The Traitors star Aisha Birley has lifted the lid on a life-changing experience on the Claudia Winkleman’s BBC game show that has the nation hooked. The reality series, set in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, captured imaginations as 22 strangers competed in a series of missions for a chance to win a prize fund of up to £120,000.
Amongst the players were a select group of 'Traitors', chosen by host Claudia, who met in secret to decide who to eliminate from their fellow contestants, known as 'Faithfuls'. The goal, as they took their place at the round table each evening, was to identify and eliminate the Traitors through a 'banishment.'
If any Traitors made it to the end of the series, they could steal the money, and, each night after dark, the Traitors met in secret to decide which Faithful to 'murder.' At breakfast it was revealed who had gone home without any goodbyes and their portrait was brutally removed from the wall.
Faithfuls Aaron Evans, Hannah Byczkowski and Meryl Williams were crowned winners and took home the £101,050 prize in the game of twists, turns and skullduggery. The last remaining Traitor, Wilfred Webster, was finally banished after causing jaws to drop by backstabbing his fellow Traitors Amanda Lovett, Alyssa Chan and Kieran Tompsett.
English teacher Aisha, 24, from Prestwich, was the first contestant to be ‘murdered’ in the middle of the night by Wilf, Alyssa and Amanda and she told us what it was like to be part of reality TV history, as fans eagerly await series two. "We all hoped it would be big and the new big thing but everyone is obsessed with it," she said.
"I'm still having people messaging me saying they're just starting watching it. I'm from a generation of binge watchers and because it's on iPlayer people say ''I've not slept for the last 12 hours', I've just watched it, it's amazing. we need season two already.' They're obsessed."
The Traitors, which has been compared to early days Big Brother, proved to be addictive TV, but its contestants had no idea of what was to come. "I didn't expect it to be as big. I'd just graduated from uni and split up from my boyfriend and thought, 'why not, I might as well. You're not doing anything else, let's just do it'," said Aisha.
"None of us knew how big it was going to be. We didn't know if anyone would watch it or be bothered. We thought it was brilliant. We loved taking part in it and thought 'people could be obsessed with this but we don't know if they will be' and it's been amazing, people have been obsessed."
She added: "We all went into it completely blind. We had no idea what any of the contestants were like, we didn't know where we were going. We knew it was filmed in the Scottish Highlands but that's all we knew. Everything else we were left in the dark about. That's what made it so exciting, that we had no clue.
"You had no idea of game play. People went in day dot with a game plan and I was like 'woah, this is a lot.' I applied for it. I thought 'why not, let's see what happens'."
Aisha said: "Big Brother was a bit before my generation. I watched The Hills and all that stuff, and The Circle came out, I was obsessed with that and Love Island. It's most similar to the old days of Big Brother and The Circle.
Reflecting on what made it such a success, she thinks it's the cast of 'ordinary' people. "They're just everyday normal people and I think that's part of the game... nobody is an influencer or a reality star... It could be your neighbour down the road, it could be your nan," she explained.
"I thought the most similar thing to doing this that I've done is going to university and being in halls with a bunch of people you don't know, that's the most similar thing. But then people are genuinely who they say they are and you don't know this with this show.
"So you go into it thinking 'this is what it's going to be like and then it's completely not.' If it's renewed for a new season people are going to go on it thinking 'okay this is what this season was like so I'm going to do this.' But you don't know until you get there and it changes every day. It's so intense.
"Every day different things come of it. We were all so set on Imran being a traitor and then Nicky's demeanor changed, she ended up going, so any little thing you do can change the outcome of who gets murdered, who get banished. Pretty much all the way through it, Aaron was on the chopping block and then he won it.
"It's about how you fight and navigate through it. I remember being there and you're so anxious, you don't know if it's going to be you or not. Its a very intense experience all day, every day."
Asked if the show has changed her outlook on life, Aisha said: "I'm already quite a pessimistic person, for me you have to earn my trust before I will trust you. So with people I'm like 'anybody could be lying about anything, you don't know.' It could be the sweet old lady from down the road.
"That's why it did so well, the broad age span and people from up and down the country. It represented the nation and also meant I got to be around women like Andrea, being around a 72-year-old woman who wasn't my nan and becoming friendly with her and texting her on a regular basis, and the same with Claire who has a son who is my age and is one my closest friends now.
"Whoever was murdered, it's a game and we get that and we're all still friendly from it. Aaron was a surprise, he was on the chopping block so many times. Hannah was a strong independent woman. She was closest to Wilf and kept fighting his corner. Whoever was closest to the Traitors was going to go further in it and I'm glad they ended up catching Wilf in the end."
She continued: "I'm proud to be part of TV history. It was going back to basics like old school reality TV and to be part of season one of this amazing new show that is hopefully going to go on for years now. I can say 'I'm season one and I'm part of that'."
Aisha is now recognised from the show. "I went to visit my friend in Cambridge and we were in a bar and this guy turned to me and said 'you're that really gobby girl on The Traitors and I was like 'yeah, hi.'
"People will double glance and stare and point. The kids at school watched it and they were like 'miss, you were on TV.' The majority has been positive, people saying they loved me and they can't wait to see what I get up to next."
On being 'murdered' so soon in the process, Aisha says: "It was hard to go out at the point I did, but I never went into it thinking I was going to win. But I didn't think I would go out when I did. That was a shock and that's always hard."
She continued: "You're put in an environment far away from home with 20 other people you've never met before and they become your family. At halfway it's anyone's game. When you go you're more sad that you're leaving these people rather than that you've lost out in this money.
"Once you're gone, you're gone you don't get chance to say goodbye. You have to wait until everybody has left to be able to contact them. You're sat there thinking 'I can't wait for it to be over so I can talk to and see these people again and build friendships in the outside world', rather than the lies you may have told.
"That's the hardest part of when you go, regardless of whenever you go. It's an exprience nobody else will understand and will always join us all together for the rest of our lives."
Aisha is calling for show bosses to stick with the same format for The Traitors. "The BBC are smart people. They know what they are doing. They made this amazing show in the first place.
"With the Australian version it's normal people, with the US one it's half celeb half non celeb. But I think with this one the reason the general public loved it as nobody had any followers - they were doctors, teachers, lawyers, university students, just your average everyday normal people. They should keep that format. If they didn't people might not enjoy it as much.
"I remember getting mic'd up and being in TV environment and thinking 'this is so wild'. I was like, 'it's being on a TV set' and the others said 'you kind of are.' We were all the same, none of us had done TV before."
Aisha took away a couple of treasured souvenirs from her time on the show - her name card from the train journey to Scotland and her portrait from the breakfast room wall. "I said 'Claudia I want that picture, you've got to give it to me.' Mum has it framed on the wall."
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