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The Traitors | Interview with Claudia Winkleman

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the traitors | interview with claudia winkleman

Can you tell us about the concept of The Traitors?

The Traitors is in essence a psychological reality show where players must decide who they can trust.

22 people arrive at a beautiful castle. They’re from all walks of life. They’re all ages. They bond. They make friends. And they spend their days working together as a team to complete spectacular physical and mental missions to add money to a prize pot, that is worth up to £120,000.

But not all is as it seems, because hidden amongst the group are some Traitors – players I secretly selected at the start of the game which the viewers will see for themselves. Everyone else is known as ‘The Faithful’ and none of The Faithful know who The Traitors are.

The Traitors role is to murder one of their fellow players every night and remain undetected by the rest of the group.

The Faithfuls role is to try and work out who is betraying them and eliminate them from the game, because every day all the players also meet at a ‘Round Table’ and vote to ‘banish’ the player they most suspect of being a traitor.

At the end of the game, only the players that who have survived all these ‘Murders’ and ‘Banishments’ will win the prize pot.

If they are all Faithful they will share it, but and this is a big but, if there are still Traitors secretly lurking amongst them, then they will win it all! It’s gripping!

It sounds totally straightforward but it’s not because they all start second guessing everybody and don’t know whether they can trust their best friend. They’re not sure how a Traitor would behave or how a Faithful would behave and it messes with your head as we say and it’s gripping to watch.

What made you want to be a part of this show because you must get asked to do so many things. Why the Traitors?

I do get asked and I never leave home because I lick the children which bothers them especially the oldest one who is almost 20.

But the producers sent me the Dutch version of the show and they said, watch this it really worked and we’d like to make a version here in Scotland and you would need to leave home for three weeks. And I was like ‘I don’t think so’ and then I pressed play on episode one and I didn’t sleep or eat for two days. I watched the whole thing. I said to them I will get to Scotland myself, I will make sandwiches for the whole cast and crew please please please let me do this. I was absolutely hooked.

When I took part my husband would call and say ‘amazing news the youngest one did such and such in a spelling test’ and I was like never mind that, you wait until you see what is happening up here. My family totally lost me whilst I was away filming this.

I’m not surprised and that leads on to the next question, which is that you’re so integral to the show. You’re such a part of the game. How was that for you? Because it’s kind of a different job to your normal presenting job.

It’s wholly different because I don’t really present. I mean one would hope I do because that’s what they hired me for but I was mainly just obsessed with the show but we all were; camera department, sound, makeup and set design – we would just watch the contestants constantly because they’re filmed all the time. There are hidden cameras everywhere. That’s all we did. We didn’t discuss anything else. We would have eaten fungi, that sounds bad because mushrooms are nice, but you know what I mean we weren’t focused on anything else. I felt bad because normally my role if I’ve ever done telly or radio is I’m like a cheerleader. You know? “Well done. You’re amazing. Craig gave you a two that’s better than a one.” And on this I’m a bit crueller. I didn’t want to be too cruel, because I’m on their side. But the problem is I’m on all of their sides. I want the Traitors to win and I also want the Faithfuls to catch them. It’s confusing, it’s like having an affair or something.

It must have been so hard for you when you’re in certain situations not to give anything away with your face and not to overreact or anything. How was it?

That’s why I had to be quite cold because especially at the roundtable where they’re all barking up the wrong tree and I don’t want to give anything away but there was one example when someone kept on going I know it’s you and all the 21 others just laughed at her and I just had to keep my distance, it was really hard.

Why did you choose the Traitors that you did?

Well, there was so much discussion about it. I interviewed them all individually at the beginning and I only chose those who wanted to be Traitors but a lot of them wanted that role. There was someone who I thought would have been a good Traitor but they had their heart set on being a Faithful. The thing is that some people want to be Agatha Christie and some people want to be a Traitor. Then I had to think who would work well together. You’ve got to think who is robust and strong enough to take it on because it’s a really hard role because you’re essentially lying. So it took some real thought but I was so passionate about who I wanted to be the Traitors.

Was it hard not to take sides? Were you rooting for the Faithfuls or the Traitors?

What’s complicated and I felt this when I watched the Dutch version as well is you are rooting for both. You’re rooting for brains and wit and smart because that will win out. This is not luck. This is not a game of someone pressing the button at the right time. This is a psychological battle. Just you wait until the end, because there’s a part of you that absolutely wants the Traitors to take it all because they’ve got the hardest job I think.

It’s such a good moment when the Traitors meet every night, because they get to finally break cover after a day of lying to everyone.

