UnReal’s Constance Zimmer

We all have a number of different opinions about the dating/reality show phenomenon; let’s face it, it’s a love-hate relationship. Some of us are hooked, some of us are having angry philosophical debates about it at the dinner table, and some of us just put it on as background noise and deny knowing anything about Bravo’s airing schedule.

The point is, when a show called UnReal (about the behind the scenes of a fictional reality show resembling The Bachelor) recently debuted on Lifetime, we couldn’t help but be curious. A favorite actress of ours, Constance Zimmer, plays the boss to the fake-reality-show’s producer, aka the puppeteer attempting to manipulate contestants to make the show as salacious as possible. We chatted with Zimmer about all things reality TV and why dating shows are actually more about survival of the fittest than finding Mr. Right…

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From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day? 

Breakfast can either be a bowl of my husband’s homemade granola with yogurt and fresh fruit, or my guilty pleasure, Nutella on toast with a good cup of coffee. I usually have a smoothie for lunch, and in the afternoon I’m a sucker for an iced coffee and something sweet. For dinner, anything Italian. I’m a big pasta lover and my husband makes an amazing penne with sausage and sweet peppers that is to die for.

How do you practice beauty from the inside out?

I’m a big believer in vegetable juice. It’s so hard to get the right amount of fruits and veggies every day, so for me, a pressed juice keeps me on track. I drink plenty of water and Coconut water, because staying hydrated is good for your skin. I’m also finding that a positive attitude plays a big role in how I look and feel. Working out is super important, I just haven’t found the perfect match for me, but I do a lot of walking.

What are your morning and nightly beauty routines?

In the morning I splash my face with cold water, followed by a Renee Rouleau Vitamin C & E treatment, then a facial mist (Breath of Fresh Air from LUSH or Tatcha Luminous), which I tend to repeat throughout the day. At night I use Beautycounter Countertime Cleanser, Renee Rouleau Elderberry Toner and BHA Clarifying Serum, followed by a nighttime lotion.

Do you watch The Bachelor? How does that show affect what you do in UnReal

I watched a few reality shows when we first started because I couldn’t believe some of the situations I was seeing in the scripts. The behind-the-scenes aspect of our show made me realize that a lot of what I was watching was probably due to manipulation and creative editing. But despite having seen behind the curtain, so to speak, I was still fascinated by the evolution of the contestants—how they became the stereotypes.

Shiri [Appleby] and I went on Project Runway recently as guest judges and that was surreal, actually being on a reality show. We were making mental notes for our next season the whole time!

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Did Sarah Gertrude Shapiro tell you any crazy stories in particular that inspired your character? 

As an actor I’m more informed by the story we’re trying to tell than outside influences. So no, it wasn’t so much a story Sarah told me, it was the way she wrote the character. There were clearly two sides to Quinn on the page, so my job was to make decisions that brought those two sides to life. Quinn is such a combination of many people I’ve met in my life, not all of whom were in the business, but who represented strength, struggle and a search for balance in life.

What’s been your biggest surprise about reality TV in playing this “non-reality” role? 

The labeling! I don’t know if it’s true to form, but Quinn immediately labels each contestant with a stereotype, then has to manipulate and edit the girls into what she needs them to be to make a good show.

Do you have an all-time favorite scene with Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold) in Entourage? What was it? 

This might sound crazy, but I always loved the scenes when we were yelling at each other. Going head-to-head with Jeremy was so much fun. Being able to curse as much as he was and keep a straight face felt like a huge accomplishment. Honestly, working with Jeremy as much as I did made every scene my favorite.

Do you find the dating-show process cruel at all? 

Absolutely. The contestants say they know what they’ve signed up for, but you can’t really know until you’re in that world. And then it’s too late! It’s more survival of the fittest than finding Mr Right.

Your go-to red carpet designers…

I like to mix it up, but some of my favorite designers lately are Elizabeth and James, Parker, Haney, Leanne Marshall and Ruffian.

Where do you love to travel? What won’t you travel without?

I love Europe, especially Italy—the food, the culture, the history. I don’t travel without facial sprays. I use them on the plane, during a long day of walking around town and before I go to sleep at night. Usana Melatonin is another must to help with jet lag.

What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?  

New York. I definitely have places I have to go when I’m there. Freemans (the signature cocktail is amazing), Morandi, Il Buco and Pastis (it’s closed now, so I’m really missing the steak frites!).

I love Vancouver. I spent four months there for UnREAL and the food scene is so good. Greenhorn Cafe, Matchstick Coffee (toast with walnut butter!), Vij’s for Indian food, Legendary Noodle House, Nook (best pizza and local vibe) and Finch’s (get the pear, blue cheese and prosciutto sandwich).

Best advice you’ve ever received…

An acting teacher once told me, “You are enough. If you believe in yourself, everyone else will, too.”

Advice you’d give your younger self…

1. Don’t search for acceptance in other people.

2. You’re not going to remember that boy’s name in a few years.

Advice you’d give women getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror and getting dressed…

Embrace your uniqueness. Don’t fight it.

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*Constance Zimmer, photographed at Freemans in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann. Constance wears a Helena Quinn skirt, L’Agence top, AGL shoes and Broken English earrings