UnReal executive producer Stacy Rukeyser has been named the new showrunner of the praised Lifetime drama series, which has opened the writers room in Los Angeles for the upcoming third season. Production on Season 3 is set to in February ibegin n Vancouver for a summer 2017 debut.
Rukeyser takes over from Carol Barbee who would not be returning for Season 3. Barbee joined at the beginning of the second season as an executive producer to work alongside co-creator/executive producer/showrunner Marti Noxon. But after co-writing the Season 2 premiere with fellow co-creator/executive producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Noxon scaled back her role on the show because of a slew of other commitments, with Barbee taking the lead on a day-to-day basis.
This marks the first showrunner gig for Rukeyser, who has been No. 2 on several series, including on UnReal, where she was brought in by Noxon at the very beginning as a co-executive producer and upped to executive producer in Season 2.
“Stacy has been an invaluable member of the UnReal creative team since its inception,” said Barry Jossen, EVP of A+E Studios, which produces the series.
Created by Noxon and Shapiro, UnReal was an instant critical darling when it debuted in 2015, quickly establishing a modest but devoted fan base. The show’s praised freshman season recently earned two Emmy nominations: Best Dramatic Writing for Noxon and Shapiro’s pilot script, and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for star Constance Zimmer. The series also received a Peabody Award.
While the first season of the series, set behind the scenes of a dating reality show, was well received, reaction to the second season has been mixed.
“In Season 2 we took some very big swings, and I am proud of that,” Rukeyser told Deadline.
At the end of the season, the UnReal team did a comprehensive creative debrief before starting to plot Season 3. “On the show, the pendulum swings between OMG moments and deeper character moments,” Rukeyser said. “Maybe the pendulum swung too far in the plot direction (in Season 2). So much happened in terms of story and reveals, we have to take time to explore what that means for the characters, the psychological impact and the truth about what happened to them.”
Rukeyser has been a TV writer for 14 years. She came out of the Warner Bros writers workshop, landing her first job as a writer on the studio’s CBS drama Without A Trace. She went on to work on such series as October Road, Greek, Gigantic (on which she first worked with Noxon), The Lying Game and Twisted before Noxon recruited her for UnReal.
While she admits she is not a big fan of reality television, Rukeyser was immediately hooked when she read the pilot script. “It was so exciting to write for two complicated, damaged women full of contradiction and ambition and still have an entertaining show with twists and turns and OMG moments.”
Set against the backdrop of the hit dating competition show Everlasting, UnReal is led by flawed heroine Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), a young producer whose sole job is to manipulate her relationships with, and among, the contestants to get the vital dramatic and outrageous footage that the program’s dispassionate executive producer, Quinn King (Zimmer), demands.
Noxon, Shapiro and Rukeyser executive produce alongside Sally DeSipio, Robert M. Sertner and Peter O’Fallon. UnReal, inspired by Shapiro’s 2013 SXSW award-winning independent short film Sequin Raze, is the first scripted series fully produced and distributed by A+E Studios.