WHEN Insatiable first came out last year on Netflix, it was an immediately hit but spawned a backlash about fat-shaming. But its stars remind its audience — as it enters its second season, premiering on Oct. 11 — that this is a cautionary tale, not a morality tale.
“[Insatiable] is a cautionary tale. This is not a morality tale, we’re not saying this is what you should do — this is what can happen if you do the wrong thing or if you follow your impulses,” Debby Ryan, who plays Patty Bladell in the series, told reporters on Oct. 8 at the Shangri-La at the Fort Hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
The premise of the show is simple: Patty Bladell is a high school student who has had to deal with bullying because of her weight. When an altercation leads to her jaw being wired shut and she has to go on a liquid diet, she loses weight drastically. Now that she’s considered conventionally pretty, a pageant coach and lawyer Bob Armstrong (played by Dallas Roberts) sees her potential as a beauty queen and she agrees, thinking that this is the way to get back at her bullies.
Then the show turns dark and bloody.
“People may think it’s a cute teeny-bopper show, but it’s not,” said Gloria Diaz, who guest-starred as a pageant coach and former Miss Universe Gloria Reyes, in the show.
Despite the backlash, the show was renewed for a second season and it starts off with the unfinished business that season one set up. It also addresses in its way the criticism leveled at the show.
“I’ve been working with someone who is so collaborative and so involved and [who] really cares about the nuances in the way that the story [is told]. So towards the backlash, she really does care about the intricacies of it and to be able to have those conversations with her every day on the set and ask why this person is doing this,” Ms. Ryan said noting that showrunner Lauren Gussis did listen.
“It was always less about how she looked and more about what every single woman and a lot of men experience in culture, which is this pressure to achieve this thing. or look this way. or fit in this mold… To me, it was always about making a story for a woman who has… found herself in dark places because of this unrealistic standard on all of us and this policing of women’s bodies,” Ms. Ryan said in defense of the show.
The second season — which this writer viewed before its premiere — does just that: it explores sensitive issues about recognizing when one has problems and seeking help, living as a mixed-race person, and trying to reconnect to one’s roots, among other issues.
But it’s still incredible messy, and funny, and self-aware.
Ms. Ryan noted that the beauty of working in the show is never knowing what comes next.
Like the role of Ms. Diaz, who first thought it was a prank when Netflix reached out to her to ask if she wanted to guest star in the show.
“I thought it was a joke at first, but then they followed up… and I said yes,” she said.
Her role is very much like her: Gloria Reyes was Miss Philippines and Miss Universe in 1969.
Although she is a guest star, her role is pivotal in the way Patty views her life after a short conversation with her.
“Queens take control,” Gloria Reyes tells Patty and that short sentence changes everything.
“I didn’t realize that but in the end, when I was thinking, it is true. Because when you win, you become the boss — they forget how difficult it was to get there and they forget everybody else… they forget the runners-up and the wannabes,” Ms. Diaz said.
When asked if her character — because of her line that changes Patty’s worldview — would usurp the role of Patty’s mentor from Bob Armstrong, Ms. Diaz said that Patty needs Bob to ground her even though Patty never listens to Bob.
“Bob is amazing. He is focused, he is flexible and goes back to where he started all the time,” she said.
Asked about the lengths Patty can go to in order to feel fulfilled, Ms. Ryan said that she believes “Patty has it in her to make things right.” It’s just that she never makes the right decisions.
“She feels that she wants to make things right. She has this need and this hunger. She thought it was food… then she thought it was pageants and winning… It’s never been enough,” Ms. Ryan said.
“If it hasn’t worked before, I don’t know what will fulfill her,” she added,
As the show goes from one stressful episode to the next — because it never does give one time to calm down from all the insanity from one scene to another — one wonders how it will all end. If Mr. Roberts has his way though, he said he’d love to end the series with “Bob and Patty walking while the world burns behind them.”
Insatiable Season 2 premieres on Netflix on Oct. 11. — Zsarlene B. Chua