Oh my god. One of the Traitors is so good at playing dumb, such a wily fox. I’m rooting for them so much but at the same time, when the Faithful finally get a Traitor out, you can’t believe it I felt so much emotion. I wanted to cry with joy at that roundtable. Somebody turns around says I am a traitor and the room just explodes. Can you tell I am dangerously into this show?

Tell us about the challenges?

The challenges were epic, I mean there were helicopters. But there’s a touch of paganism which I like. And what I love about the challenges is definitely as it goes on, and as the group gets smaller, they need that time to just shake off the tension because even though they’re never not playing the game and how people act in the challenges informs what they think of each other, they come together and work as a team. So even if there’s a very stressful roundtable and people are accusing each other of all kinds of things it is really thrilling when they are out there in the fresh air and they’re on each other’s side and they build up that prize pot and they do it really well.

What’s the most gripping thing about the show?

Oh my god it’s the roundtable. When they all come and sit around the giant table and look into each other’s eyes to try and figure out who they should be banishing from the game. Watching the players come to their conclusions about who is a Traitor is pure drama, and some people are so good at influencing the group even if their convictions are totally off! As a viewer you just think my gosh this is how juries must often work. People become so definitive in their judgments, often based on little evidence. It’s incredible.

Would you be a good traitor?

I’d want to be a traitor. Yeah, I’d absolutely want to be a Traitor. But I don’t think I’d be very good at it as it’s really hard but I think the gameplay and scheming would be amazing.

What would your game plan be?

Be everyone’s friend.

Are you a good liar?

I think I’m a good liar but the producers of Would I Lie To You would say that I wasn’t very good! When I was younger I used to lie professionally, my mum would be like: “Why have you just told all your friends that you broke your arm?” and I wouldn’t know but I would want her to put my arm in a sling.

Were there any contestants that you ever felt really worried about because the paranoia really got to them?

No because they knew they could trust the producers. We made sure that they knew who to trust when they were not playing the game in the castle. They were really well fed, which is very important. But look it is a destabilising show, it is thrilling.

How did they make sure no one ever saw The Traitors return?

The production was amazing in the fact that everybody has to leave the castle at midnight and they all leave individually and are taken back to their dwellings and then the Traitors come back without anybody knowing. It was honestly a military operation. And there was never even a close shave or anything. Hats off to them! The only thing that mattered was the secrecy, we didn’t even use the word Traitors on set just in case anyone let anything slip. Me and the crew on set used different words which I can’t possibly tell you. But we were so so careful.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be the contestants going back to their rooms every night?

Well, some of them made notes. Which is what I would have done because when you’re trying to solve a mystery, I mean, maybe I’ve watched too much Quincy and read too many detective novels, but you sometimes realise it’s a tiny thing. The first Traitor they catch out is because they said something really small as a throw away comment and one person just kept on drilling down at and they got them so you have got to be keeping notes!

How it was being in Scotland for three weeks?

I thought I’ve been to beautiful places. I have never been anywhere more beautiful than the Scottish highlands in my life. It felt sometimes like we were in a painting if that’s not too cheesy. And on the first day the weather systems were bonkers. I mean, at one point I went on my weather app and it literally just said no idea mate good luck, take a bikini and a cagoule. On day two, we saw a double rainbow and everyone was like oh my gosh, and the crew were crying, there were baby deer, there was beautiful heather, there were ancient trees, and an ancient loch. We were all taking pictures. I FaceTimed my kids to say “you’ve never seen anything like it’s magical”. And then by day four, there had been another three double rainbows. I mean, by the end of the three weeks where we had seen 50 it was like don’t care. But it’s just the most beautiful landscape.

Tweed features quite heavily. How did you approach your look for the series? It’s obviously quite a departure from Strictly and the sequins.

Well, I mean, this is my dream wardrobe and what I have wanted to wear but I’ve never been to the countryside so I’ve never worn it before. I have got a brilliant girl who gets all my clothes for Strictly and we were like let’s go for a touch of Ronnie Corbett, a bit of Princess Anne and Madonna when she married Guy Richie. I don’t know whether you can use any of those references! The clothing was amazing. We wanted to be respectful but we also did want to wear a lot of tweed and then somebody showed me Alan Cummings look book as he has done the American version. I was like, guys, we’re all right.

What was it like being part of a show that was so different from Strictly and showing off that slightly darker side of yourself?

I really wanted to just be a little ball of positivity, but that wouldn’t have worked. That would have ruined the game. If I’d have gone yes, you’re right and you’re doing brilliantly and by the way, you chose a traitor it would have ruined it. So I had to do it in a different way. I slightly had to take a step back and watch them kill each other.

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