THE CIRCLE: INTERVIEW WITH EMMA WILLIS

The nation's most famous block of flats welcomes its latest set of residents. A £100k prize is at stake in an unpredictable game of popularity. The players will be living just metres apart, but they can't see or hear each other. Instead they communicate via a voice-activated platform called The Circle.



For people who haven’t seen the show, how would you describe how it works?

Ok so it’s essentially a game of popularity, with people either choosing to be themselves or pretending to be someone else who they consider to be popular, all in a bid to win £100k. They talk to each other via The Circle which is our own sort of communication platform so they don’t see the face behind the profile until someone is blocked - there’s twists and turns and then I pop up every now and then and get up to my own mischief!


This is your second series as presenter. Thinking back to last series, what were your overall impressions of the show?

It was so much fun! I really enjoyed seeing all the strategies that came into play with players using different tactics to get into the top ratings which obviously led to absolute hilarity when they slipped up or got themselves a bit tangled up in their web of lies... It was really great watching Paddy’s journey develop over the series as well and ultimately led to him being crowned the winner!


Do you find people make an inevitable comparison with Big Brother?

What’s your take on that? Well it’s undeniable isn’t it – there are definitely similarities there as both shows put a group of people in a building together and we watch how that situation unfolds! But I always saw Big Brother as a social experiment, and it stayed true to that over the years, whereas The Circle is very much a gameshow, so they don’t really sit in the same categories for me which was important.


Is there anything different about the show this series?

Well, due to Covid and the current protocols in place, we’re not live this series so my role within The Circle has had to change a bit but I’m a lot more integrated this time which was really fun. You see me become more of a taskmaster, dropping my own bombshells and getting up to a bit of mischief which was amazing so you’ll be seeing a lot more of me this series…


What clues can you give us about this year’s Players?

They are absolutely brilliant – I cannot wait for people to watch this upcoming series. Right from the off I think people will have different favourites because there is such variety of players! There’s quite a big twist in the very first episode which we’ve never seen before in the series so get ready for that – you will not want to miss it!


Would you say, with everything that’s happened this last year, that The Circle has almost come to life?

I suppose, in a way? We’ve all had to become a bit more adept at using social media and communicating virtually while we’ve had to keep our distance from friends and family. It’s been so hard and actually I think it’s made everyone realise just how important communication is and seeing or speaking to our loved ones everyday. While it might not be the same as being together in person, actually picking up the phone and checking in on someone really does make all the difference.


How has the pandemic impacted making television for you?

Well, like everyone, it’s just meant a lot of adapting to how we did things previously which can obviously have its challenges. Live shows have had to be put on hold and when filming for Delivering Babies we had to do most of that virtually for everyone’s safety but I’m really proud of how we’ve all come together to be able to continue making telly because it’s important, we all need a bit of joy and entertainment in these tough times. You could say The Circle was the ideal show to make in the middle of a pandemic because the players are already socially-distanced, quarantined in their own apartments!


Has it been difficult to adjust to?

It’s been quite weird at times, not being able to hug people has been quite tough – hugging is something that comes really naturally to me so not being able to give people a little squeeze when they need it has been difficult, especially on Delivering Babies and missing out on baby cuddles but it’s just one of those things that can’t happen at the moment and that’s completely understandable. It will just make it all the more special when we can get back to that again!


The Circle shows there can be good and bad sides to only communicating digitally? Do you think it’s especially important to be vigilant in these socially distant times?

Social media is a bit like the angel and the devil – on the one hand it allows you to connect with family and friends and can be really helpful but on the other hand you never really know who is behind the screen and there are some real-life catfishes out there that people need to be wary of. I’ve always thought of The Circle as a kind of beacon to show people just what can happen on social media and how easy it is to pretend to be someone else. You just need to make sure you’re aware of all the positives as well as all the negatives so you know how to navigate it properly.


What was your reaction when you saw who would be taking part in The Celebrity Circle?

I laughed, a lot! There are some real corkers in the Celebrity version, I think Rickie and Melvin taking on Will.i.am was hilarious – Will is such a unique, wonderful character so I think they’ve been very brave pretending to be him! But there is so much variety and lots of great pairings with Kaye and Nadia and Pete and Sam – it’s a brilliant line up and all for such an important cause so I really hope it encourages people, if they can, to donate and help raise money for Stand Up To Cancer.


Who would you be if you took part in The Celebrity Circle – yourself or another celebrity?

With The Circle, I’ve always said I’d have to be myself – I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the lies and I’d get myself in a muddle so I’d definitely just have to go in as me. For the Celebrity Circle? I’d probably go in as me again! But if I HAD to be someone else, I’d probably be the lovely Gi Fletcher – I’d like to think I know her well enough to pretend to be her and she is the most wonderful human-being that I’m sure she’d win everyone over!


Series 3 of The Circle starts tonight at 9:15pm on Channel 4 and is available to stream on All4.