No matter how well composed they may appear to the world, adults are often times continuously struggling to find their true sense of self, even when society insists they should have already firmly established themselves. But that steady battle of trying to find their sense of identity is what ultimately helps people determine what kind of person they wish to be, and how they can achieve their goals. Actress Breeda Wool is powerfully contending with that domineering existential crisis in two of her latest projects, including Lifetime’s drama series, ‘UnREAL,’ and the romantic drama film, ‘AWOL.’
‘UnREAL,’ which is currently airing its second season, was recently renewed for another season. The Critics’ Choice Television Award-winning series follows reality television producer Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), who returns to work on the popular dating show, ‘Everlasting,’ after experiencing an emotional breakdown. While striving to rebuild her professional reputation, Rachel is pushed by her shameless boss, executive producer Quinn King (Constance Zimmer), to forgo her integrity. Quinn wants her employees to do whatever it takes to manipulate the contestants, and create scandalous situations that meet viewers’ expectations.
Wool’s character, the southern Christian girl next door, Faith, appears as a contestant on ‘Everlasting’ during ‘UnREAL’s first season. After a few episodes, Faith realizes, with Rachel’s help, that she’s actually a lesbian. After the conclusion of ‘UnREAL’s initial season, Lifetime created a web series, called ‘The Faith Diaries,’ due to the title character’s rising popularity. The 10-episode series focuses on Faith’s journey from Mississippi to Los Angeles, as she continues to embraces a life without fear, as she pursues the life she deserves.
‘AWOL’ follows Joey (Lola Kirke), an aimless young woman who’s searching for direction in her small town in rural Pennsylvania. A visit to an Army recruiting office appears to provide her a path. But when she meets and falls in love with Rayna (Wool), a rough and tumble housewife who’s neglected by her long-haul trucker husband, that path diverges in ways that neither woman anticipated. As Joey falls deeper in love, she begins to lose sight of what’s most important to her, while also becoming blind to the mistakes she is making.
Filmmaker Deb Shoval made her feature film writing and directing debuts on the independent romantic drama, which she co-scribed with Karolina Waclawiak. The feature is based on the filmmaker’s 2010 award-winning short film of the same name, in which Wool also portrayed Rayna. The full-length version of ‘AWOL’ had its world premiere at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival this past April. The movie is also screening at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival today at 4pm PDT at the Directors Guild of America (7920 W Sunset Blvd).
Wool generously took the time to discuss appearing in both ‘UnREAL’ and ‘AWOL’ during an exclusive interview over the phone several days after the feature film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play both Faith and Rayna, as she described them as dark and clever characters who are part of radical stories that are driven by important feminist themes. The performer also mentioned how she appreciates that she had formed such strong connections with her co-stars, as well as the executives, on both the acclaimed Lifetime drama series and Shoval’s gripping romantic drama film.
Wool began the conversation by describing why she was drawn to play the character of Faith in ‘UnREAL,’ and how she became involved in the first season of the hit Lifetime series. At the time she initially became linked to the comedy-drama, “I was shooting another show, ‘Betas,’ on Amazon. When I got an audition for this series, I received a link to (‘Unreal’ co-creator, writer and supervising producer) Sarah Shapiro’s short film, ‘Sequin Raze,'” which served as an inspiration for the series.
The actress revealed that as soon as she watched the short, she instantly knew that the television drama “was a project that I had to be a part of, as it’s so dark and clever.” Wool also liked the fact that the short was “feminist and radical, and it’s a voice I have never heard or seen before in television. I immediately became attached to this story. I also liked the feeling of being awkward, and wanting people to like you.” The performer also stated that she identified with the show’s theme of “trying new things, but also being afraid of being exposed.”
Wool’s character on ‘UnREAL’ quickly became a fan favorite with her unique and endearing nature, partially because she felt relatable to audiences, despite the atypical circumstances she goes through in order to uncover her true romantic feelings. While discussing why Faith felt so authentic to viewers, the actress noted that “I think each individual person has their own reason why they connected with Faith’s story.” She laughed as she added, “My mom called me and told me, ‘Breeda, I love you, but I really like Faith.'”
The actress added that the audience’s genuine appreciation of Faith “is a testament to Sarah and (her co-creator,) Marti Noxon, as well as the whole team of writers at ‘Unreal.’ It feels nice” to have that response, “because when you play make-believe as a profession, there’s also a world that is real, and I’m trying to honor it. So when people give me feedback, they’re really relating to the creation that I had made. It feels like we accomplished what we set out to do.”
