chat room

UnREAL’s Prince Charming, Freddie Stroma, on Adam’s Pathological Narcissism and Why He Doesn’t Think He’ll Be Back Next Year

Photo: Sarah Kerver/Getty Images

The following contains spoilers up through the ninth episode of the first season of UnREAL.

The penultimate episode of the first season of UnREAL ended with the possibility of a fairy-tale ending: Adam Cromwell, the British bachelor of Everlasting, asks Rachel, the tortured but skillful producer, if she would run away with him. They could forget it all! The show. The vineyard. Quinn. Vulture spoke with Prince Charming himself, played by Freddie Stroma, about whom he would choose to be his reality-TV wife and the possibilities of a second season for his character.

First off, as a viewer, are you Team Adam or Team Jeremy?
At the moment I’m thinking Adam. What we love about the show is that there’s a lot of gray, and they really go into the different characters. For a while we kept thinking about Jeremy: Oh, he’s the good camera guy. He doesn’t get involved. But, when we started watching the show, he’s been cheating on his girlfriend for no apparent reason. So he’s not really that great a guy. And in Adam’s defense, he did some sleazy things, but he didn’t hurt anyone in the process.

I feel like with Adam, you know what you’re getting.
I think he says it how it is, really. He lets Rachel know what he’s feeling — especially his feelings towards her, and what he wants to do to her. So, he says what’s on his mind.

How do you and Josh Kelly (Jeremy) get along on set?
We roomied together during the shoot, so we got on really well. There were a lot of pranks on set, mostly by just Kelly. We’re still good buddies.

In the beginning of the ninth episode, “Princess,” Adam says to Rachel, “With you and me, I know we have something real.” Then Rachel tells him, “That’s the thing with you, Adam. It feels pretty real with everyone.” Do you think that’s true?
I think it’s reasonably true. He’s a charming guy. He knows how to make each girl feel special, so he can adapt to whether it’s a contestant or whether it’s Rachel to make them feel that what they have is this strong connection, and he makes everything feel real. And with Rachel it’s a different story, whether it’s true or not. It’s a difficult one.

So, if we’re down to two contestants, who do you hope wins?
We know it’s between Grace and Anna. Between the two you’d hope Anna, really, because of the fact [that] he brought her back from that funeral in episode two by telling her he had feelings for her. They have some kind of connection, at least. Judging by the episodes so far, she seems to be well-rounded — she’s a lawyer, and she’s in it for hopefully good reasons, although she has been a bit manipulative.

Who hasn’t?
Yeah, who hasn’t, really. With Grace, they’ve been involved in sexual experiences. And so you’d hope that the girl who doesn’t make it easy for the guy at the beginning would win, but you never know. What you’d hope to portray is good courting.

At the end of the episode Adam asks Rachel to run away with him. Can you tell me about shooting that scene? Is he falling in love with his own narrative he’s made up in his head?
Well, shooting that scene was a funny one because I think that was my final scene of the entire shoot. Also, we had to do a pickup from episode one that day. So as soon as we finished that scene, we quickly changed clothes and shot the scene when I first meet Rachel. So I have a scene where I’m telling Rachel I want to run away with her, and then the next scene I’m meeting this girl for the first time, which was quite bizarre.

Yeah, it’s the magic of TV. But, at this stage, he’s very confused. I think he’s falling for Rachel. There could be an element that he could be convincing himself that he’s running away with this romantic idea and flying away to another place and leaving all of his problems behind. I think he’s probably done that a fair few times in his life. He’s run away from his problems. This way it could all be sorted with one flight, and they could just run away together. So, he’s a mix of falling for her and falling for this whole romantic idea.

Are you signed on for the second season?
I’m not signed as of now. I think they have no idea where they are going to go with this. They have the opportunity to do a million different types of reality shows if they want to. They could go outside of the dating world if they wanted to. So, I’d say the chances are they’d probably do a new reality show, therefore, I probably wouldn’t be involved.

That’s kind of a bummer.
Yeah, it’s something that’s quite nice for actors to be able to go in for one season of a show and they can move on to other characters, but with this show it’s difficult because I’m so proud of it. It’s such a good show, so it’s sad to possibly say good-bye to it.

Is there any reality show you think would be good to take on?
The dating reality shows are probably the best for gossip and heartbreak and manipulation. I guess that can always be involved in other forms of reality shows. You could go into a female suitor instead of a male. You could do one of those survivor ones where they go on an island, and you can involve romance in that way as well. So who knows?

Are you a fan of reality TV?
I watched a couple seasons of Big Brother, like, years ago, in England, which I enjoyed. I watch Top Shot here as well. They get the best marksmen in the country, or at least they say so, and they have a shooting competition where they shoot different guns, rifles, sniper rifles, they throw axes, bow and arrows, everything. And then they vote each other off.

I don’t know what this is.
It exists. I didn’t know either, and then I kind of got roped into it, and then I actually started secretly enjoying it.

Did you watch The Bachelor at all?
No, I found that with Adam, because he’s so clueless with reality dating shows, I wanted to stay that way and not be too contrived with it. And then I figured my preparation had more to do with his lifestyle and upbringing. I watched this thing on children whose parents are billionaires, and how different their life is. Basically, they don’t follow rules and they can kind of do whatever they want, but they’re constantly searching for an identity, some kind of separation from their parents, and an independence of their own.

Adam’s character gets really dark at some points, especially when you have sex with the investor’s wife.
I was in my trailer, and we were shooting episode two at that stage, and I got the scripts, and out loud I went, “Whaaat? Are you kidding me?” Yeah, had to shoot that. I think Lifetime was very nervous about that scene, but as soon as we shot it and showed it to them, they really liked it. And I think it was really important that that scene was there because you see what all these girls are going through — sort of whoring themselves out — and then you get to see that Adam is doing essentially the same thing. And I think it shows the lengths to which he will go for this vineyard, which is the reason he is doing the show in the first place. That was the darkest scene, and I was very glad once it was over. I was fine during it and everyone was very professional, and it ended up not being too bad. It was over pretty quickly. That was definitely the one I was most nervous about.

This is a rare instance where you have two female showrunners on a TV show, and I was wondering if you feel like it’s different to have a female boss.
I don’t feel any difference, really. It’s funny because the feminism thing has come up a fair bit, and it never even occurred to me. It was only then that I realized how good and feminist a show it is. Because I don’t see the two main characters as women taking on the world. I see them as two characters. Whether they’re men or women doesn’t make a difference. That’s when it’s well written. Having two female showrunners is in the same vein. Whether they’re women or men doesn’t make a difference to me as long as they’re good.

What do you think UnREAL gets right about reality TV?
They do everything right, really. They pull back the curtain and they show the truth. I think it’s fun that the main characters aren’t necessarily the contestants. They are the people doing the manipulation.

Adam seems like a pathological narcissist. Would you agree?
Yeah, I’d agree. He can be nice with everyone, but at the end of the day, he comes first. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that when they might be around him because he seems to be involved and makes people feel like they have a connection, but he’s kind of every man for himself. That’s how he sees it.

Yeah, he should be on Survivor next.
[Laughs.] Yeah.

Talking to UnREAL’s Prince Charming