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Let's Get Real with UnREAL Star Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman

Let's Get Real with UnREAL Star Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman


"I was lucky enough in my first few jobs to be playing gay characters, but for so many years between, I felt I was just trying to put myself in a mold I just could not fit in."

As we head towards the second season finale of Lifetime's soapy drama, UnREAL, all eyes are not only on hunky straight bachelor, Darius (B. J. Britt), but also on Jay (Jeffrey Bowyer Chapman). The out reality show producer turned some recent drama around in his favor by becoming Darius's confidante and landing a new spot under power-hungry producer Quinn (Constance Zimmer).

"Jay stepping into his newly minted role as Quinn's #2 (aka 'the new Rachel') truly puts everything he's been working towards this season of Everlasting [UnREAL's fictionalized Bachelor] to the test," Bowyer-Chapman told Out. "How far is he willing to go as far as protecting Darius and pushing his own agenda, while simultaneously trying to appease Quinn and secure his new position of power?"

While Jay stood out for his snark and conscience, the sophomore season helped the actor get a clearer sense of who the character really is. "Aside from being a producer on a reality show, Jay has an inherent objective and goals and drive in his everyday motivations," Bowyer-Chapman explained. "In developing those with the relationship between Jay and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and between Jay and Madison (Genevieve Buechner) and Jay and Quinn, and Jay and his contestants, Jay really has a mission this season to make important, impactful, thoughtful television while protecting his contestants and himself along the way and trying to climb that corporate ladder. It gave me so much more to play with this year."


While Jay may have previously been more of a moral compass for Rachel, don't count him out when it comes to getting down and dirty in the remaining episodes of this season. "I think that's a really dangerous game for him to play and it's really challenging for him to get the job done as easily, and rapidly, as effectively as it is for his counterparts."

Bowyer-Chapman is grateful to UnREAL creators Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and Marti Noxon, who adjusted the character of Jay in the early days to fit more with who they saw in the actor, including his sexual orentation. "I was lucky enough in my first few jobs to be playing gay characters, but for so many years between, I felt I was just trying to put myself in a mold I just could not fit in, playing characters I wasn't that passionate about."

While Everlasting is all about finding love, that's one area that has been missing for Jay since the show began. But Bowyer-Chapman is fine with that. "I completely agree with their decision to not go with a love interest for the second season," he said. "However, in the third season, I think that it's of the utmost importance to explore that side of Jay's character. And not only to hit certain check-marks of making him a 3D human being, but also the importance of not desexualizing gay characters on television to make them more palatable for a mainstream or heterosexual audience. Incorporating that aspect into Jay's storyline is of the utmost importance to me because I think that's the only way people can look to him and say, 'Oh yeah, that's me, too.' We're multilayered and flawed and sexual and devious and thoughtful and compassionate, and all of those aspects have to be layered. That would portray Jay as a human being."

Season 2 of UnREAL also brought issues of race to the forefront by having an African American bachelor as its protagonist and openly debating #BlackLivesMatter and police violence. Bowyer-Chapman explained that even a soapy, often outlandish show like UnREAL can have serious elements. "I think that UnREAL presents real world topics and discussions that are very uncomfortable to have and just lays it all out there and doesn't seem to be right or wrong. We don't treat preach that what we are saying or how we are handling these issues or conversations is right. But they are discussions worth having. They are important discussions that need to be had regardless of how uncomfortable they may make people feel."

unreal-bj-britt-jeffrey-bowyer-chapman.jpgYou also know you've got a hit television show on your hands when you hear about a season renewal before the current one airs. UnREAL was promised a third season before Season 2 even premiered.

"It was a total surprise," Bowyer-Chapman remembered. "At that point, we hadn't even seen anything, any footage of second season, but it was just a really beautiful affirmation that the studio and the network believe in us, as a show and as a cast."

Watch UnREAL Monday nights at 10 PM EST on Lifetime.

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