One of the most attention-grabbing shows on TV is UnReal, the story about producing a dating competition program. At the center of the chaos and drama is Jeremy, played by Josh Kelly, and we caught up with the actor to talk about what he brings to the role, what he’s learned over the first two seasons and how his view of reality TV has changed.
How has this season of UnReal challenged you as an actor?
Greatly. My character is very depressed for most of the season so it was a fun challenge. I like doing physicality changes; I like when actors get the chance to do that. I gained 40 pounds and grew an ugly beard and got to really go for it. Then, having the scene this season where Rachel and I get physical with each other was a challenge. Having to truthfully and honestly play something where you’re hurting one of your friends is difficult but I think it turned out well in the show.
What have you learned about yourself?
It was interesting to revisit what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. I was with a women who was pretty physically violent with me and it’s challenging to be in that sort of relationship. When people keep themselves in that sort of cycle, it’s not good. It reminded me how good it is to be out of that.
Has being a part of this show that is part parody, part undercover look, part soap changed the way you view “reality TV?”
For sure. I find them more enjoyable now actually. Before, I felt like they were fake and I didn’t feel comfortable watching them. It was totally staged and ridiculous. I would think about those shows from the production side and how they’d have to get permits to shoot in all these places and how fake it all was. Now that this show has sort of exposed the truth behind that, I’m more comfortable watching them as entertainment rather than watching them trying to believe the lie. I think everyone gets what reality TV is now.
And people are getting what UnReal is too. The audience keeps expanding.
It’s really cool. When we had Ioan Gruffudd on the show, I nerded out because I love comics and “Mr. Fantastic” was on our set. He was also in “Black Hawk Down” which was about the military unit I was in. We didn’t have any scenes together but I went over to meet him and he nerded out when he met me! He loves the show too. It was really cool.
You bring a lot to the table. You grew up internationally, you did four tours as an Army Ranger. What compels you to take on the screen?
I had always planned on it. I always wanted to be an actor and my parents told me I couldn’t do it until after high school. At the same time, I wanted to be in the military and I knew that if I went to theatre school first, I would never go to the military, so I did that first. In the military, I really appreciated the value of movies and entertainment. It allows soldiers to escape and that’s important. What we do, creating good escapism, is valuable and important. It reaffirmed my belief that I wanted to be a performer, to tell good stories, and to make people happy through entertainment.
What’s coming up next for you?
We’ll see. I’m hoping Spielberg watches UnReal. I’m looking forward to Season Three and I’m really excited.
Interview by Ryan Brinson
Photos by Joseph Briscoe