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: Jamie and Millie (father and daughter)
AGE: Jamie is 57 and Millie is 20
OCCUPATION: Millie is a student and Jamie is a relationship therapist
PLAYING AS: Penny, a 49-year-old letting agent from London
• What is your MOTIVATION FOR ENTERING THE CIRCLE? What is it about the game that made you want to apply?
MILLIE: It’s just one of the most unique games you can go into. With social media nowadays, it’s all about the way you present yourself. So to go in and get to know someone, without seeing fully who the person is, is quite refreshing. You can build a relationship with someone who in the real world, you perhaps wouldn't normally build a relationship with.
• Have you watched the show before and did that give you any tips on how to play the game?
MILLIE: Yes, I watched the show when it was airing. Now Dad’s going back and watching it because he hadn’t watched it before. That’s helped give us more insight to how we might play the game.
• What is your STRATEGY to win show? Are there any specific tactics that you think will help you win?
JAMIE: The catfish we've created together, Penny, is a very likeable, slightly sassy, come from the school of hard knocks 49-year-old. She's a great listener. She's had a slightly tough life in certain ways. She’d have liked to have had children but didn’t have them. She’s very empathetic and attentive. Our strategy is that Penny will be very difficult not to like, and also funny. I think we’re just going to take it slowly getting to know people. We want to be in it for the long haul and I think we’d be a bit naive if we came up with a clear strategy other than to ingratiate Penny with the other players to start with and go from there.
MILLIE: We want to make her really likeable, but likeable first of all to entice people in, and then we’ll start to think of strategies once we get to know the other players a bit better.
• What made you land on the character of Penny?
MILLIE: We thought it'd be quite funny to have an ideal stepmum for me or an ideal partner for my dad. In the past, when I’ve been getting to know his girlfriends, I might not always like them, and Dad has found it hard to find someone suitable for him. So it has been fun to create this perfect woman – someone who has the qualities that Dad might want in a partner and I would want in a stepmum. She’s kind of like a bit of both of us.
• What made you decide to play as a pair?
MILLIE: I can come in if there are younger players using words or emojis that Dad doesn’t know yet. And while I don’t know how to speak like a 50-yearold woman, Dad will know how to speak like a 50-year-old. With his experience from being a relationship counsellor, he is also really good with the relationship side and being able to read people. I’ll bring the feminine aspect and he’ll bring the age and we’ll work together to form Penny. JAMIE: Millie has lived with me since she was six and we’re lucky that we have the same silly sense of humour. The humour side is very important as well as the empathy from Penny. Between us we already love Penny for different reasons.
MILLIE: Penny’s already my favourite person.
• What’s Penny’s personality like?
MILLIE: She's really sassy. She's quite maternal. She has had to be quite a fighter through life and overcome many challenges. She was brought up in a seaside town, so she was introduced to sailing, but she doesn’t really like sailing. She loves hanging out with her nieces and nephews and her dog Poppy who is basically like a child of her own. She loves going out with her girlfriends, who are always convincing her to put herself out there, and that’s the story behind how she got on The Circle. It was a spontaneous thing she did and now she’s on the show.
• Are you worried about any backlash you might get when you reveal that you are not the person you are saying you are?
MILLIE: I don’t think they will expect that it’s a father and daughter behind Penny. But because it’s quite humorous, I think they won’t take it in a bad way. We don’t mean it in a bad way.
JAMIE: It’s half of the fun of the show. You have to just take it for the fun of it.
• How much research have you done into creating Penny?
MILLIE: We’ve done a lot of research. We know the area where Penny lives, her favourite pub, the road she lives on, her girlfriends, her niece and nephew.
JAMIE: We’ve really filled out her character from where she spends her weekends, to how she gets to work. In case someone else in there knows Balham and Fulham, where she lives and where she works, we’ve thought about what train she takes to work. Because we won’t have access to the internet, we wanted to make sure we’ve really done our research to fill those parts of her life up.
• How do you feel about being on TV?
MILLIE: I think it's exciting but also quite nerve- wracking. But because we’ll be in such a comfortable setting and it seems like you forget there are cameras there, I think it would just be like me and my dad on the sofa on a Friday night just gossiping and talking to other people.
JAMIE: I think it's an extraordinary life experience. I hope it’ll be a great time and maybe I’ll just have to hide for a few months afterwards!
• How much do you use social media in the real world?
MILLIE: I’m really into social media. I use Instagram, Twitter and TikTok and I’ve been growing my following on there.
JAMIE: I’ve been on Facebook for a long time – 10 years or so. I have a very high privacy setting, and either I’m desperately unpopular or I have a very small set of friends on there! I’m not on Twitter and haven’t used Instagram for years.
• Jamie, you became a star on Millie’s TikTok account. What happened there?
MILLIE: During lockdown, I started growing my TikTok and he was my first viral video. It was me testing my dad on slang. I posted it up and it got over 1.4 million views. Everyone loved it – they all wanted to see Jamie back on my TikTok!
