Brent Council worker Vithun Illankovan on his time in The Circle
- Credit: Channel 4
Vithun Illankovan, 23, was a player on Channel 4’s reality TV show The Circle and works for Brent council as a finance graduate trainee.
Contestants on The Circle live in the same apartment building but are never allowed to meet. Instead, they communicate solely through an app and must convince each other that they are real people, rather than 'catfishes', who are pretending to be someone else.
Players rate each other throughout the series, based on who they believe is real, but also who they like. The highest rated player from the final rating at the end wins £100,000.
Vithun, who was eliminated, spoke to The Times about his time on the show:
Why did you sign up to the show?
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I've always been a big fan of reality TV although I hadn't actually watched The Circle before applying. One of my friends from university said, “You would be really good on it”. I thought, “Why not? There’s nothing else to do in lockdown.” I actually applied to be a catfish. I was going to pretend to be one of my friends, but the producers wanted me to be myself.
How was it in there – what were the high points, what were the challenges?
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It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget. The high points were the chats where I got to express myself more than I ever had before in my whole life. Meeting Andy was probably my favourite moment. All our chats in the show led up to that moment. Also, getting so much further than I thought I would is something I’m really proud of. People saw me cry in the first episode after I survived the first elimination because I expected to be out first.
The challenges were not having as much control over your decisions as you would like, because it has to be entertaining for the viewer.
What surprised you about being on The Circle?
How well I fitted in. On the first day, I was so nervous I drank water out of a vase by accident. I went from that to actually feeling like I belonged. I got emotional having to speak my thoughts out loud. It made me address and process my feelings.
What did you learn from your time on the show?
That I have more emotional intelligence than I thought. I was able to spot most of the catfishes straight away. I was too analytical for my own good!
Do you regret sending the anonymous relationship dilemma in the agony aunt game?
I submitted a few dilemmas but they were all too safe. I got prompted by the producers to write one pretending to be someone else. But I came up with the question. I can’t really regret it because it’s what I was asked to do.
Are you still in touch with anyone from the show?
After we finished filming, we started a WhatsApp group chat and we all keep in touch on there. Once restrictions ease and I get a haircut we will hopefully meet up. I think Billy will be one of the first people I see.
What do you think are some misconceptions that people might have about the show?
On TV, the chats last for two minutes but in reality, some of them lasted for over two hours. It was frustrating seeing people thinking that I gave up or wasn’t making an effort. The producers choose who speaks to who and how many chats each person has so it wasn’t in my control.
What’s it like to watch yourself on TV?
I find it really stressful. I’m thinking “Am I going to get cancelled?”. I was always scared about that.
How do you feel about not winning?
I feel sad about not winning but I was happy to get as far as I did. I think I maximized all the opportunities I had.
What would you have done with the money if you had won?
I was going to buy a gift for everyone that made it to the final with me, but based on their character, not on them. If they were a catfish then the joke would have been on them. I was also going to take my parents on a trip to Sri Lanka, because if it hadn’t been for Covid, we would have gone back there to celebrate my mum's 50th birthday. I was going to call the holiday the ‘I told you so’ trip, because my parents thought I'd have no chance on the show. I would have invested the rest of it in property and wigs because I'm very conscious about my hairline receding.
MILITARY police officer Natalya scooped the £100,000 prize on The Circle on Friday.
Follow Vithun on Instagram @vithunillankovan.