How Real Is Netflix's Social Experiment Series, 'The Circle'?


Dec. 29 2022, Updated 1:22 p.m. ET

Brian Clark from 'The Circle'
Source: Netflix

The question of whether a show is real or scripted has plagued viewers since the inception of reality TV, and Netflix's The Circle is the latest to leave fans scratching their heads.

The Circle is a reality competition show where contestants are isolated in separate apartments and can only communicate with each other through a messaging app called “the Circle.”

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Contestants vote each other off weekly until only one winner remains and gets to take home the grand prize of $100,000.

But like on any anonymous messaging app, some of the contestants on The Circle aren’t exactly who they claim to be. There have been a couple of instances of catfishing, and producers have encouraged the behavior to confuse players further as the seasons continue.

So, is The Circle scripted? Keep reading for everything we know.

Tom Haughton in Season 5 of 'The Circle'
Source: Netflix
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Is 'The Circle' scripted?

As far as reality shows go, it turns out that The Circle is actually quite real. Contestants are indeed isolated from each other and have no contact with the outside world during filming. The Cinemaholic reports that players aren’t even “allowed to bring phones, laptops, or any other devices” to the apartment, and their movements outside of the apartment are controlled so they don’t accidentally run into one another.

Joey Sasso, winner of Season 1, explained to The Cinemaholic that everything audiences saw — from the casual chat conversations to the weekly rankings — was 100 percent real. He also said that in his own experience, it was the players who had honest, open conversations who made the deepest connections beyond just allyship on the show.

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Raven Sutton and her friend on 'The Circle'
Source: Netflix

Sure, some contestants catfish, but that feels even more true to real-life social media and the fakers you often find on there.

However, there is one aspect of the show that isn't real, and that’s the Circle app itself. The show’s creator, Tim Harcourt, told Vulture that while the app does exist for the players, its technological capabilities, like voice recognition and transcription, weren’t quite real.

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“The app is a proper piece of chat technology, a bit like WhatsApp, I suppose, with bells and whistles and lots of extra bits,” Tim said, “[But] when you talk to the Circle, there’s a producer who’s transcribing what you say.”

Tim also revealed that while what the contestants say isn’t scripted, there is a producer and camera operator assigned to each player to help move gameplay along and help articulate their thoughts for the camera. There’s also a massive control room across from the apartment building, in which dozens of producers work to record, log, and study the ongoing game.

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Xanthi Perdikomatis on Season 5 of 'The Circle'
Source: Netflix

Who has won ‘The Circle’ so far?

While fans will likely continue questioning if The Circle is scripted, it’s become clear that someone does take home the $100,000 cash prize each season. Since its debut in 2020, the game show has rewarded several contestants.

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When Joey became The Circle’s first winner, he entered the competition as himself and won fans over with his friendly personality. Following Joey’s win was DeLeesa St. Agathe, who played her husband, Season 4 contestant Trevor St. Agathe, in the game.

Joey in 'The Circle' season 1
Source: netflix

Joey Sasso in 'The Circle' Season 1

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DeLeesa has been the only catfish to take home the grand prize. Seasons 3 and 4 winners, James Andre Jefferson and Frank Grimsley, earned their wins by being their authentic selves.

So, while it appears that producers may have a hand in building a narrative, they don’t interfere in the game or interactions between players. The Circle is real insofar as the contestants say and do pretty much what they want.

Stream The Circle on Netflix.

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