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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.

NAME: James

AGE: 47

OCCUPATION: Strength and Conditioning Coach

FROM: London


What is your MOTIVATION FOR ENTERING THE CIRCLE? What is it about the game that made you want to apply?

I've always been somebody who's enjoyed different challenges, I started off bodybuilding and then I went into Gladiators. After that I went into acting and competing in strongman. Most of the challenges I've done have been quite body crushing. I think The Circle will be an interesting challenge to try and get away with playing somebody else, it uses different muscles to what I'm used to. I also really want to take this opportunity to give back to NHS nurses, winning the prize money would give me the chance to show my gratitude for all their hard work.

Have you watched the show before and did that give you any tips on how to play the game?

I hadn’t seen it before, but I was sent clips - I was very interested in watching James/Sammie’s progress because he did so well. For me, the goal would be to try and get to the final, that would be a massive win if I can convince people for all that time that I’m actually a female.

What is your STRATEGY to win the show? Are there any specific tactics that you think will help you win?

What I want to do is find a link with each player as they come in. I would look to find some sort of mutual ground to become friends. I’ll just take it one step at a time and maybe do some group chats with the girls. It would be good to get them on side because from watching it, I feel that if you get a group going that has a bond, then they tend to vote for each other. It’s in the latter shows where more of the strategy of voting seems to come into it.

You are playing as Gemma. How does that differ from the person I am speaking to right now and why did you decided to play as someone else? I've tried to make her as close to me as possible. She's from York, I'm originally from York, her parents own a gym and a yoga studio. And I'm a strength coach, and a yoga teacher. The fact that she's a nurse, could potentially be one big blip. Originally when I thought about someone who'd be the most popular person, I was doing a clap for the NHS every Thursday. I want to do my best to pull it off and get some money for the NHS. I’ve done a fair bit of research, talking to various nurses. But it just takes one question that throws me, and it's just how well I can swerve it.

The reason for doing The Circle and being a catfish is the challenge of playing somebody else. I'm really just going on to try and challenge myself to do something completely different.

Are you worried about any backlash you might get when you reveal that you are not the person you are saying you are?

I don't think so because that's the name of the game, isn't it? It's not like people are walking in blindfolded. They all know that there's catfish in there, it's transparent so I don't really see why somebody would kick off. But it’s hard to know because I've never been in this bubble-like situation to see and understand how connected you get to people. I also feel that I’m using the nurse aspect of my catfish for the right reasons. The NHS have patched me up countless times over the years. They are absolute heroes and that has been highlighted hugely through this pandemic. I want to win for them.

How much research have you done on your catfish personality?

I've tried to research all the areas; I've spoken to a few nurses including my cousin Marie to get a skeletal plan on how they live. I’ve talked to a few girls about girly chat, how they say hello, the kind of emojis and hashtags they use, the kind of makeup they’d wear, the hair product they’d use, the kind of skin routine, so I've tried to get as much knowledge as possible. It's hard to get out of your own mindset, I just need to think before I type basically. That's the motto, that's what I’ll write in big letters on the wall!

How do you feel about being on TV?

Well, I still do quite a lot of TV here and there. But how do I feel about doing this show? It's just something different, something new. Obviously, having cameras on me 24/7 is going to be a little bit intimidating! But life’s all about experiences and challenges and this is something I’ve never tried before.

How much do you use social media in the real world?

I'm not a massive fan of it, but I use it for work mainly. During lockdown, I was using it a lot because I built a business in my garden, but I tend to only use it if there's something I want to promote. To do that, you do have to put some personal stuff on to keep the momentum going. But yeah, I could easily come off social media. I do find it quite draining and it's very easy to catch yourself on there for too long, I'm very aware of that.

In real life how does your online social media self differ to who you really are in person?

I mainly use Instagram so it's all strength and weightlifting. I put the odd dog picture up and that's it. It's really geared towards that, I don't really put pictures of my family or anything, it’s very rare if I do. The social media pictures I've got for Gemma are a wide range. I've got pictures of her going out, pictures of her on holiday. I’ve got a picture of her with a cocker spaniel which is going to be my dog’s catfish! I've got a really good selection.

Who do you admire on social media? Who do you think uses it well? I think The Rock is phenomenal in general on social media. I'm not a big follower of celebrities because again, I don't want to get hooked on a phone for hours a day. But I see what he does, and he seems to be a role model I would have, I think people really listen to him.

Have you ever been catfished? Or caught a catfish?

No, not that I know of.

Do you think you'll be able to spot any catfish on the show?

It's difficult, isn't it? Because you just see that picture and that’s all you have to go off. It’s easy when you're watching the show but when you're in that bubble, in the flat on your own just looking at the screen, it’ll be harder. There were definite signs for me of the catfish from watching the previous series, but I think you've got to be careful about grilling people too much because then you put them off. You've got to be clever with your questions and maybe not let on if you suspect.

The people that seem to do really well are the ones that play themselves at the end of the day. So, to be a catfish, you've got to be very mindful and very clever to get away with it.

Do you think what you say on The Circle matters or will you say anything if it would help you win?

I'm obviously going to be mindful of what I say because I'm very aware of how it can be twisted, me more than anyone is probably aware of that, having worked in television for 30 years. So, I will be mindful of what I say but, in that reality, who knows?

Do you ever use social media to flirt or look for love?

No, never.

Has social media made it easier or more difficult for people to find romance? Do you think it is possible to fall in love online?

I think people definitely use social media for romance now, but the problem is people have too many options. I've got friends of mine that tell me these horror stories of going on a Tinder date, and they go to the toilet, come back to the bar and their date’s sifting through Tinder as they're waiting! It's become too accessible and the old school way of meeting someone has gone out the window.

Will you be open to people flirting with you on the show? Absolutely, that’s part of being a catfish.

Do you want to win? How far will you go to win?

Obviously, I would love to win. But it's not the be all and end all. It's just really how far can I get; how long can I survive? I'm literally taking it one step at a time, although there's always that big goal in mind. I've always been a shortterm and a long-term goal setter, so I've got to get a feel for it first, before I can think of the bigger picture. I’d be careful, so I wouldn’t say I’d do anything to win. Definitely not.

What would you do with the prize money?

I’d give half the money to the nurses in York hospital, just because I want to give something back. However far £50,000 will go with however many nurses there are, I’d like to win for them. The rest I would split with the players who get to the final.

Any surprising facts or hidden talents that we should know about you? Well, with Gemma, I’ve got some incredible pictures of her doing the human flag off Brooklyn Bridge and upside down doing the splits. She’s incredibly strong I think she could squash a watermelon between her thighs. I’m a yoga teacher and gong practitioner.


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