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UnREAL’s Michael Rady on Playing Rachel’s Love Interest and the Stress of Going Shirtless

Michael Rady has worked on many TV shows over the last decade, including Jane the Virgin, House of Lies, and Grey’s Anatomy. But the 34-year-old actor says he went “full-on geek” on his first day of work at Lifetime’s UnREAL. “When I got to set and I got to meet all of the main players in the control room, it was so awfully awkward. I’m in the scene. The cameras are on me. Quinn is introduced. I’m like, oh my gosh there’s Quinn. (Gasp) She’s evil! Oh I love it! There’s Rachel! Chet! He’s so goofy and silly! Madison introduces herselfshe mumblesI’m sorry I can’t hear a word you say, and I love you! This is so surreal!” (Consider, this is from a man who has worked with Heather Locklear.)

Rady’s character, Coleman Wasserman, is introduced at the end of Monday night’s episode, when Rachel’s idea to tattle on Chet and Quinn backfires, and the network decides to bring in an outsider to settle things down. Vulture spoke with Rady about playing the mysterious man poised to rock the world of Everlasting, maybe sweep Rachel off her feet, and the unbelievable stress of having to go shirtless.

Were you a fan of UnREAL when you auditioned?
I had never even heard of the show. It was not on my radar at all. I got an audition. For some reason when you hear “Lifetime” you think, aw I don’t know. So went in, just had fun, no pressure, and did it.

What did you know about Coleman then?
I knew he was well-to-do, comes from the New York film school world, he’s a documentarian, probably had a lot of success, easy, charming, lovely guy.  So I did that in the audition, and it went really well. I bought some glasses for the audition. I was planning on returning them, but my wife threw out the receipt, so then I kept the $250 glasses. They wanted to see me again. They had changed the character description, to “maybe he wears glasses.’”Okay. They saw I wore glasses. I chose to think that they changed that because of me. They even added things about my wardrobe to the character that I wore to the audition. All right. Okay. I’m feeling good about this. So then I met with the producers and that went really, really well.

I went away to do a movie for two weeks. Then I heard they really wanted to see me back with [Shiri Appleby]. So I did a chemistry read with her. She was just great in the room. And they said, “Just have fun. Play. Go off the page and just riff off of each other.” We were just having fun together and sort of playing with the relationship there, and she was lovely and wonderful. It was great. But I still had no idea—I still had not yet seen the show.

Had you read a complete script?
No. So I’m outside of the audition looking for YouTube clips. And I’m just seeing montages of Adam and Rachel and he’s having sex with a woman in an office with other people watching and [I’m thinking] what is this show? What is this? My interest was piqued, for sure. Soon after my chemistry read with Shiri, I got the part. And then that night my wife and I sat down to watch it. I fell off the couch with excitement. I’ve never been such a huge fan of a show and then got to be on the show. I mean, I couldn’t sleep after some episodes. We’d wake up the next morning, can you believe what happened? And for me, the mark of great TV for us is we watch our TV when the kids go to bed. That’s when we have our window of TV watching. And it gets to midnight and you have to decide, do you want to ruin your day tomorrow? And our children’s lives? Or should we just go to bed? No, we gotta do one more. We decimated our family life for three days, and that’s thrilling to be on a show that does that, because this is my first time I feel like I really get that opportunity.

Coleman is a filmmaker. Why does he end up on Everlasting?
He’s a documentarian that’s won a bunch of awards for some of the most recent work he’s done overseas, pieces about sex trade and sex workers. His parents are very well-connected. His life has almost been presidential. There are warring factions creating distractions in terms of the immediate goal of producing the show Everlasting. So the network says let’s get this guy in here and he’ll get it back on track. He’s bringing that experience of exploring the truth to this world, of twisting the truth and plastering it over with lies. The producers told me early on that he’s going to take Quinn’s position, and she is going to hate him forever. And I was so thrilled hearing that. Who better to have hate you than Quinn? Some of my favorite things we’ve done have been face-off scenes with Quinn in that control room and in her office. (Laughs.) She’s so much fun.

