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Exclusive Interview with UnREAL’s Michael Rady

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After an outstanding first season, fans couldn’t wait to see what UnREAL had in store for its return, and so far, we haven’t been disappointed.  One of the greatest things in this new season has been the introduction of Everlasting’s new showrunner Coleman, who is played by Michael Rady.  Rady has had several well-known television roles, including GreekMelrose Place, and Jane the Virgin – and you’ll probably also recognize him as Kostos from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.  We were fortunate enough to get the chance to talk with Rady about his latest role as Coleman – which you can read below – and afterward, tune into UnREAL on Lifetime to see him in action.

Starting things off, what was it like when you read the script for Ambush?

The whole way through this season — I was a fan of the show prior — so I’ve been comparing it. It’s different [now] being in it. We get the scripts, and I’m sort of comparing it arc-wise to the first season, and this was where the story explodes, with this episode. When I read it I thought, “Okay, okay. This episode will hopefully leave people [feeling like] where I was left when Mary killed herself, when Mary went off the roof.” That for me was really exciting – that was insane TV. That was crazy, gripping TV that I was so thrilled to be a part of. Of course, as we were reading it … The racial temperature wasn’t as … It was still hot of course but right now it’s percolating for sure. It’s boiling over. It was different two months ago when we read it and shot it three months ago than it is today. If we got that script tomorrow, if I got the script right now, and we were going to shoot this say tomorrow, I’d be like, “Guys, really?” It didn’t have that sense of being as eminently timely as it does this morning.

Actually, I really loved that Sarah (Gertrude Shapiro) and Marti (Noxon) didn’t not air it, and I think that says so much about this show and the kind of TV you guys are making. Was there any discussion about maybe redoing the episode or not airing it, or was it always, “No, we’re going to air it, we’re doing this.”

I’ve seen this pitch coming for a few weeks now, and as things in the country have begun to escalate it’s been in the back of my head and getting closer to the front of my head going, “Oh my gosh. We have this episode coming up. What the … What are they going to do?” I was telling my wife, “Rachael, this is it, this episode tonight, oh my gosh it’s incendiary. Oh my gosh.” It’s going to be so much more dark just because of where things are right now in our country. Of course, as it was airing I’m looking through all these articles and interviews that Sarah’s doing and our writers are doing talking about it, and apparently — I didn’t hear anything really from anyone about redoing anything — very quickly it was revealed through these interviews that I was reading that Lifetime had zero thought of shelving the episode or holding it for a little while.

I do see and understand all sides of the spectrum that people are having to watch black men be shot by police officers in the news in the real world and they also have to do it on their couches when they’re trying to escape the real world and be entertained. I understand. I also understand not wanting to be afraid of subject matter as storytellers. I do respect Sarah for saying, “You know what? We are all afraid of it but we think the bigger mistake is to not touch it just because we’re afraid of it.” That’s what most people in the industry do, they run. It’s a fear-based industry. It’s kind of refreshing to see someone, something going against the grain in that respect.

You had said you were a fan of the first season. Did you watch the first season before auditioning for Coleman or was that something you did after?

No, I had never heard of it, along with most of the world. Then I got the audition, okay great, a Lifetime show. Okay yeah, okay sure, I’ll go in on it. The character seems pretty cool. Okay sure. Then they were getting more serious about me and they couldn’t really find anyone else they were into. It was beginning to look like I was definitely going to be the guy and so I started looking for clips, just YouTube clips. I don’t have time, I have two little kids and a pregnant wife, I don’t have time to jump into a show right now. So I’m looking up some YouTube clips, and all I was seeing was compilations of Freddie Stroma and Shiri Appleby having sex and Freddie having sex with a woman in front of a bunch of men in an office and I thought, “What is that? What is this show? What is this?” Finally, once I was cast I sat down and watched it, I needed to watch the show. My wife and I were gobsmacked. I literally fell off the couch with excitement and terror…

Freddie just returned! What was it like working with him after seeing all those clips and watching the first season?

