I started missing The Circle even before it actually ended, thanks to that unnecessarily bloated finale. My affection for Netflix’s first season of the competition has only grown in the time since, perhaps because it didn’t linger on for 3.5 months; still, I wouldn’t mind having an episode or two to watch in the background every week.
I’ve filled some of The Circle’s void by reading interviews with contestants and other stories to get some behind-the-scenes insight, and the best of what I’ve come across is below, linked for your reading—or, in one case, viewing—enjoyment.
A warning: there are spoilers aplenty here, so don’t read unless you have finished watching and/or just don’t care if you get spoiled, including about the UK’s first season.
Behind-the-scenes details from The Circle’s creator
Creator and executive producer Tim Harcourt’s interview with Variety—conducted before the season premiered—dives into the decisions the production made when bringing it to the U.S.
He basically says the first Netflix season was dumbed down (“It was a high concept, and we didn’t want to confuse people”) which means that season two will be different (“there are lots of twists and turns we can now do going forward”).
But “Americans were better game-players: slightly more tactical, slightly more strategic” while also “a lot more loyal than the British players.”
He offers insight, including that producers sometimes prompt the contestants to help them verbalize their thoughts—and that the contestants aren’t actually deprived of human contact, even though they don’t interact with other contestants IRL:
“We didn’t want them to get too lonely. Each person has a producer and a camera operator reminding them at certain stages, helping guide them through the gameplay, sometimes helping them to articulate their thoughts. But once they’re up and running into the game—two or three days in—they’re flying; they really get into the rhythm of how it works and how it plays out.”
Other fun facts:
- There were 20 to 25 contestants cast, though only 14 (including Ed and Tammy) made it onto the show.
- During what Variety calls “downtime of filming,” the contestants were allowed to watch Netflix.
- The season was filmed over 15 days, and editors cut episodes every day, as if it was airing live, though they obviously had time to continue to work on the episodes after filming ended
Harcourt was also interviewed by Vulture after the season concluded, and in that interview. Among the details he reveals is the order that seasons were filmed in last year:
- United States (Netflix), which began filming in mid-August
- U.K. season 2 (Channel 4)
- Brazil (Netflix)
- France (Netflix), which filmed in December
Harcourt also told Vulture:
- about faking the opening sequence that shows shots of Chicago and Milwaukee, even though the season was filmed in the UK (“we added U.S. cityscapes to give it an American feel for the majority of the audience who assume it is somewhere in the U.S.,” he said)
- that the production had 12 apartments for use by contestants, and would change some design elements if an apartment needed to be reused.
- the control room was not in the apartment building, but in a nearby “disused college university campus.”
- 20 to 30 people were in that control room, from producers to robotic camera operators.
- The Circle is not actually voice activated, of course. Instead, “when you talk to the Circle, there’s a producer who’s transcribing what you say” and it’s “a couple of producers whose job it is to take dictation from the players.”
Where was The Circle filmed?
Netflix’s first season of The Circle took place in the same location as the UK’s second season: an apartment building in Manchester, specifically the city of Salford.
It’s called Adelphi Wharf, and Capital FM reported that “Flats in the development start at £94,995” (about $125,000 in US dollars) while the one-bedroom apartments used by the cast “will set you back around £145,000” (roughly $191,000).
As noted above, the same apartments housed three versions for Netflix (U.S., Brazil, and France), and the second season of the U.K. version.
Who provided the catfish photos?
Most of the players who decided to catfish other contestants used photos from random strangers. But since this is a television show, the production couldn’t just let them use any random photo they found on the Internet.
The production paid the people in the photos, who sent as many 50 photos for producers to choose from, and also signed non-disclosure agreements and contracts that explained that contestants would be commenting on their photos.
Here’s a list of The Circle season one’s players and their catfish identities, along with the names of the people in the photos; follow the links to read interviews with the people in the photos:
- Karyn’s “Mercedeze” was actually Chynna Cliette, a 23-year-old drama teacher from Atlanta
- Alex’s “Adam” was actually Eddie van Heel, a married man from the UK (also, the dog in one of his photos was not actually his dog)
- Seaburn’s “Rebecca” was his girlfriend, whose real name is Sami Dennis
- Sean’s initial photos—before she disclosed that she wasn’t the person in the photos and started using her own—were of Colleen Ferrell, a 25-year-old stylist from Virginia
Interviews with contestants
Here are some highlights of interviews with contestants. I haven’t included every interview here, just ones that I think provide good insight. If I’ve missed one, let me know!
- Joey Sasso: Parade, GQ, ScreenRant, US Weekly, RHAP
- Shubham Goel: Time, Cosmopolitan, People
- Sammie Cimarelli: People, ScreenRant
- Chris Sapphire: ScreenRant
- Karyn Blanco: iClickTV
- Bill Cranley: Chicago Tribune, Reddit AMA
Behind the scenes of the UK show’s first season
The winner of the first UK season, Alex Hobern, has two YouTube videos in which he reveals “secrets” about the show.
It’s the kind of behind-the-scenes production stuff I love, even though he was part of a different season that didn’t even film in the same building, and even though he starts with a disclaimer, saying he’s revealing secrets “to an extent—just because I’m contractually obliged not to reveal some things.”
He talks about things like wearing ear plugs and earphones as they move through the building to places like the gym and the roof, and how ordering food worked (players only received one day’s worth of food at a time, in case they got blocked).
Alex also discusses everything from masturbation in front of the show’s cameras to the limits on the number of conversations that players could have in The Circle. Watch: