We were casting for another show, Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum, and kept coming across people in their late teens and early 20s who weren’t right for that but were charismatic, funny and led dramatic lives. They were the type of people who used to be dismissed as “Sloanes”, but they were much more interesting than that. The community was very tight-knit: they all knew and lived near each other.
Cast member zero was Amber Atherton. Through her, we met the first group of friends: Francis, Rosie and the others. Al tempo, Keeping Up With the Kardashians was growing in popularity and Twitter was still relatively new. We felt like we were on the cusp of something, this phenomenon of people sharing their personal lives.
The style of the show was very important. We were presenting an aspirational world and that had to be reflected in the quality of the production. That’s still a big deal: we always need our cast in positions where they can get the best lighting. People ask all the time whether the show is real. è. The production team is in regular contact with the cast. We’re always asking what they’re up to, who they fancy, and then we go along and film it. There has to be trust. They need to know we’ll tell their stories honestly and authentically.
I’m massively proud of the Ollie getting married episode: Chelsea was the first UK reality show to cover an LGBTQ+ wedding. I’ve always liked that we’ve dealt with all sorts of relationships, good and bad, and between family members as well as romantic ones. As the show has developed, we’ve been able to tackle bigger subjects, such as grief when Alex Mytton’s mother sadly passed away. If you said to me 10 years ago the show would still be going today, with hundreds of episodes and a Bafta, I wouldn’t have believed it.
I had finished drama school and was feeling like a failed actor when I was given the opportunity to join a new “constructed reality” show with the working title of Chelsea Girls. It was being made by the production company behind Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum, so I was slightly suspicious it was going to end up being something like Rich, Posh and Stupid. I knew Cheska and Binky before filming. Even though I know she didn’t, Binky always says she brought me on to the show. She still insists she “made me”!
We’re basically all just show-offs. Richard Dinan, a former cast member, used to say: “If you knew how real it was, you’d like it more.” You just can’t fake this kind of stuff. I suppose we were all hyped-up versions of ourselves at the beginning. My Union Jack car is a good example of that! The “TV me” was like my alter ego. I’d wear hoodies and jeans then go on set wearing ridiculous jumpers and stuff. But that landed me in a bit of trouble. I felt like I’d become a parody of myself, which is why I cut all my hair off in series five.
We all thought Made in Chelsea would be something that people would laugh at for six months then fade into the background – but it stuck around. When we filmed the first series, I was working as a doorman. A few months after the first series aired, I was on the door at a Mayfair club, looking after Ellie Goulding, when someone came up to us and asked me for a photo. That made me think: “Maybe I should start concentrating on this television thing.”
Coming out as bisexual on the show was a pivotal moment. I wanted to be open about my sexuality because I knew I had this amazing platform and could use it to help others. I’ve received surprisingly little trolling, maybe because I’ve always been really open about my struggles and never tried to be someone I wasn’t. Even after I got married, there was only one bad tweet – and the episode has been watched almost 1m times. The decision to film my wedding was easy. I wanted parents of gay children to see that if their child gets married, they can still do it fabulously and beautifully, with heart and emotion and everything you’d want for a wedding day.
Reality shows like Made in Chelsea work so well because people are inherently nosy. We love seeing into lives that are different from our own. I don’t think many people in Chelsea watch the show – unless they want to find out about new restaurants.