UnREAL Star Sunita Prasad Tells Us What's It Like to Play a Contestant on a Fake Reality TV Dating Show
It’s hard to tell fact from fiction on reality TV—and that blurred line is exactly what UnREAL is all about. The second season of Lifetime’s hit series (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET) just premiered last week, introducing us to a slew of fresh faces competing to win the heart of Darius Beck (B.J. Britt), the newest suitor looking for love on the reality dating show at UnREAL’s core, Everlasting. Only two episodes into this season, it’s safe to say that we’re already hooked.
One of Everlasting’s notable new contestants is London, the show’s most conservative character yet. Played by Sunita Prasad, London’s end goals may be the same as her peers—but she’s not quite putting it all out there like the rest of them, according to the actress.
“London does want to find love, but she’s not a girl that you’d expect to see on a dating show,” Prasad recently told InStyle, explaining that romance isn’t her character's only motivation for competing on Everlasting. “She also goes on the show because she wants to explore a different part of herself—she’s never really had this party lifestyle. And she’s also a Muslim, which is why the producers, Quinn and Rachel [played by Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, respectively], end up bringing her on the show. They want her for ratings.”
Despite the producers’ attempts to stereotype her, London holds her own. “She’s got this strong will about her, and she isn’t easily swayed to let go of her beliefs,” said Prasad. “In the first episode this season, they tried to put a headscarf on her—but she’s not about that, and she’s not going to let them push her into being what she’s not. She questions the motives and everything they’re telling her to do.” Below, Prasad talks the show's fashion, pressure of reality TV, and what to expect from her character this season.
InStyle: How do you think London feels about the fashion choices on Everlasting?
Prasad: She’s actually not comfortable with what they’re made to wear on the show, because she is more conservative. They’re supposed to wear a lot of revealing outfits on Everlasting, and that’s not who she is. They have the stylings, so she’s cool with the dresses and things like that, but she definitely takes issue with the skimpier outfits that they’re forced to wear.
Arguably, London’s biggest strength is that she knows who she is as a person. But what would you say is her biggest weakness as contestant?
You have to be as cutthroat as you need to be for a competition like this. You’re up against all these women who want to get the attention of this one suitor, and it’s harder for her, because she doesn’t have that cutthroat mentality like some of the other girls. It’s hard for her to catch his eye—so that’s definitely a flaw for her. She’s got to step out of her comfort zone if she wants to be noticed.
You essentially play two roles: the London we know behind-the-scenes on UnREAL, and then her portrayal on Everlasting. What is it like to have that show-within-a-show dynamic?
It’s fun to play different sides of a person. People are dimensional and they’ve got different layers. So there’s London, who’s conservative—but then there’s what the producers are trying to make her, which is someone wilder than who’d she’d normally be. I had a blast playing both sides of that spectrum.
Was there anything that surprised you in terms of the world of reality TV dating?
The level of manipulation was a bit shocking. It’s great that we have [co-creator] Sarah [Gertrude Shapiro] who worked on The Bachelor, because she has real insight into how it actually does work. And while the storylines that she comes up with are fictional, she knows how it all works behind the scenes. There’s so much pressure on these girls—it’s an extremely intense situation to be in a house with all of these strangers and have no phone, no internet, no contact with the outside world. That’s pressure enough, and then you’ve got these producers who are trying to portray you in a light that’s not who you are. I think it’s easier to break a person down when they’re already on edge from their environment, and it seems like they use that to get ratings out of them.
In terms of the other characters, who is your favorite to watch London interact with?
Darius. She really wants that one-on-one time with him, and because of the competitive nature of the show, it'll be interesting to see how she tries to set herself apart from the other girls and grab his attention. What she does exactly, I can't say—but I can say that it'll definitely be fun to watch.