Exclusive Interview with UnREAL’s Sunita Prasad

Photographer: Ryan Orange Hair: J. Michael Make-up: Anton Khachaturian Styling: Lo VonRumpf
Photographer: Ryan Orange
Hair: J. Michael
Make-up: Anton Khachaturian
Styling: Lo VonRumpf

Season 2 of UnREAL will tackle racial stereotypes and prejudices head on and according to Sunita Prasad “they’re not afraid to go there.” Not only will the show introduce its first Black suitor, something The Bachelor has never done, it will also focus a discriminating lens on its contestants.

Sunita plays a conservative Muslim who must fight her producers’ narrow preconceptions, while breaking out of her own timid shell in order to catch the bachelor’s eye. Here Sunita talks about her role with Talk Nerdy and what viewers can expect from our favorite fictional reality show.

We know you play London, a conservative contestant on “Everlasting.” What else can you tell us about your character?

She’s conservative. Her background is that she’s a Muslim. It’s kind of why the producers brought her on. They want to work that angle. She’s an engineer, she’s a smart woman and she’s also very strong-willed. She doesn’t really let the producers bully her right up front. They try to put some stereotypes on her that definitely don’t fit with who she is. She’s someone who is very aware of the struggle that Muslim women continue to go through, fighting for just basic freedoms in life–and some of these basic freedoms that she, being in America enjoys, so she doesn’t want to let the producers kind of put that stereotype on her and portray her in a light that’s not who she is. You’ll see that she’s not afraid to speak up and stand up against the producers there.

So they are trying to fabricate a character for her and she’s like, “No way, I’m not having anything to do with that.” Is that right?

Exactly. Totally. That’s exactly what it is. It’s taking the religious aspect of who she is and trying to make it more into that than who she actually is. She doesn’t follow exactly, to a T, what you’d think of when you think of a Muslim stereotype. And that’s what they want to portray. They want to get drama out of that and she’s just not down for it.

Who does your character bump heads with most on the show?

(laughs) Each producer has their contestant that they’re matched up with. The one producing me this season is Madison. She’s my producer. But you know it all trickles down. You know Quinn and Rachel are kinda running the show, so it all kinda trickles down from there. They’re calling the shots, they’re in her ear. I think it’s all of them together working to produce what they want to see for the ratings for the show.

Did you watch season 1 of UnREAl prior to your audition?

I hadn’t seen the show prior to the audition. Once I got it I binge watched it and I loved it. I watched the first episode and immediately I was like, “Okay, l gotta keep watching this.” (laughs). It was, honestly, a great show. I got through it in no time and told all my friends. And some of my friends were like, “Oh my God, I love that show!” How have I not seen it before? Where was I? I definitely watched it all before I got on to the show. I think it’s an amazingly written show.

How did you come to get the part of London?

Actually, funnily enough, I almost missed the first audition for it. I had three auditions that day and I was at a call-back at something in the morning and this audition for London was at the total other end of town. I didn’t think I was going to make it and time was running out, so I actually left the other audition, didn’t do that one, just so I could make the audition for London. It was such a great role and I didn’t want to pass that up, miss the opportunity. So I had that audition and then I got the call-back and went and met with…Peter was at the call-back, the director and some of the producers…yeah…took it from there…found out I got the job…screamed…did a little happy dance. (laughs).

You have to be happy when you make a spontaneous choice like that and it pays off in the end.   

I felt vindicated. I made the right decision. I knew that I wanted this part anyways. I’ve actually never done that. I’ve never left another audition without going through with the audition. I felt bad that I did miss the other one, but I really wanted this one. It was definitely a good feeling to know I made the right call on that.

What is it that excites you the most about playing London and what do you most want viewers to see about your character?

You’re gonna see…because she is conservative…one of the reasons she does come on the show is that she does want to explore her wilder side. She’s never done that. It’s really fun to play a character where you kinda get to play around with both sides of her. She’s conservative when she comes on, but because of the circumstances around the show, she’s with all these other girls who are more outgoing and wilder than she is. She’s gotta break out of her shell more to catch Darius’ eye. It’s a lot of fun to play that and see her come out of her shell. It’ll be fun for the audience to see London get a little of her norm for once.    

Is London a large step away from who you are?

Um…yes and no…because I definitely see similarities between us. I have some aspects of me that I would definitely say are conservative in some ways. I’m not going to be the loudest person in the room. She takes issue with some of the outfits they have to wear, but they wear some pretty revealing outfits. I’m not that girl. You aren’t going to see anything too crazy or revealing in my wardrobe. On the other hand, I feel like I’m a lot more adventurous than she is. I can see similarities and differences between us for sure, but like I said, you get to play both sides of her. You get to play more conservative and then I kinda get to cut loose with her. The best of both worlds.

What will the biggest surprise or difference be for viewers between the first season and this one?

I can’t give away any spoilers. (laughs). The big thing this season is that they’ve got the first black suitor, so that’s a huge deal. They deal a lot with that, with the race issue. They’re not afraid to go there. And you’ll get to see a lot of power struggles going on behind the scenes. The producers…not everyone is in their places where they were in the first season. They’ve grown and evolved and there’s a bit of a power shift going on.   

I understand you’re also a writer and you’re developing your own comedy. How’s that going?

I would love to write for comedy for television. It’s something I was always kind of interested in…well, I shouldn’t say always, it’s evolved through acting, from reading scripts and just being involved in that and wanting to create my own thing. I haven’t written in a while, but there definitely are a lot of ideas swirling around.  I hope to get back into it soon. I do have one comedy idea on the go for a pilot, and of course the best place to start is right from your own life. It’s kind of loosely based on a bit of an aspect of that. Yeah, I’m excited to get back to writing on that.  

Were you inspired by comedies from when you were growing up?

Oh yeah, I watched a ton of comedies growing up.

What were some of your favorites?

From very young…my mom would watch The Carol Burnett Show. That was hilarious to me. The Carol Burnett Show was a blast. I loved Golden Girls. Newer shows, well not newer, but newer than that, things like Frasier, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, can’t get enough reruns of that. And nowadays shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I think that’s an amazing comedy. And even shows like Orange is the New Black, which you’re not sure what category to put it in sometimes, but I think it’s hilarious. I really like that show. Oh! And VEEP. VEEP is probably my favorite comedy right now.  

Lastly, what do you nerd out about?

What I nerd out about? I nerd out about sports. I’m a huge sports fan. Basketball, soccer, football. I just went to go watch a women’s soccer game in Portland about a month ago. I took the train, it sounded like a great idea at the time, it’s an 8 hour train ride from Vancouver to Portland, so 16 hours on the train, but it was a great game, I had a good time. I’ll go to the states to watch college football games. I’m more into college football than the NFL. 


Catch Sunita on season 2 of Lifetime’s UnREAL. The cast will be live tweeting tonight’s premiere.

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