Q&A: Shiri Appleby

Actress Shiri Appleby plays the flawed-but-lovable Rachel on the critically acclaimed Lifetime series UnREAL. The show cleverly sheds light on what really goes on behind the scenes of a “Bachelor” style reality TV show. After watching the Season 2 premiere, I just had to get the inside scoop on what’s to come this season from Shiri herself. I caught up with the busy mother of two to chat about her experience directing an episode this season, what she really thinks of reality TV and how she keeps a healthy body image amidst the spotlight.

Before working on UnREAL, did you watch reality TV?
I am a big fan of Project Runway and Project Greenlight – any shows that are about creativity and people overcoming the obstacles that arise.

Do you still enjoy watching reality TV?
Now I am so informed by the process of reality television that I find myself calling out the producing.

What’s your favorite part about playing Rachel?
I love that my wardrobe rarely changes! I also feel really grateful to be playing a woman who is focused on her career, and has ugly emotions that get expressed, and sees men and sexuality as merely filling a need for connection – in other words, a three dimensional character with flaws.

Which character or relationship do you relate to most on the show?
I do really relate to the relationship of mentor and protégé.  I am lucky to have so many wonderful women in my life who I admire and respect, who help me form the picture of how I would like my life to look.  I value having so many women I can turn to for wonderful advice, including Constance Zimmer aka Quinn.

You make your directorial debut in Season 2. What was this experience like?
Directing was absolutely incredible in that I felt so creative every moment.  I really cherished being able to have a strong hand in the picture we create on set every day.

What was your favorite part about directing?
After a lifetime of working as an actress, I really loved directing the younger actresses and sharing my acting secrets to help them craft their own performances.  These women were so receptive and talented that I knew what I shared with them would travel with them on their long careers – it makes my work feel even more valuable!

And, the most challenging part about directing?
Learning how to act and direct at the same time was challenging but after a few days I began to to trust my natural acting instincts even more.  

What can we expect in Season 2?
The 2nd season of UnREAL is focused on watching Rachel survive in the midst of continual crisis.

How do you balance acting with being a mommy of 2?
It’s a challenge and some days are easier than others.  I bring my kids to set as much as possible and try to limit what outside things I commit to that could interfere with being present for them.

Being in the spotlight, how do you  maintain a healthy body image?
I work out, I eat well, I do all the usual things.  And I try to cut myself a break if I’m not having my best day.

In your opinion, what makes a woman beautiful?
Confidence. Knowing your value. Being graceful. Having manners.  Being considerate of others.

What are you most afraid of?
Being torn in too many directions.

Who inspires you?
Jon Shook.

More women should…
Vacation by themselves.

Season 2 of UnREAL airs Mondays 10/9c on Lifetime.
Photo: mylifetime.com