• In real life how does your online social media self differ to who you really are in person?
MILLIE: On my TikTok, I couldn’t be more me if I tried. It’s no-makeup me in my dressing gown at home, saying what I want to say. Whereas on Instagram, it’s a much more glam version of me.
• Who do you admire on social media? Who do you think uses it well? MILLIE: Mollie Mae Hague uses social media really well, because of the amount of backlash she can get and how she deals with it in a really mature way. I love the Kardashians, but I don’t think they’re the best example of people you can aspire to look like because it’s hard to know how much is surgery, how much is fake and how much editing is going into photos. I can relate more to Molly Mae because I don’t see her editing her photos.
• Do you think you'll be able to spot any catfish on the show?
JAMIE: I think with my training as a therapist, I see how not everyone comes to tell the entire picture when they come to speak with me, especially with relationship counselling. But The Circle is a totally different medium – I’ve never counselled just through online chat. It will be interesting to see how accurate we are at dissecting whether other players are what they purport to be.
MILLIE: If they slip up when answering a question, that would be where we might spot they aren’t who they say they are.
JAMIE: We’re very aware that we should be talking in the first person all the time. If we get caught saying “We”, we’ve already got a trick up our sleeve that we’ll say “I’ve caught a bad habit from my sister – she talks in the royal we”.
• Jamie, do you think your job as a relationship therapist might help you with building a rapport or becoming popular with the other players? JAMIE: I hope so. I’m also rather intrigued by it as an intellectual exercise to see how close you can get to people through the medium of this online chat. I’m hoping my training will be helpful to us.
• Jamie, how will you deal with some of the aspects of becoming a lady? JAMIE: It is a challenge. If for example we have to complete a task like painting a portrait, I think Millie will have to paint it because someone might detect a male hand rather than a female hand in something artistic. We will think twice before we hit send on certain messages just to make sure the terminology is right, but I’m hoping it gets easier as we carry on in the game.
• Do you think what you say on The Circle matters or will you say anything if it would help you win?
JAMIE: We think if you try and set out to win, you won't win. You've got to be true to yourself. We've created this strong persona for Penny - integrity is a big part of her, and we need to give her that benefit. We know her background, where she was brought up, her beliefs, her bad behaviour, her good behaviour. We want to stay true to that. We won’t say anything to win because it could backfire. We have to be a bit cannier than that. But that’s not to say we won’t try to win.
• Do you think social media is a good place to find romance?
MILLIE: I met my boyfriend through a dating app, so I can say I think it’s a great place to meet people.
JAMIE: I’ve had mixed results. I’ve met some very nice people.
• Has social media made it easier or more difficult for you to find romance? JAMIE: My feeling is it depends where you are geographically. We live down by the sea in a small town, it's like a goldfish bowl. I think dating apps are loosely helpful to broaden your horizon for whatever age you are. But if I were in the middle of London, I think it makes people lazy when they could have actually gone out and joined a tennis club or gone dancing etc. It certainly has its uses, but I think people have become over-reliant on it. I think a personal introduction is probably worth 50 ones online.
• Do you think it is possible to fall in love online?
MILLIE: I think you can certainly gain feelings for someone, but I’m not sure about falling in love just from speaking online.
JAMIE: I think there’s a difference between falling in love and infatuation. People try to create personalities for the person they’re speaking with that they haven’t got, which I suspect could happen on The Circle. I think if you’re just online, the whole chemistry isn’t fulfilled there.
• Will you be open to people flirting with you on the show?
MILLIE: Penny will be open to flirting, definitely. We want to find Penny a man! JAMIE: She had a very bad relationship two and half years ago and still thinks men are bastards, but she still has that inkling that there’s a knight in shining armour out there for her.
• Do you want to win? How far will you go to win?
MILLIE: Everyone wants to win. We want to do it in the right way and for Penny to win in a way that’s true to her personality. She’s nearly 50 and I don’t think she would be using horrendous techniques to win – that’s not true to Penny. JAMIE: The money is important to Penny. We think her answer would be “I really do want the money because I don’t know the other competitors, but I do know my bank balance and my credit score”.
• What would you do with the prize money?
JAMIE: I’m going to be really boring. I’m desperate for a new roof! There’s a bucket on the upstairs landing and it would be quite nice to remove that. But obviously, there’s a balance between being a boring old git and having a bit of fun so we’ll probably go on holiday.
MILLIE: Shopping! I do want a car and maybe to put away some money for a mortgage.
• Any surprising facts or hidden talents that we should know about you? MILLIE: I’m really flexible. I’m hypermobile so my legs and my feet are very bendy in weird ways.
JAMIE: I used to run a pub company, and I learnt that I can stick lots of shots of flaming sambuca on my face. Though that’s probably not something to discuss in front of my daughter.
The Circle begins tonight at 9:15pm on Channel 4.