Shiri Appleby on 'UnREAL's' Heartbreaking Twist: Rachel "Feels a Tremendous Amount of Guilt"

"It throws a huge wedge in between all of [these] relationships," Appleby tells THR about the events of Monday's episode.
James Dittiger

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for UnREAL’s seventh episode, "Savior."]

UnREAL just got way too real.

Monday's episode of Lifetime’s dark drama saw the producers and contestants of show-within-the-show Everlasting deal with the heartbreaking aftermath of episode six's cliffhanger. After her difficult face-to-face with her abusive ex-husband and (unknowingly) going off her medication, contestant Mary (Ashley Scott) jumped from the roof of the Everlasting mansion.

Quickly revealing that there would be no last-minute, she-got-lucky twist, Rachel (Shiri Appleby), Quinn (Constance Zimmer), and the rest of the production team had to come to grips with the fact that one of the contestants committed suicide (and that it might be their fault) while scrambling to keep the show on the air.

In the midst of the murder investigation, scheming producer Shia (Aline Elasmar) owned up to switching out Mary’s pills to get her to “loosen up.” Quinn took the lead and announced that they would fix the situation. Eventually, Rachel forged a suicide note for Mary and got Mary’s sister to read the note on camera, allowing the show and the people on it to try to move forward from the endeavor. "Try" being the key word.

“Something [co-creator] Sarah Shapiro and I constantly talked about while we were shooting is that Rachel is always trying to do the right thing,” Appleby tells The Hollywood Reporter of her character’s struggle. “By writing the note and giving it to the sister, it’s Rachel’s way of turning a terrible situation into somewhat of a right situation. She can’t fix the problem, she can’t bring Mary back, but she can do something to make this a little bit better.”

Weighed down by this guilt, Rachel turned to Jeremy (Josh Kelly) for comfort as the two consummated their attraction. “It was more about escaping,” said Appleby. “She’s just looking for someone to wrap their arms around her and make her feel less alone and less confused. … Jeremy was something that was easy for her.”

However, after Jeremy left with his fiancee at the end of the hellish day, Rachel climbed into bed and curled up with Adam (Freddie Stroma).

So, can the show(s) truly move past this devastating turn of events? THR caught up with Appleby to figure out where UnREALEverlasting and that love triangle go from here.

How will the emotional ramifications of Mary’s death continue to affect Rachel after the events of this episode?

Rachel [isn’t] the kind of character who would just let something like that just fall by the wayside. She feels a tremendous amount of guilt and that’s something that she’s going to carry though the rest of the season and perhaps through to the next season, but I definitely know it comes up again. It’s one of those things that she really almost holds against Quinn [and] the other producers. She holds [it] against the entire world and what it stands for.

How will this change the way Rachel interacts with the world — the producers, the contestants —going forward?

Rachel actually finds a lot of comfort in allowing herself to let go and be with the girls and mourn the pain of this death with them in, like, a sorority setting, a setting that’s very unfamiliar to her and something that she’s never allowed herself. In terms of the producers, it creates an incredible amount of anger and animosity. Basically, it throws a huge wedge in between all of [these] relationships.

Rachel handled the situation decently well. Do you think that she has evolved since last year’s meltdown or is she still bottling things up?

I don’t know how you handle the death of a human being that you have responsibility [for] in a good way. Especially a character [whose] vulnerability is so strong and her sensitivity is so strong. She’s repressing it. She has a job to do. She has a terrible situation, and she’s got to get through it. She’s got to get through the season.

Is she heading for a bigger breakdown?

[The season] definitely ends in a way where she has a shift in character — whether it breaks her down or makes her stronger.

Adam called Rachel “a monster” this episode. Those two have always seemed on an even playing field. Was that a real wake-up call or a turning point for her?

She has a tremendous amount of respect for Adam, quite honestly. … It really shook her, like "He’s right, and how am I going to prove to him in this moment that he’s wrong and to myself prove that he’s wrong."

She climbs into bed with Adam at the end of the episode after sleeping with Jeremy early on. How does her relationship with these two men differ? Would she have sought out Adam had Jeremy not left with his fiancee?

Actually, her relationship with Adam is much more emotional and much more connected in an intellectual way and an emotional way. When she saw Jeremy walk away with his fiancee, she obviously doesn’t want to go back to the grip truck alone, but she doesn’t want to get into bed with Adam and have sex with him. It’s purely about being near him, being near somebody, and not being alone at the moment.

How will this episode and everything that happens shake up the balance of the show as we head into the finale?

The fact that Quinn is at the helm of things, she doesn’t really let us wallow in depressive-ness or the darkness of it, a) because we have a show to shoot, and b) she [doesn’t] want to deal with the emotions of it all.

How does that relationship between Quinn and Rachel evolve going forward?

The way these girls work against each other, work together, manipulate each other, comfort each other, is constantly changing. One of the most telling parts of the relationship was at the end of the episode when Quinn says to Rachel, “I’m here if you ever want to talk,” and they hug and Rachel says, “You know we’re never going to talk about this again.” That was really telling about how they work together.

Does Rachel view Quinn as a role model or is she more of a warning of the inevitable?

It’s definitely one of Rachel’s struggles. She’s trying to find herself and figure out who she’s going to end up being. When she looks at Quinn, it’s two-fold: She looks at her thinking, "I can be like this," and, "This is exciting," and part of her is terrified by this. It’s a relationship that’s constantly evolving between the two of them, and also in Rachel’s head, about how much she wants to let Quinn in, how much she wants to trust her, and how much she really wants to be like her.

What did you think about the show’s shocking twist? Can Everlasting bounce back? Sound off in the comments below!

UnREAL airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.

Twitter: @NotPhelan