Richard Madeley has said his time as a celebrity guest in reality show The Circle was “strangely liberating”, adding jokingly that it was “a holiday from f***ing Brexit, if nothing else”.
The veteran broadcaster, 63, entered the apartment block for a few days to join the group of hopefuls vying for the £100,000 cash prize on the Channel 4 series.
The series sees people living in separate apartments, communicating only via the social media platform called The Circle. They do not know each other’s real identities, with some contestants cat-fishing their way through the series as they pretend to be someone else.
Madeley, who was not eligible for the prize money, had to masquerade as a 27-year-old blonde named Judy – a persona chosen for him by the public.
The former This Morning presenter told PA News Agency: “I thought, as a journalist, and I write a weekly column, I need to keep up with the news, I’m interested by it.
“I thought I would find it difficult not knowing what was going on in the world and not talking to my friends and not having a chat with Judy (his wife) about stuff.
“Actually I found being cut off strangely liberating, it was a holiday from the real world, it was a holiday from f***ing Brexit, if nothing else.
“The thing I found very difficult psychologically – and there was no way of getting around this – was the complete loss of freedom of movement… when you are incarcerated for a week, you are completely locked in and I found that quite oppressive and quite depressing.
“I had to work quite hard psychologically to tell myself it was just a game and I would be coming out soon and it was all fine.”
During his time in the series he kept audiences entertained as he demonstrated his dance moves and his lack of understanding of how to use emojis – and what they stand for.
Contestant Woody, 18, who is the son of BBC presenter Zoe Ball and Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook), took a shine to Madeley’s fake persona, Judy, and had a brief flirtation with her – obviously not knowing it was Madeley he was talking to.
Madeley said: “I had this rule straight away in my head – I thought, I’m not going to flirt back because that isn’t fair. I’m not going to lead anybody on so if any of the young lads fancy Judy and is in my old-fashioned expression ‘giving her the eye’ and flirting with her, I was going to sort of ignore it.
“I did say in my profile I’d just come out of a broken engagement and I had broken it off and I was off men, I was taking a holiday from boys, so that allowed me to keep back.
“But I did feel a bit sorry for him. In fact, I felt sorry for everyone when they were talking to Judy because I’m a naturally honest person, I really am, I don’t lie, I don’t hide behind a fake ID or anything like that.”
In a bid to get Judy “blocked” from The Circle, which is decided by influencers who are the contestants ranked the most popular by their fellow Circle members, Madeley had to purposefully be antagonistic or rude to make Judy unpopular.
People who are blocked must leave the series immediately.
During Tuesday night’s episode, he gets blocked and Judy has to exit the series – but also gets to meet a contestant of his choice.
The former This Morning presenter opted to meet 22-year-old Georgina from Nottingham, who has shared her journey as someone living with Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is described by the NHS website as a lifelong condition and one in which “parts of the digestive system become inflamed”.
Madeley praised Georgina who opted to use as one of her profile pictures while in the show, a bikini shot from when she previously had an ileostomy bag.
He said of meeting her after his exit: “She’s very funny, she’s a real sassy northern girl and I liked her a lot.”
The TV star also granted her immunity from the next vote – but the other players do not yet know she has been chosen.
Asked who he wanted to win, he said Georgina, but acknowledged it may be 58-year-old university professor Tim, who has emerged as one of the most popular Circle players.
The Circle airs on Channel 4 at 10pm.