I went into this as such a geek. I watched the first season, it was a great cast. I was just full-on geeking out at that point. Every step of the way, meeting everyone on the show, my first scene when I’m introduced and I meet the whole gang in the control room there, I’ve told many people that I was just so not present as an actor because I was a fan in that scene, looking and meeting Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri) and Chet (Craig Bierko) and Madison (Genevieve Buechner) and Jay (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), all the characters that I love and I was connected to.

At this point, I didn’t know Freddie would be back, and my wife, we were watching the show together, we have the biggest crush on Freddie. As an actor, I just think he’s tremendous. I think in the first season, he could have so easily been a stereotype, but he danced around the entire time. Every single time you just thought he’d be a douche bag, it was deeper and more complex and more interesting. As an actor, I bow to that. That’s tremendous. I’m a huge fan of his. I was really like, Oh darn, I wish I could have met him. I’d love to spend time with him. I became good friends with Josh Kelly, who plays Jeremy, and he and Freddie were fast and tight friends for the whole first season. He would always FaceTime Freddie when we had table reads, when we’re all hanging out together. He was always very friendly and nice. I was quite outspoken in telling Josh that I had a huge crush on him.

We found out that Freddie was actually coming back, and he was in the hair and makeup trailer one day and I said, “Oh my god, it’s you. It’s you. You’re Adam! How are you, Freddie? So nice to see you.” (laughs). He’s just so sweet and down to earth and unassuming and charming. It’s pretty damn easy to be around him and talk to him and to gush over the first season and the work he’s done. It was spectacular. We also happen to … He proposed to his fiance Johanna Braddy from season one as well. She played Anna (Martin). He proposed to her while he was up there. We went and met up with them after he did it, we went off to get drinks and lunch. It was so sweet and wonderful to be a part of that.

You and Johanna go back! You were on ‘Greek’ at the same time.

We were. We go back. We go back a few years. Yeah.

Were you able to tell Rachael (your wife) what was going to happen in Ambush? Or did you have to keep it a secret?

She knew. As we were shooting it, she knew what we were doing, but again, it was a completely different context. When I was saying, “Rachael, the episode we shot three months ago, two and a half months ago? That’s on tonight.” She just smacked her forehead with her palm, and said, “Oh my gosh. Wow.” You know, it just resonates at a whole different level in terms of the temperature right now.

How does Coleman feel about Rachel’s mental health issues?

He doesn’t quite know the full landscape yet. I think he sees a girl who is so… who doesn’t believe in herself anymore because Quinn has controlled and manipulated her into thinking that she’s worthless and is only capable and only has power if she’s supporting her. I think he just sees Rachel as someone who’s being strong-armed by Quinn. I don’t think he sees the full spectrum of her mental health issues at all yet. I think he’s really just trying to chisel away all the holds that Quinn has on her and break her free of that and show her that she can fly and be spectacular and successful. The thing she’s really fought for this season is having a black suitor. She’s on the right track. Those are awesome things. She fought for those things, and not Quinn. That’s spectacular storytelling. That’s what we want to be doing in this streak of Coleman and Rachel. He’s inspired by that.

In the trailer for Fugitive, we know that Coleman visits Rachel while she’s committed. Is he starting to get the grasp of the severeness of her problems? What can you tease about this episode?

All I know, all Coleman knows, is that as of now, at the very end, when she leaves with her mother, that’s like, “What?” I think that’s a bit of a world-shift for him. “Wait? Who? This woman who I might be in love with, that I’m falling for, that I’m planning a life with, that I could really see myself with, she just called and left with her mother, who looks like the devil? What happened? What is happening?” (laughs).

I don’t think by any means he’s given up on Rachel yet. I think he’s still playing all the cards he’s dealt right now, which is Quinn’s manipulative and overbearing, and now her mother’s here, who’s trying to sedate and zombify her. What is going on? I think he is the voice of reason and sanity. I know this. He’s the voice of reason and sanity. Yes.

Is he going to fight for ‘Everlasting’ too, or has losing that position, taken a back seat to fighting for Rachel now?

I know Rachel is his first … I don’t know if he actually cares about ‘Everlasting.’ It’s just a reality show. I did say that a little under my breath, just for the record. ‘Everlasting’ is a TV-manufactured reality show. (laughs). He cares about his career and he cares about Rachel.

