On the last episode of The Rehearsal, the aromatherapy-loving Christian massage therapist Angela departed the show. Some fans are debating whether or not she’s been acting this whole time. As it turns out, she is in fact an actress—but as fits the show, it doesn’t seem like that changes a thing.
The Rehearsal is a bizarre and fascinating HBO show from Nathan Fielder, who previously created the similarly bizarre Nathan for You for Comedy Central. In it, Fielder helps people rehearse for future, particularly stressful events in their lives, hiring actors and creating elaborate sets to make these rehearsals as realistic as possible. Angela’s rehearsal was designed to give her the experience of raising a child from birth to adulthood in her dream home, but over time, Fielder himself became more and more involved in the process, even casting himself as the child’s dad. After Fielder expressed a desire to raise the child in a mixed Jewish and Christian household, Angela left the project, saying that it was more about Fielder than it was about her.
After the episode in which Angela left aired, she posted a video to a Nathan Fielder-related Facebook group. She said that she has no issues with how she was portrayed, reiterated that she left the show because she felt like it wasn’t about her anymore, and was fairly insistent that her naming Apocalypto as her favorite movie was not about director Mel Gibson’s feelings on Jewish people.
“I have liked the movie Apocalypto for years,” she said. “And the reason why I like Apocalypto is for the cinematography, the message, and just the sheer art that it is as a movie. It has nothing to do with who directed it. That’s not why I fell in love with the movie.”
Ever since Angela’s first appearance on The Rehearsal, people have debated about whether or not she was an actress, or otherwise faking her persona for the sake of the show in a way that goes beyond the normal fakery involved in a reality show. It’s a theory that’s not too difficult to believe. Angela’s extreme views on her Christian faith, which include thinking that Halloween and many other things are Satanic; her views on Judaism, which led an educator to brand her an antisemite in the most recent episode of the show; her tendency to dance alone in her office, and the sheer amount of times that the cameras caught her discreetly smelling something all felt a bit too on the nose to be true.’
Initially, Angela agreed to an interview for this article, then later declined, saying that she felt under the weather. She also didn’t provide answers to specific factual questions. Her emails with Motherboard are in line with how she is portrayed on The Rehearsal; as we attempted to schedule a time to speak with each other, for instance, she told us, “I like to let things develop organically. :) Timing is key.”
Every person who has appeared on the show so far has come under suspicions about being something other than what they seem to be, given how outlandish their behavior sometimes is. Robbin Stone, who crashed his Scion tC going 100 miles per hour, has repeatedly been accused of being an actor by fans. Some fans think everyone is an actor. Because the nature of the show blends real life and “rehearsals,” fans have trouble understanding what’s real, what’s been constructed by Fielder’s on-camera persona, what’s been constructed by Fielder, and how these things relate to one another—as they’re supposed to, given that creating such confusion and encouraging the viewer to ponder it is clearly one of the points of the show.
“After episode 3, I am having trouble believing anyone in this show is a real person,” one fan wrote on the subreddit for the show. “I think the episode 6 reveal will be that they were all actors but didn't know anyone else was an actor. That the whole show is built around Nathan rehearsing for his life, and needing the actors to act as real as possible.”
Whatever the truth of this theory (it’s almost certainly wrong), Angela has done some acting. Motherboard identified her profile on several websites where actors create profiles in search of gigs and where they can respond to casting calls, including calls for unscripted projects. We also identified several demo reels in which she smoothly and quite professionally pitches, among other things, the Toyota Camry and organic apple juice; her participating in discussions about how to set up a proper home studio; and an online resume in which she’s identified as a “Voice Over Mentor.” Whether she’s done paid work as a voice actor isn’t clear from her online presence; Motherboard is not linking to her profiles because neither she nor The Rehearsal have used her full name in discussing or promoting the show.
(Angela, again, declined to comment for this article, citing a need for “self care” in the wake of all the attention she has gotten after The Rehearsal.)
Before anyone leaps to the conclusion that all of this means that Angela is a fraud and The Rehearsal is phony, though, the overwhelming conclusion to be drawn from her online presence (and Motherboard’s interactions with her) is that she is either genuinely the person she is portrayed as on the show—a Christian who wants to run an aromatherapy business and is passionate about dance—or has spent years creating what intelligence professionals would call a legend to backstop her claims. Her personal Facebook profile is a cheery mixture of memes, family photos, and extremely intense dance routines set to inspirational Christian music; on a profile for The Get Well, a wellness brand she started in March 2022, she’s often depicted smelling fragrances, as she does in the show, and sharing faith-based anecdotes.
What this information about Angela clarifies is not whether or not she is real or not on the show, but that reality television is not a depiction of reality. When Fielder is creating situations that are so specific, and so tightly controlled by Fielder himself, he isn’t creating a depiction of reality, even if the resulting episodes do portray people going through real emotional upheavals. There’s not a lot that functionally separates what Fielder does with his show from what The Bachelorette or America’s Next Top Model have done by placing ostensibly real people who are drawn to being on television into extreme situations and then trying to provoke real emotion out of them. The Rehearsal is just doing so in a way that very overtly raises questions about what it’s doing.
If you’re answering a casting call to be in a reality television show, it’s likely you already know how little control you’ll have over how you’re portrayed, as Angela noted in her video to fans. That she is in fact an actress, and that this probably isn’t very relevant, simply underlines the question that the shows The Rehearsal is deconstructing never quite get around to asking: Does it even matter what is true or not when the people on the show—and the people who watch it—experience something real?