Kim Matula dislikes reality television, purely on general principle.
But man, oh, man, she’s wild about the UnREAL version of the genre.
The Fort Worth native is one of the stars of UnREAL, an addictive second-year drama series that chronicles the jaw-dropping behind-the-scenes antics of a fictional Bachelor-style dating show.
“As an actor, I’m not incredibly pleased with the popularity of reality shows,” says Matula, who’s most widely known for her five-year run as Hope Logan on The Bold and the Beautiful. “As an actor, I want there to be lots of scripted shows — and I want them to be really well-written scripted shows.”
She certainly found that when she joined the cast of UnREAL, which airs at 9 p.m. Monday on Lifetime. It’s one of the buzz shows of summer.
Matula plays Tiffany James, one of the gaggle of women competing on “Everlasting,” the make-believe dating show. They’re vying for a shot at happily-ever-after romance with “suitor” Darius Beck, played by B.J. Britt.
“Everlasting,” we the viewers are told, is one of the most popular shows on television. Thanks to the manipulative work of its amoral producers, every episode is bubbling over with outrageous behavior.
But the real fireworks happen behind the camera. Everyone on the show — starting with the football star suitor who’s doing this only to restore his tarnished public image — seems to have some crass agenda. The producers, meanwhile, are embroiled in a dirty-tricks power struggle to control the show.
A “real” reality show might not actually be like what we see in UnREAL. But it’s fun to imagine that life on, say, The Bachelor or Survivor or The Voice could be this chaotic and toxic.
“We definitely have an exaggerated take on reality TV show,” Matula says. “But from what I’ve heard, it’s not too terribly far off the mark.”
Matula — born in Fort Worth, raised in Bedford since age 8 and a 2006 graduate of Euless Trinity High School — was a fan of UnREAL before she became a cast member.
“When I got the audition notice for this show, I watched the first episode and got hooked,” she says. “I just loved it so much that I went and downloaded the entire first season before auditioning.
“So I was really hoping to book it. And it was a really quick process. I did the audition in L.A. and they sent my tape over to everyone in Vancouver, where the show is filmed, and that was it. Done deal.”
Tiffany — doesn’t every dating show have a Tiffany? — is the daughter of an NFL team owner. She’s doing the show to step out of her father’s shadow. Maybe also she hopes to annoy him.
The producers who are pulling the strings — Quinn (played by Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) — have taken a special interest in Tiffany because they consider her to be essential to the season’s fairytale ending.
She’s the one Quinn and Rachel think of as audience-pleasing “wifey” material. That’s why they were mortified in the first episode when she wandered off to the bathroom to hook up with another guy.
“That was her moment of personal rebellion,” Matula says. “And Tiffany definitely has a lot more big moments coming up.”
Throughout the three-and-a-half months of filming, Matula had no idea how the story would end until everyone got their scripts for the final episode.
“It was fun being just as surprised as the audience will be watching it,” she says.
In fact, the actress became so invested in her character that she started rooting for Tiffany to win and took it personally whenever any of Tiffany’s rivals appeared to pull ahead.
“I think that any time you play a character, you get so bonded with the character that that’s bound to happen,” she says. “Yes, it’s completely fictitious and, yes, I was always aware of that.
“But there’s also still a part of you that’s like, ‘Oh, I really want Tiffany to win!’”
Matula was just a kid growing up in Bedford when she caught the acting bug.
“I was 11 or 12,” she says. “Acting was something I had never really thought about. But my best friend at the time had a video camera. One day she said, ‘Hey, wanna make a movie?’ ”
So they did it. They wrote a script, filmed it themselves, acting all the parts — and they enjoyed themselves so much that, for several years to come, they kept making little movies.
“These were really dumb movies,” Matula notes. “Like ‘Titanic: The Christmas Musical.’ I’m not kidding! We wrote our own songs, all to the tunes of Christmas songs. Really silly stuff.”
But from that titanic filmmaking disaster, a now-thriving show-business career was born.
“It became something I got so attached to and loved so much,” Matula says. “I was like, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’ ”
- 9 p.m. Monday