Andy tells us all about life in The Circle

22 April 2021

We caught up with Andy, who appeared on Channel 4's The Circle, about what it was like sharing his health journey with the nation and how things have been going since it aired.

First things first, what made you apply for The Circle?

First and foremost, I needed a break! With a couple of businesses, an executive job and a couple of kids it felt like an extreme but sensible way of having a retreat which my wife signed off on! On a serious note, I really enjoyed series 2 and my wife commented that I might be good on it, and it went from there. 

I only ever considered playing myself as before I watched The Circle I wasn't aware 'Catfishing' was a real thing. Watching James play Sammie on series 2, I respected the game plan but it didn't sit right with me and that triggered me to apply.

Why was it important to be open about your health on the show?

I had a couple of close calls with post-surgical complications when I lost my bowel. Many years later losing my mum in tragic circumstances triggered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that took a few years to unravel. I believed it was to do with the nature of my mother's death but, in reality, it was all to do with the trauma from surgery all those years ago.

This is my reality, and I am proud of it.

Living with Colitis

The illnesses we all have can be stigmatised so I thought if I am going to go on a show as myself, I will own my story and wave the flag loud and proud. It wasn't something I was embarrassed about. If you are going to be filmed twenty-four hours a day for weeks there is no hiding place so for me, it was a great test of my acceptance.

I don't view it as an 'illness', it's just part of who I am. It doesn't come up in day-to-day life and people that have known me for years weren't aware until after the show. Why would they? We all have our lives to live and our physical situation shouldn't limit our ability to live life and so that was my view going in. 

What parts of your story didn't we see?

The conversation I had with James/ Gemma/ 'Hunter' was actually far longer and the night I 'patched' things up with Manrika was a very long conversation so what you saw was much tidier than the reality.

All in all, what you see is exactly what happens however context isn't always the same.

You have to accept going on a show like that you are a player and character in a story and you don't know your role until you see the show back but we all had a role to play. 

The other main part of my journey was my health. I was pretty poorly during the final and kept having to take a toilet break in between takes but I was made to feel very supported and very comfortable about it all so I couldn't really ask for more. 

Was there medical support available and did you have any concerns about having bad days whilst in there?

There is a medical team for both mental and physical support should you need it. I had probably 5 or 6 pretty bad days in there but I honestly felt so supported. I was allowed to duck in and out of chats or games to 'do my thing' and never felt remotely pressured. I felt very relaxed about being poorly.

The reality is, as we all know, you know your own body best, 

Obviously, you have to get your game face on when you were in a game or a chat but that's the same in real life isn't it? A few extra toilet trips, some blood, or vomiting wasn't going to stop me having a good time. 

There were 2 or 3 days where, physically, and mentally, things took its toll on me. I was so tired and, funnily enough, my wife spotted which days these were without me even mentioning it as we watched it back. 

What has the reaction to your appearance been like?

It's hard to describe what the reaction has been like. You obviously get the odd negative comment but, truthfully, I have had over 4000 messages since the final aired and I'd say 30% of those at least relate to bowels, no bowels, surgery, Colitis and Crohn's.

I'm so touched by the messages.

I may have been naive, but I never anticipated the outpouring of support, love, and thanks I have received. I just feel very privileged that I was given the platform to show people like us or fellow people living with chronic conditions that we don't suffer, we flourish. For that I am very grateful.

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Catch up on all episodes of The Circle, available on All4 now.

And you can watch our video interview with Andy on YouTube.