Forget Instagram. So long, Snapchat. Smell you later, TikTok. We are all about The Circle, Netflix's latest reality competition series everyone is talking about.
Here's the gist: Eight players at a time live in the same building but never come face-to-face, only interacting through a social media messaging app created for the show. They can choose to be their authentic selves, using real photos and details, or they can decide to be someone else. Yes, they have permission to catfish. (Look away, Nev!)
After the U.S. version's debut on Netflix on Jan. 1, binge-watchers quickly became obsessed with the show, falling in love with the contestants as they filtered, emoji'd, insta-flirted and catfished their days away in the hopes of winning the $100,000 grand prize. It's basically a popularity contest, at once playing as a reality competition series and a commentary on our obsession with all things social media, delivering a fascinating insight into what people believe other people see when they look at their feeds vs. what they actually see.
Example: For any model who thinks it's cute to put "tacos all day every day" in your profile? Just ask Alana, the first person "blocked" from the game how that played out for her.
The first season of the U.S. version of The Circle wrapped up on Jan. 15, with (Spoiler alert!) Joey Sasso ultimately winning the grand prize, playing as himself, photo with Lady Gaga and Adele included!
If you still can't get enough of The Circle, we've rounded up all the need-to-know info about the show, including where the apartment complex is, how long the players were stuck in their apartments for and how players were allowed to use photos of people they'd never met before to catfish their competitors...
OK, where is The Circle apartment complex located?
Despite using exterior shots of Chicago, The Circle was not filmed in the U.S; it was filmed in an apartment block in Salford, a small town in Manchester in the U.K., taking over the same building that the British version was filmed in.
Is it a real apartment building?
Yes and no. The Circle completely furnishes each room to suit a contestant's likes and interests, but random residents aren't living there when the show isn't filming a la The Bachelor mansion.
"Finding the apartment block is incredibly difficult because what we need, really, is a completely empty apartment block, because we don't want to be sharing it with residents who are living there," Harcourt explained to Vulture. "We end up sort of taking over the whole thing."
Is the production crew in the same building?
A "a huge control room" that housed "20 to 30 producers and camera ops working, recording, logging everything that was going on, and also studying the game and sending all the message from the Circle," was located opposite the building, with Harcourt describing it "like a disused college university campus." Circle U?
How long were the players playing the game?
If you entered on day one, you spent 15 total days in the Circle, as Harcourt revealed to Variety it was a 15-day production shoot.
But the cast had no idea how long they were playing for, with Joey telling The Hollywood Reporter, "I don't know. When you sign up, they tell you, we don't tell you the day, we don't tell you the time. That's part of the mental game of kind of losing your s—t and trying to keep it together."
But, like, what did they do all day?
Unlike other reality competition series, like The Bachelor or Project Runway, contestants were allowed to bring books and magazines, just no electronics, and they were occasionally allowed to "watch a drama on Netflix or something like that," Harcourt told Variety.
So they really didn't interact with any other humans?
While they weren't allowed to see the other contestants, the players each had their own producer and camera operator assigned to them as Harcourt explained in his interview with Variety. "We didn't want them to get too lonely." Also, it helped because in the beginning the crew were "reminding them at certain stages, helping guide them through the gameplay, sometimes helping them to articulate their thoughts."
And their food sitch?
Production stocked their fridges and pantries on the daily, providing them basically anything they wanted. Amazon Fresh is shaking!
"We made it feel like home to everyone that's living in there," Harcourt said of personalizing the apartments for each contestant. "For all intents and purposes for the viewer, it is kind of home."
How did The Circle cast the show?
The main thing Harcourt and the team were looking for when it came to the competitors? Diversity.
"We wanted people from lots of different backgrounds. Other reality shows, whether it's Real Housewives or Jersey Shore, they're all one gang of quite similar characters," he explained to Variety. "What The Circle gave us the opportunity to do was cast a very diverse net across the United States. One of the positive things social media does is it can connect people who otherwise might not have come into contact with each other, so I thought it was quite nice to replicate that in the casting."
After casting a wide search, with Joey, who is an actor, telling THR he saw "something online" about applying to be on the show, 20 to 25 people were ultimately "cleared to play the game," Harcourt said, with eight being chosen as the original group of contestants.
How did they decide which new player to send into the game?
All of the cleared players who were not chosen to be part of the original eight contestants were kept on stand-by, waiting to be called in as it depended on who was eliminated.
Basically, if a female competitor was voted out, they'd send a woman in. If a man was sent packing, a new male cast member joined the game. From there, they would try to pick who seemed like the best fit for the game at that particular moment with Harcourt telling Variety there was no "sixth sense of who is going to replace who."
If someone decides to be a Catfish, do they have to know the person they are pretending to be, like Seaburn using his girlfriend Rebecca's photos?
Nope! But production does have to check with the person first and get permission to use their image, which is what happened with Karyn, who chose to play the game as Mercedeze using photos of a woman she didn't know.
"She provided us with a number of people and profiles that maybe she knew of and then we helped her approach them to, effectively, license their photos and also let them know the upside and downside of the fact that their photos are being used," Harcourt told Vulture.
How did the producers come up with the ranking system to have contestants eliminated from the game?
The rating system was something The Circle team had spent "lots of time refining and testing" after learning the initial one they used in the inaugural British season didn't really work as well as they wanted it to.
"People rated out of five stars like Uber," Harcourt told Parade of the old system. "We didn't love it, as different people have different underlying value criteria." And it was Netflix who suggested the ranking system after they partnered with the show.
I can't get enough and need more episodes to binge. Where else can I watch?
There are currently four versions. The first was the British edition, which premiered in 2018 and instantly became a hit. Next up are editions for France and Brazil, which were both made for Netflix and have yet to premiere.
As for a second season of the U.S. version, Netflix has yet to officially renew The Circle.
The Circle is currently available to stream on Netflix.