Further speaking of the intriguing art that she helped create with her fellow actors and the crew, Wool then contributed some of the drama show’s success to the authentic relationships that have formed between the cast on and off screen. “There was a tremendous camaraderie amongst the cast. Constance Zimmer, Shiri Appleby, Josh Kelly, Freddie Stroma, Nathalie Kelley, Ashley Scott and everyone else would all hang out over the weekends. We would all go dancing, and Shiri would host lovely dinners at her house,” the actress revealed. “Constance is also an exceptional person who really takes care of other cast members. A lot of the other actors on the show are still my friends, and we still hang out.”
Fans can now see Faith in ‘The Faith Diaries,’ which chronicles her journey with her friend and potential love interest, Amy, in Los Angeles, after her journey in the initial season of ‘Unreal.’ Wool described the genesis of the spin-off show, and discussed Faith and Amy’s journey together throughout the 10 episodes. “It was a real gift to be able to go back to (Faith’s) story. Sarah Shapiro wrote and directed the spin-off, and when I first read it, I thought it was a story that needed to be immediately told. It’s about Faith’s relationship with love, and it’s beautifully told,” the performer revealed. “I think ‘The Faith Diaries’ is tender and beautiful. So I felt honored and proud that Sarah asked me to be on the show.”
Wool also added that she had a bittersweet feeling when the first season of ‘UnREAL’ wrapped. She pointed out that “There’s a new batch of contestants every year, so we had to leave Faith’s story” when the drama series’ initial year, and ‘The Faith Diaries’ 10 episodes, were completed. “You know it’s going to end, and that’s what makes it special. But you still don’t want it to end.”
The actress also noted that the drama was shooting its second season in Vancouver at the time of this interview. She added that if she had the opportunity to return to the ‘Unreal’ world, she would you be interested in reprising her role of Faith. She laughed as she revealed, “I’ll do whatever Sarah tells me to do. If she tells me to do something, I’ll say, ‘Yes, I’ll do whatever you want!’ I think she’s brilliant and part of a generation of women television makers who are pushing the envelope and creating ideas that no one has ever seen before,” Wool explained.
In addition to discussing her role on the hit Lifetime television series, Wool also spoke about why she was interested in playing Rayna in the romantic drama, ‘AWOL.’ She noted that she starred in Shoval’s “short in 2010, and then it went to Sundance in 2011. She was making the feature a year later, and it took a long time to finish. So I’ve been involved in ‘AWOL’ for almost seven years, and I’ve worked with Deb for even longer.”
“When you’re an actor, you’re only in charge of a certain point of the story. It’s then handed off to the editors and post-production house. There’s a lot that happens to the story once the actors are finished, so you’ll never really know what it will end up being,” Wool also explained about her experience being an actress.
“But once ‘AWOL’ started, I thought, this is a great movie! I also thought Lola Kirke did a fantastic job,” Wool added. She explained that the movie features “a very sensuous love story between Lola and I, so we’ve been asked a lot about how (our characters) fell in love. It’s an interesting question,” the performer admitted.
Wool then added that as an actor, she’s always dreaming up different possibilities. “You start to empathize with situations that aren’t similar to your own. When you look at somebody, there’s a whole possibility of who they can be to you. They can be anyone that you need, depending on how you see them,” she stated.
“I consider Lola to be real creative powerhouse of a storyteller,” the actress divulged. “So when our characters looked at each other, we made the choice that they would fall in love. It’s make-believe, but once you see that possibility in someone, you know that in some parallel universe that it’s real. Lola is a very fun person to play make believe with-she’s a real talent,” Wool added.
In addition to Kirke, Wool also expressed her admiration for the movie’s supporting cast, including Dale Soules, Britne Oldford and Ted Welch, as she felt they “were also awesome. We froze while we were filming in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. We worked hard, but it ultimately felt like an accomplishment.”
Wool also shared her praise for Shoval, as she pointed out that she’s a first-time feature filmmaker. “Deb has a real vision for what she wants as a director. That’s not to say that she isn’t collaborative, because she is. But she has a specific idea on how she wants things to be,” the performer explained. “As an actor, it’s very fun to collaborate with directors who have a strong vision. Deb is one of those types of directors. As a result, you feel as though you’re making something new and different.”
The actress added that the film’s producers, including “L.A. Teodosio and Jessica Caldwell, really hustled to get this film funded and made. It was a struggle and battle, as many independent movies that are made by women and about women are difficult to make. But we did it, and it was pretty awesome to be able to watch it at Tribeca.”
As the performer further discussed the experience of having the romantic drama premiere in New York, she admitted that having the film play at the Tribeca Film Festival “was pretty emotional. My whole family came up, and I watched the film with my mom. I really loved the movie. I also watched it the night before it premiered on my laptop,” Wool revealed.
Wool added that the feature became “an interesting marker in my life. I made it before I moved to Los Angeles and was cast in any big roles on television. A lot has happened since we started making this movie,” and the actress is happily looking forward to the next stage in her career.
For more updates on Wool, follow her on Twitter @breedawool.
Written by: Karen Benardello