You’re about to film the last episode of the season. Does Coleman turn out to be a villain?
I’m pretty confident that Coleman walks in a pretty grounded, well-rounded, good-hearted person, with the proper direction and good insight into people. And he gets pulled into orbit with them. Through the weeks and episodes people start saying, “Gosh. Coleman is a jerk. He’s a dick.” And at first I was like, No! Wait! Stop, no he’s not! But then I realized I actually love that they’re saying that. To me, that means there’s a pretty wide breadth of gray area in between those two opinions. And I think the more gray you can have in personalities and in people, it makes for more interesting television. Coleman gets pulled into this orbit of awfulness that is Everlasting.

Rachel didn’t look happy at the end of the episode.
Rachel and misery, that’s a cocktail that’s so deep and tough to really plumb the depths of. Coleman coming in as the showrunner definitely is stirring that cocktail for her. But she was an instigator for that, for sure. Coleman’s a very smart character, and he gauges very quickly that survival in this world requires alliances, and he sees very soon that Rachel is the smartest, best alliance to build. And they also have some kind of physical attraction with each other. They definitely team up, and it’s a pretty big win for her, though, right? It’s power.

Do you think he’s in over his head when it comes to the insanity at Everlasting or does it actually help him that he’s a level-headed documentarian?
His education and his upbringing and his background in the arts, and whatever else he may have studied, is a massive asset to him for fitting into this world because it’s not enough to be an artist. You really require emotional and moral fortitude and a vision, a moral compass. He is well-equipped to manage what he is confronted with in the world of Everlasting. He’s learning, too, right? He’s really an observer, and he’s one to recognize opportunities when they come. And he has Rachel, who has so much experience running Everlasting. With her in his corner, the show can really go on without skipping a beat.

Do you watch reality shows?
I’ve watched plenty of them, yeah. There were a few seasons of Idol we watched religiously. We’d have Idol nights and our friends would come over. So You Think You Can Dance, we also did that. Really, the more creative ones. I would never watch The Bachelor. I have watched it, but I would never—that just doesn’t do it for me.

Has working on this enlightened you at all about the reality show world?
It’s mesmerizing that this actually happens, that it becomes so huge, it makes so much money, because so many people love watching it, and it’s all fabricated and built on top of lies and  deception. It’s ripe for the picking in terms of shining a light on it and telling a story with this world. I can’t believe it hasn’t happened sooner.

It’s so easy to mock the genre. But this is so smart, such a different, unusual take on it.
It is a big feather in Lifetime’s cap. The first instinct is, hmm Lifetime, I think I know what I’m getting. Not with this show. Not at all. I think it could be on Showtime or Cinemax or HBO. It’s a massive, monumental shift for them as a network.

When I interviewed [Sarah Gertrude Shapiro], she told me the male actors are a lot more worried about how they look during sex scenes than the women this season. How do you feel about that?
Did she mention any names?

Yes! B.J. Britt and… you.
(Laughs) Alright, so B.J. and I were just talking about this after our table read. He’s been in the gym relentlessly because he has to have his shirt off all the time. He’s the suitor, that’s part of the job, you have to do it, and it’s exhausting, but that’s a big part of what you’re getting paid for. But the producers had told me for these last couple episodes, I won’t have to have my shirt off. Hallelujah! And then I just read a scene where someone comes into the room, and I’m getting changed, putting my shirt on. They don’t realize that those couple little letters written on a page change weeks for you. Weeks! Weeks goes into planning for that, and you might not even see a belly button. But I’m going to be really, really strict about diet, and have an exercise routine. What if they came in and I was tying my shoes? It would be a completely different story, but they wrote “in the middle of changing.” Ugh. I could talk about this for a while. Not that glamorous, is it?

UnREAL’s Michael Rady on Rachel, Going Shirtless