How Murray Bartlett's Physical Character Emulates Modern Influencers

Murray Bartlett discussed how his character on Physical is the perfect representation for influencers, who use "genius" marketing tactics to gain followers.

By Cydney Contreras Jun 17, 2022 8:00 PMTags
Watch: How Physical Star Murray Bartlett Created His Manipulative Character

The term "influencer" may be unique to younger generations, but it's not as if there weren't similar figures in the '80s.

If anything, influencers have been around for decades and Murray Bartlett's character in Apple TV+'s Physical reminds us of that. 

In episode three, released June 17, Sheila (Rose Byrne) stumbles upon the Vincent "Vinnie" Green (Bartlett) workout studio, where she meets the enigmatic fitness trainer. He's incredibly toned, has a ton of energy and is passionate about working up a sweat. As he guides students through a cool down, he tells them that his dog died and while seeking comfort, he nearly reached out to three old friends: "sugar, butter and salt."

"But do you know what I did?" he continues. "I came here instead. It's one little step toward a healthier, better life." And just like that, Sheila is hooked on Vinnie's class. 

On its face, this little speech is meant to inspire students, but Murray told E! News, "It's part genuine, part manipulation." 

2022 TV Premiere Dates

Murray looked back on filming this scene, saying that it's such a good introduction to his character because you immediately understand his appeal. "He makes people cry in the class," he said, "which is very disarming, because then you're in this vulnerable place where you feel open and feel like you can share."

Courtesy of Apple TV+

It's like being on social media and thinking that you know every detail about a popular influencer's life. The thing is, an influencer gets to pick and choose what they share with their followers and craft a certain image of themselves. "But as the story goes on," Murray said, "you realize, 'Oh, he's actually not really giving anything about who he is personally.' He is to a point, but there's a lot of stuff that's left hidden."

Murray thinks there's some truth to what Vinnie says but, at the end of the day, he's more concerned with making money and bringing in followers. So from a business perspective, Murray said this act is "a genius marketing campaign."

It may sound bad to prey on vulnerable people who may not even realize they're being influenced to purchase a product—but as Murray pointed out, "that's what makes them good, right? You don't realize you're being manipulated or it's almost subliminal in a way."

Apple TV+

And if the end result is that people feel a bit more motivated to attend that workout class, is it really that harmful?

There's no right or wrong answer to the question, by the way. The whole purpose of Physical is to examine society and start conversations, as well as entertain, of course.

For the show's creator Annie Weisman, she has a theory that the origin of the influencer can be traced back to the '80s fitness instructor. "[Vinnie] is making emotional connections with people and then he's weaponizing them to sell sell sell," she said, "and that's something that really is common practice today, but at this time was really new and pretty revolutionary."

But if you're not interested in analyzing the sociological aspects of Physical, that's fine too—but Murray's performance is still worth the watch. 

New episodes of Physical stream Fridays on Apple TV+.

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