The struggles of living in the fierce glare of public scrutiny are laid bare in BBC film Make Me Famous, starring Tom Brittney as a former reality TV star who faces a media backlash and barbed, cruel comments on social media.
Brittney (best known as the motor-cycling vicar in Grantchester) brilliantly portrays Billy, a cocky 24-year-old who, as seen in flashbacks to his interviews with TV producers, is masking secret insecurities, particularly about his body. In one scene he shows the producers an old photograph of himself as an overweight child – the same photograph we see framed and in pride-of-place at his mother’s flat.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Brittney says that while preparing for the role, he believed that Billy had pre-existing mental health issues and “severe body image issues” – before revealing that he could personally “relate” to his character’s insecurities, stating later in the interview that he has previously felt “petrified” about viewers who “might not like” the way he looks.
“I did, absolutely [think that Billy had mental health issues], in my head,” Brittney says. “Something I sort of related to was that he had quite severe body image issues, he had been a larger child, and he clearly worked on himself and got away from that, and was happier but couldn’t… On the outside, [he] had tried to overcompensate by being this cocky, confident character, to try and run away from who he was when he was 15, 16, and not popular in school, and bullied.”
He adds, “But that never really leaves, in certain ways, and those scenes where you can see him holding his stomach, and then once the comments start picking on his weight, or he’s not quite as ripped as he was… that just brought all of that back.”
Talking about how he relates to Billy’s body insecurities, Brittney continues, “I totally relate to that, I’m not particularly very secure in the way that I look sometimes, and it’s a really exposing thing to go on to TV, and you’re – you know it’s an odd sort of dichotomy to put myself out there on television, and yet at the same time be petrified that people might not like the way I look.
“But you know, it’s something you’ve just gotta – you know I just try and deal with, but there’s a lot of actors and people I know in the public eye who have similar kind of worries, I think probably a lot of us do. It’s a very vulnerable place to be in.”
Billy’s own insecurities are exacerbated in the film by the new crop of stars from “Love or Lust” – the fictional reality dating show that Billy appeared on the previous year. Pete, a contestant in the latest season, is billed by the media as the ‘new Billy’.
As Brittney explains, “That happens to a lot of these people on these shows, is that they’re forgotten about, and the toll that takes on everything else.”
BBC Three’s Make Me Famous, starring Tom Brittney, is available to stream on BBC iPlayer from Wednesday 17th June. It will also be shown on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday 25th June.
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