Bettina Strauss/Lifetime
Shirley Li
June 07, 2016 AT 03:14 PM EDT

WARNING: Spoilers for season 2 of UnREAL ahead. Read at your own risk!

So… Chet looks different. In the second season premiere of UnREAL, Craig Bierko’s loud-mouthed, egotistical, and ousted Everlasting boss returns a changed man ready to take over the dating competition show after spending time in Patagonia on a “Paleolithic lifestyle retreat.” The story behind Chet’s transformation, however, has less to do with tribal sojourns into the wild and more to do with Bierko’s own physical transformation between the seasons. 

Between takes on the drama’s second-season Vancouver set, the actor tells EW he began toying with a new look for Chet while watching himself on screen in season 1, but costar Shiri Appleby, who plays Everlasting showrunner Rachel, helped encourage him into committing to the idea. In fact, Appleby can be just as direct as her fictional counterpart. “Shiri’s such a straight shooter, and I’ve known her for a long time and I love her because she has no problem telling you exactly what she thinks if she trusts you,” Bierko explains, laughing. “I sat down next to her one day, and I looked at myself in the monitor, and I go, ‘I could lose some weight.’ She goes, ‘Yeah.’ I go, ‘I think I want to lose 15 pounds.’ And she goes, ‘Fifty. Five-oh!'”

Appleby was blunt, but the comment worked: Bierko went on to lose 50 pounds after wrapping season 1. (“I think everybody else just got really fat, that’s all,” he jokes.) He broke the news to UnREAL co-creator and EP Sarah Shapiro before slimming down, afraid Chet might have to have a lower profile on the show now that he’s in shape — something Shapiro and EP Marti Noxon told Bierko not to do before filming the first season. “I called Sarah and I said, ‘I’m doing this, just a heads up,’ and she said, ‘No, that’s great, we’ll make it work,'” Bierko says. “It dovetails beautifully into what she wanted to explore, which was masculinity and masculine nature.” 

“We had to figure out how to work it in,” Shapiro recalls. “When I thought about it, I thought, Chet is a guy who got completely disempowered at the end of last season. How does a man like that go about getting his power back?” By returning physically changed, it turns out, and by trying to grab the reins back from Quinn (Constance Zimmer).

Still, Bierko teases, Chet’s not an all-out villain just because he wholeheartedly believes in the men’s rights movement, spouts creeds on masculine superiority, and undeservedly wants his job back. After all, he harbors a soft spot for Quinn. “Really, he’s a dope for Quinn, he loves her,” Bierko says. “He’s made a lot of mistakes. He’s never been vulnerable before, and it’s not good to be vulnerable around people who want something, who you’ve been using for so long. I think he realizes that.” 

UnREAL airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

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