Are you personally a reality TV fan?

Dating reality TV, no. No. I do find inspiration in some of the competition ones, like the talent competition ones, just because it involved art and talent, and that’s inspiring, and in sharing that inspiration on a massive, global scale, I do find a lot of those kind of moving. I don’t watch any of them religiously anymore. There were a few seasons of ‘Idol’ I watched, and a season or two of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ that I watched. Other than that, I haven’t really gotten into reality television. A couple of seasons here and there of those things.

Speaking of competition, you posted a video of the UnREAL guys playing racket ball in between sets? Who won?

Honestly, Josh is so … He has the most playful heart you could ever imagine. We’re all just hanging out there, sitting around. Old buddy Freddie’s back. “Oh, I have a paddle ball and racket. I have paddle ball and paddles in my trailer. Let me get them. I have …” He just always has something silly and fun going on. One day, we took these “miracle berries,” they’re called. They take away bitter flavor in your mouth.  It’s some weird Amazonian berry. You suck on this miracle berry, then you can bite into a lemon and it tastes like the most delicious lemonade you’ve ever had. You can drink coffee. You can eat tomatoes and they taste like you’re popping gumdrops they’re so sweet. Yeah, that day, it happened to be racket ball. One day was miracle berries. He’s just always up for doing something silly, so I wish I could say it was a serious game of racket ball. It wasn’t. (laughs). Let’s say Josh won. He’s a little taller.

You are an avid surfer. Are you planning on teaching your sons?

Oh yeah. I mean, hey, I’m not going to force them to do anything they don’t want to do – I can only actively share my passion for those things with them – but I think there’s a pretty decent likelihood they would probably be interested in it too, and they both really are already. I happen to be actually driving up to Santa Barbara right now to pick up a new surfboard for myself. My wife got it for me as an early birthday present, and it’s finally made it. I can’t wait. Yeah, it would be awesome if my boys and my next baby would be surfers and my gosh, it’d be a dream to be surfing with them.

Since our website is called “Talk Nerdy With Us,” what brings out the nerd in you, or what do you nerd out about?

Oh man, I’m pretty dorky. (laughs). I nerd out about flowers and trees, like nature-y things. I teach my kids all the different names of all the flowers and plants and trees. I get pretty nerdy with that stuff. I get pretty nerdy with surfing and musical theater. What else do I get nerdy about? Now that I’m a dad; maybe it’s just lame, not even nerdy, just lame; I’ll see minivans and I’m like, “Oh, that is a good-looking minivan right there. What is that? Look at the lines on that thing. That is a sexy minivan.” (laughs). As I said, that’s probably just lame, not even nerdy.

Are you currently driving a minivan?

I’m not, but we have a third child on the way, due in September, and I don’t know many cars that usually fit three car seats across the back other than a mini. I nerd out on my Volkswagen Camperbus – I have a ’79 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper, my adventure-mobile for my boys. I really nerd out on that. I also nerd out on woodworking. I love woodworking, gardening, and plant-based cooking. I’m just a nerd.

How long have you been a vegan?

Almost ten years now.

Did you start being a vegan because of your love for plants?

Definitely, no, it didn’t come from that, but it’s definitely supported and boosted by that for sure, and enhanced remarkably by that. No, it started out as just a curiosity, just pure curiosity. I’ve always been interested in all things about my body and health and fitness, so it was just another area of exploration, and as soon as I tried it, I never looked back. It just felt dynamite and I didn’t think twice, and now it’s an equal, three-part thing for me. Now it’s animals and environment and health.

Will you/Kostos make a return to ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 3’?

Oh, I would be flattered and honored to be part of another movie that they do. I know they’re all pushing for it and interested in doing it, getting the four girls, and I think they just want it to be … If they do it again, they want it to be top-notch and good and worth the wait. If they have me back, I would be thrilled. I know nothing yet, it’s still in the early stages.

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  1. Awesome interview! What a cool, interesting guy. He’s even better than I imagined & I love that he and his wife share my crush on Freddie. Lol. Epic job on the interview, Rachel!

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