“It is irresponsible to point the finger at the suicides of reality TV”: Reggie Yates on Make Me Famous | TV & radio

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Ethe very real star of reality TV has a famous lining. “Who is she?” From Nikki Grahame, “You’re never going to get this candy” from Gemma Collins, “Why does everyone get up in my grill?”. In Make Me Famous – the first TV show written by presenter and documentary maker Reggie Yates – Billy, played by Tom Brittney, knows he has a chance to join this pantheon. When the producers of Love or Lust, the show’s fictional reality show, ask why they should choose it, a silent look ensues. After a dying break, Brittney delivers the line – “I haven’t done anything for the last 10 seconds and you kept watching” – with such brazen shamelessness and rolling eyes that I clicked the pause button to purge my brain from the embarrassment of the second hand. Call it a success.Yates, who I spoke to a few weeks later, is a very busy man. He spent the whole day watching pictures of Pirates, his first feature-length writing and directing film. They were missing nine days before closing everything because of the pandemic. “It’s a little weird to be in a position,” he chuckles. “It is only in the last few years that the projects I have created and written have started going green, which is very exciting. ”

BBC Three drama centers on Billy, a former contender for reality TV on the seemingly joyless public circuit, promoting protein powder and scrambling for an audience as the cast of the next series is trotted. After a kiss and say tabloid turned nuclear, we are watching his life unfold in real time and on social networks. Billy is anchored by the only two people with whom he is vulnerable: his adored and anti-fame mom (Amanda Abbington) and his competitor / former flame (Emma Rigby), who succeeded in being real and accessible. This is a frank comment on the impact that reality TV can have on applicants and families.

Yates agreed to write the series because of his “strange and unique relationship with the genre.” He spent his early twenties hosting Top of the Pops and a host of kid-friendly reality shows, including one he co-hosted with the late Caroline Flack. Yet it was at the forefront of our nascent wide-eyed obsession to see tormented strangers on television. “Shows like The Real World, right through to the first Big Brother series, all of those shows materialized when I was in my formative years,” he says. So he used his position to create a character “who could talk about all the pressures that would exist for someone in [that] world. ”

It’s an intense watch. Yates’ commitment to cover all the basics – money problems, relationships, mental health, heartache, suicide, fans, celebrity, influencers, drug use, agents, masculinity – makes it a wisely claustrophobic watch, topped by incessant notifications , who ‘ding! At all levels of Billy’s descent. It will wear you out to check your own misconceptions.

Conversations about the suicides of two Love Island candidates – and Flack, the show’s presenter, in February – tend to put some responsibility on the show’s producers and bullying on social media. However, Yates doesn’t think it’s that simple. As in his documentaries, he does not want to blame anyone. “It is irresponsible to point the finger,” he says. By choosing not to assign blame, Yates believes that Make Me Famous “is doing something healthy.” This helps you understand that the pressures on the central character don’t come from one place. ”

When I talk to Brittney on the phone, he’s funny, sincere, and just the right amount of self-mockery. Lockdown led him to do yoga and do “corona cooking” tutorials for entertainment. His usual concert plays in Grantchester on a motorbike, the hot anti-crime curate on ITV, with previous passages on Outlander who has time and the satire of the series of meetings UnREAL. This summer he will play alongside Tom Hanks in the Greyhound war epic. But long before he gleaned the wisdom of Hollywood stars, he followed the advice of his first drama teacher – his mom.

“It was a terrible and embarrassing thing to have to call your own mother, Mrs. Brittney,” he said. “She made sure I didn’t receive any special treatment. Obviously, it worked. Brittney won a place at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in north London, but quickly concluded that her goals were a bit commercial for college tastes. “The RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] was a great thing to get in, or the National, [but] I was like, I would like to do a show on Channel 4 or ITV or BBC. ”

But reality TV can be quite Shakespearean in its intrigue – there are conflicts, sorrows and things often don’t happen as they appear. This role should make his alma mater proud.

Some of the more complex scenes are flashbacks of auditions with the producers of the series, played by Aiysha Hart from Line of Duty and Nina Sosanya from Killing Eve. They try to do due diligence, trying to probe Billy’s personal life. We never see the show at the center of Make Me Famous, so we have to make assumptions about how it all went. Did Billy embrace the role he played or was it manipulated? It’s cloudy. Hart, who plays the ambitious producer Kelly, admits that she admires the dynamism of her character. “She sincerely believes that the series could make him a success,” she said. “At the same time, she considers it” productive “. ”

To get the scoop on both sides of reality, Yates and his team conducted confidential interviews. Comparisons are necessarily drawn with real competitors, in particular with Mike Thalassitis, who committed suicide in 2018. But Yates wishes to emphasize that his story was not a point of reference. “There has to be some respect, especially when you talk about people who have taken their lives. Although her role was not based on thalassite, Brittney could not ignore it. ” [Thalassitis] was portrayed in some way in the series and was not that character at all, “he said. “And there are hidden things that people never see until something like their death, suicide, or something happens. ”

While reality TV can take a close look at our behavior and has sparked important discussions about racism, gas lighting and body dysmorphia, we have all read the presentations on how shows are made, how the ” talent “is manipulated. It is easy to forget that an hour of “reality” exists alongside 23 hours that we do not see. Billy’s story aims to draw the curtain. Hart hopes this can spark compassion for “the vulnerability of human beings” and help us “remember that we all have fears, families and problems”.

Brittney, who has had some disreputable experiences as his fame has grown, agrees. “When I got Grantchester, it was the first time that people really sent messages, hateful things, because they were big fans of James Norton [the previous star of the show]. Brittney insists that he likes talking to fans and that “99.9% of them” is positive, but he saw “how ugly it can get.”

At 36 and 28 years of career, Yates feels like a wise uncle. Where does he see the frenzy of current reality? “I don’t think we will know for another five or ten years how much this affects not only the people who have this experience, but the public. Many young and impressionable people watch this type of spectacle. There must be an effect. ”

BBC Three Make Me Famous will be available for streaming on BBC iPlayer starting Wednesday, June 17

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