ENTERTAINMENT

What's It Like To Come Out On Reality TV?

"UnREAL" explores one version of the narrative.

Faith didn't expect to come out on a dating competition, or maybe even at all.

Her eyes swell up with fear when "Everlasting" producer Rachel asks if she has feelings for her best friend Amy during her home date in Mississippi. Faith sees the statement as something far more potent than the reality TV admission Rachel hopes will make a juicy scene in the show's next episode. For Faith, even thinking about being gay is a confession to God himself.

"I love Amy," she finally says, a grin spreading across her face. She's overwhelmed with relief, momentarily removed from the possible impact of coming out again that night for the cameras.

It's a poignant moment in "Truth," Episode 5 of the premiere season of "UnREAL" -- a powerful reminder that, even as marriage equality is approved by the Supreme Court, and general acceptance skyrockets beyond bigotry's grasp, coming out can still be a daunting experience. The Huffington Post spoke to actor Breeda Wool about playing the character of Faith, her powerful scene in "Truth" and the importance of LGBT narratives on TV.

How did you get the part of Faith? What was the audition process like?

My audition scene was the scene in the pilot where the Shia says, "Okay, we want you to talk about being a virgin." So, the scene was that moment where I realized that I was going to have to admit I was a virgin on camera. [I realized] that everyone -- my family, my grandmother, my community -- would see this moment where I'm exposing my sexual past. 

I really identified with the role. The idea of having secrets and not being about to control your exposure was exciting. I knew there would be a lot I'd get to play with. 

What did you know about the character going in? Did you know Faith was gay? 

I had a lot of suspicions. I talked to [co-creator] Sarah Gertrude Shapiro after the audition. The character was originally quite masculine. That masculinity was transformed into a sort of awkwardness, but originally, I was in a male world, more comfortable with a masculine presence, than, you know, wearing heels and a sweeping gown. 

What was your experience of navigating Faith's coming out in "Truth"? How did you think about that scene in terms of its impact on audiences of "UnREAL"?

Well, I knew that my arc was something that a lot of people go through. So, I had a mission to identify with and express it as truthfully as I could. I knew that if I made myself into a caricature or played with any personal judgement of any kind that I would be doing a disservice to people all around the country. I felt from the start that I needed to tell that story poignantly and honestly. 

Reality TV can be exploitative and "UnREAL" has been quite condemning of that, but for Faith, at least on a personal level, it seems the experience has been largely positive.

Yeah, I'm the one character that really gets a lot out of being on the show. Well, so far! We have to watch some more episodes. But I have this wonderful opportunity where I get to be exposed freely and it opens up this whole new door. I mean, in the story God can see my thoughts. I've lived an entire life where even my thoughts of love toward Amy are unholy. So, just an admittance and acceptance that God could still love me is a massive theological revelation. 

There's a cynical undercurrent to the question of her publicly coming out, though. We experience Faith's relief, but it's still unclear if she will ever be able to tell her community.

There is really a question of whether I will go back to my community. You know, will they accept me? Can I teach about acceptance and understanding? There's so much in the Bible that you could choose to follow dogmatically. The issue of homosexuality is actually chosen by Faith's community. It's not actually decided by the Bible; it's an interpretation of the Bible. There's so much other stuff that communities choose to neglect or leave out while highlighting what's best. When I was shooting it felt like the hopes and dreams of her future versus the reality of the situation coming to a crossroads. It was really tragic. 

Now that the episode has aired, what kind of reactions have you been getting? 

I've been getting a lot of really positive feedback! I think as an actor, the best you can do is get people to believe. The best feedback you can get is that people relate to the story that you made. I worked really hard and I feel like people identify with Faith's story, whether they have that particular personal experience in their life or not.

An even greater goal for me is to have people be able to identify with that story when it's not their story at all. You know, it's important for people who might have opinions about [being gay] or parameters about love just watching somebody coming from a place where they came come out, where their culture won't accept them. To have people identify with that from all walks of life is something that I was going for. As an actor, it's a great accomplishment. 

It's important to have nuanced gay characters on TV. How do you think Faith's fits into the rise of LGBT representation?

I completely agree. I feel like the biggest story is somebody making decisions in their life, deciding what is best for them and what is truthful to them as opposed to what their parents or their church or their culture is telling them they should do. I think that's a universal story. What Faith feels she should do is not necessarily authentic, true and real to who she is as person. She learns to accept that and that's a story I really wanted to help tell.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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