Constance Zimmer doesn’t hate the word “bitch.” The “UnREAL” star, who plays one of TV’s most notable lady badasses, recently told IndieWire that being called a bitch is no longer a real insult: “There are so many incredibly well written, strong females on television in particular right now that are role models. If somebody’s gonna be called a bitch, it’s actually not a bad thing anymore,” she said.
When IndieWire spoke with Zimmer just prior to the premiere of “UnREAL” Season 2, the actress also shared an expression she loved in an interview with “Marvel’s Jessica Jones’s” Krysten Ritter: “A friend of [Ritter’s] told her that ‘bitch’ stands for ‘Being In Total Control of Herself.’ I was like, ‘That’s great.'”
Zimmer doesn’t feel that, in real life, she’s all that similar to the hard-as-nails Quinn, whose take-no-prisoners approach to producing the reality dating show “Everlasting” has people throwing around the “b-word” a lot. Here’s her take on Season 2 of the critically acclaimed Lifetime series.
Is it fun playing Quinn?
Oh, it’s so fun. I get to do shit that I could never [do]… I mean, I would love to see anybody get away with what I can get away with doing on the show, as this character.
That’s something I sense as a viewer while I’m watching it, that you’re having fun in this moment. Does the fun comes from the fact that you could never get away with this in real life?
It feels like it comes from quite a few things. It’s fun playing such a confident, unfiltered, strong woman who really does not give a crap about anybody else. I mean, she cares about Rachel obviously, but in the sense of her day-to-day life and how she’s got a job to do and she’s gonna do it. And truthfully that’s her goal, and she really doesn’t care about anybody else. And that’s the fun part of it, not caring what anybody else thinks about her. Who doesn’t care about what people think about them every day in their life? She’s just created such a shell that she pretends like she doesn’t care. And I think when we get to her vulnerability, we realize deep down she does care — she’s really just built up a wall that is getting thicker and thicker and taller and taller.
In terms of the season, is the energy on set different from Season 1?
It is. There’s a lot of different energy. The struggles are much, much bigger and we’re going much, much darker this season than we did in the first season. Because we were accepted so well, the reviews were so fantastic and people got it — they got the show, they got the heart of it. Besides it just being behind the scenes of a reality show, they saw that it was really about love and about relationships and what we all do and the lies we tell ourselves. And so that has been really fun to play.
We also, on a personal level outside of the characters, now feel like we have something to live up to. We were so pleasantly surprised by all the critics being so nice to us and gracious that now we feel like “Come on!” We’ve got to do it again, but maybe we can do it even better and even bigger.
Do you feel more confident this year than you did last year?
Actually, less confident. The first season… we knew what we wanted to accomplish, but we didn’t know if we were going to be able to do it. So we were all here in Vancouver, and just going through the motions, and creating a show, and committing to it, and believing in it, and trusting in it… And when it came out and it was received so well, it was like “Oh my gosh, this is everything we’d hoped for.”
And so now you come into this season with a different kind of anxiety — an anxiety of “can we match it, if not make it better?” You have a lot of other things to think about instead of just breaking ground when you are the first show, the first season. Now you have to continue to break ground.
And you’re dealing with all of this while you’re also playing a character who is extraordinarily confident, in many respects.
[laughs] Yeah, exactly. it’s a very funny, funny kind of dichotomy of “I am so not Quinn.” I was explaining this to Josh Kelly, who plays Jeremy, because we just finished this super intense scene between the two characters. I said, “You know, I’m so sorry, but I can’t really rehearse this scene with you, because as Constance, I can’t get into that headspace until they say action and it’s Quinn.” Because Quinn is so out-of-body for me sometimes that I really have to disconnect from Constance.
How do you find that moment, beyond just waiting for the word action? Because that feels like something that doesn’t just happen immediately.
You know, it’s different every time. It depends on the scene, obviously, if I have a ramp up or if I don’t have a ramp up. But it weirdly mostly happens when you say “action.” It’s a weird actor thing, and I always feel so silly talking about it, but it’s something that I’ve noticed the most in playing Quinn. She is so the opposite of me that I have to completely disengage from everything that Constance would do. Like any of my instincts, any of my insecurities, they have to go away. But I also think it’s what gives Quinn her heart and soul, because at the bottom of it, it’s me playing the character. So that’s where I think being Constance and being the opposite of Quinn kind of still makes her still have that heart under there, somewhere underneath, no matter what.
You talk about the wall getting bigger and bigger — is that an aspect of danger for the character, that she might end up being completely closed off?
Yes and no. Because obviously we still have a story to tell and I think that no matter what, this type of character exists in the world. There are people that have closed themselves off so much because they’ve been hurt so much in their lives. And lo and behold, there could be somebody they meet on the street, or somebody they’ve worked with their whole lives who all of a sudden opens them up to a world they never thought was possible, even though they had built up this big wall. That’s why I think life is so incredible, right? Anything is possible. You can be one way one day, and then you can have one experience that could be tiny-itty-bitty or big and it can shift your whole focus and your whole life. So, I think that no matter how many walls she built, there’s always a way to break them down.
In Season 1, there are so many really rich, emotional, vulnerable moments for Quinn. But that being said, whenever I think about the character, I feel like her defining moment is when she gets called a hateful, conniving bitch and she says “thank you.”
Right! [laughs] Exactly. She is really good at her job, if you look past the means that she uses to get there. She’s just really good at her job. You know, it’s funny — I don’t know if she would necessarily call herself a bitch. I think when she uses the word bitch, I think she uses it for the contestants. Because bitch seems so petty — you know, it doesn’t seem grounded in strength, so I think her saying thank you to that is the conniving part of it.
Like tricking him into thinking it doesn’t bother her.
“UnREAL” Season 2 airs Mondays at 10pm on Lifetime.
[Editor’s Note: Indiewire’s Consider This campaign is an ongoing series meant to raise awareness for Emmy contenders our editorial staff and readership find compelling, fascinating and deserving. Running throughout awards season, Consider This contenders may be underdogs, frontrunners or somewhere in between. More importantly, they’re making damn good television we all should be watching, whether they’re nominated or not.]