hopes to survive the machinations of scheming producers.
As the wily contestant Anna, Johanna Braddy has the chance to play one of UnREAL’s most compelling and dramatic characters. Here, she talks about reality-TV research and just how real UnREAL gets.
Before we get too far into this, I have to know, are you a Bachelor person?
Do I watch The Bachelor?
No. I watched one season when I prepped for UnREAL. The season with Sean, maybe?
Did it do anything for you?
It upset me so much watching The Bachelor. I got so upset, especially for the final four because they all fell in love and three of them had their hearts broken.
Well, at least you didn’t have to go back and watch Joe Millionaire or something.
Oh yeah, I’ve never seen that!
In its own way, UnREAL is kind of sad-making.
UnREAL does make you sad. It’s so intriguing to see what really goes on behind these reality shows. I know when I first started watchingThe Bachelor, I was totally with whatever they wanted, whoever they said this villain was, I was like, Ugh! I can’t believe she would do that! And after shooting UnREAL and seeing what they did to Anna’s character, it gave me a whole new perspective on what I had watched.
How true to life do you think UnREAL is?
From what I’ve heard a lot of it is true. I would hope emptying out someone’s medication doesn’t and hasn’t happened. But I think a lot of the manipulation actually is a thing.
I’m always kind of shocked that people haven’t learned how to game the reality-show system yet.
Right, but there’s that summer-camp aspect to it: they’re shut off from the real world, they have no access to current events, no phones, no newspapers. I think your whole mindset shifts. That becomes your whole world along with all the people in it and you sort of forget that there’s this other world out there. People just get wrapped up in it.
Your character’s on a bit of an emotional roller coaster from the get go. Did you go into this knowing all the twists that awaited her?
I really knew nothing of her arc. Every time they gave me a new script it was very, very eye opening. It was exciting. I would think one thing about my character and get the next episode and be completely shocked. It was fun.
And it’s not your only show! You’re also going to be on Quantico, which starts airing in the fall.
Yes, I move to Montreal tomorrow. I’m all packed, I got rid of my place, everything’s in storage and I sold my car the other day. I am officially moving out.
It’s a thriller, so a bit different from UnREAL.
It cuts back and forth in time between a terrorist attack in New York and a group of trainees going through Quantico and becoming federal agents. And it’s kind of a whodunnit, because one or more of the trainees might have been responsible for the terrorist attack. It’s one big mystery.
Your character, Shelby, must be nothing like Anna.
I love this character. She’s this 30-year-old debutante from Georgia who’s totally underestimated—maybe cause she comes off a little bit prissy and less rugged than a lot of people you would expect to be federal agents—but she was raised with guns her whole life and she’s an expert with firearms. I just love playing someone that is so underestimated and fun.
That’s exciting! I hope you’re a good shot.
I think I’m alright.
Main photograph shot by James Dittiger