The Traitors: Betrayal! Guilt! Claudia Winkleman’s hair! Series one stars spill their secrets ahead of final shows | Ents & Arts News

Jan 18, 2024 | Entertainment, News


From the secret couple to the mic-drop “parting gift” of the final, The Traitors became a sleeper hit when the first series launched just over a year ago.

It’s back and even bigger this time round, with millions following the game of cat and mouse as each permanently paranoid contestant tries to convince the others they are indeed 100% faithful.

The Traitors is the perfect reality game show for 2024 – savage but not cruel, a social experiment with pantomime villains but also genuine emotion, and full of memeable moments and cliffhanger endings courtesy of fatal kisses and poisoned chalices.

Plus, it has the ability to swamp Google with style searches thanks to host Claudia Winkleman’s modern country/Gothic vamp wardrobe. Because the desire to shop, let’s face it, is the thing every good reality show should invoke. (Princess Anne meets Ronnie Corbett meets Madonna when she married Guy Ritchie, is the the style she’s channelling, apparently).

The Traitors castle in Scotland. Pic: BBC/Studio Lambert/LLara Plaza
Where betrayal lurks around every corner. Pic: BBC/Studio Lambert/LLara Plaza

For the few who haven’t seen the programme, it is essentially a murder mystery set in a castle in Scotland, played by 22 people – some of whom are secretly designated as “traitors” via a simple shoulder squeeze from Winkleman as they sit blindfolded at the start.

The traitors are tasked with “murdering” (not literally) a faithful player each night, and convincing those remaining of their honourable intentions to save themselves from banishment at a daily round table vote, all with the aim of winning a prize pot of up to £120,000.

The Traitors also get to wear cloaks and meet up secretly in a turret after dark, which looks like fun. At the end of the show, any faithfuls left split the cash. But if there’s a traitor in their midst, the baddie walks away with the lot.

As the second series gets closer to its end, contestants from series one are watching eagerly to see how their successors fare and shared their tips with Sky News.

Be a good traitor – or a selfish faithful

The Traitors series one contestant Amanda Lovett. Pic: Listen Entertainment Ltd/James Green/BBC
Amanda Lovett is a fan-favourite traitor from series one. Pic: Listen Entertainment Ltd/James Green/BBC

“Although it’s a game of deception, it’s a game of trust,” says Amanda Lovett, a fan-favourite series one traitor; an estate agent and mother of five from Swansea whose lilting voice and mother-figure status belied the fact she was quietly killing everyone off. “You have to get people to trust you very quickly, form friendships… because when they trust you, they believe anything you say.”

Wilf Webster, the only traitor to make it through to the final, says you can never be too confident. “If you’re too ruthless, you create insecurities between the other traitors. I have decent morals and I feel I was made a traitor because of that, but I’m also really competitive – I’ll do anything to win.”

He adds: “Towards the end, I was murdering everybody close to me. That was my whole strategy. So I’d get upset because of guilt, but people would think it was because my friend had gone.

“I’m not very good at faking my emotions so I was like, if I do something that helps me cry, that’s probably better.”

For a faithful, the best strategy is to keep your friends close and your suspected traitors closer, he says. “Be best friends with them. Vote for whoever they vote for.”

Comedian Hannah Byczkowski, a former faithful and one of the first season winners, reckons that even as a faithful, the most important thing is to think about number one.

“After the first couple of round tables, I was like, there’s no need to find who the traitors are, I’m going to leave that to somebody else and focus on my own game instead of focusing on team play,” she says, pointing out something a lot of the faithfuls, as friendships develop, appear to forget.

She adds: “Ultimately, not all the faithfuls are going to be there at the end. Every day I wanted to make sure I was the one who stayed. It was a pretty selfish tactic, but that’s the game.”

The burden (or not) of betrayal

Wilfred Webster in series one of The Traitors. Pic: BBC
Traitor Wilf Webster says missing out at the final hurdle was a blessing in disguise. Pic: BBC

In the series one final, faithfuls Hannah, Meryl and Aaron split the prize money after suspecting Wilf right at the last minute. It got pretty tense.

“I felt guilty the whole time I was there,” says Wilf, who was friends with Hannah in particular. “I can’t even imagine how guilty I would have felt [if I’d won].”

When his deception was revealed, the relief was evident.

He says: “I think people were like, okay, he’s actually a nice guy who’s just playing a game… it was intense, like everything I’d been lying about, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Did Amanda feel guilty?

“No,” she answers bluntly, laughing. “It got difficult, but it was a game, you know? Wilf and myself, we had a few difficulties in our childhoods in different ways so I think you learn to put a facade on, become another person.

“Wilf was more emotional than me, but we both were in it to play a game… I knew I was going home to my family – and hopefully the nation still wanting a traitor to sell their houses. That’s what I was panicking about!

“None of us realised how big it was going to be. When I came out, I was thinking to myself – what if everybody hates the traitors? We’re the villains, aren’t we? But people embraced it.”

‘It’s like being knighted’

The Traitors series one contestants (L-R) Hannah, Kieran, Meryl Williams, Aaron Evans and Wilfdred Webster. Pic: BBC
The Traitors series one contestants (L-R) Hannah, Kieran, Meryl, Aaron and Wilf. Pic: BBC

Watching this series has felt like “watching a nanny cam and seeing someone in your house,” Amanda jokes. “I was quite protective of my cloak. I thought – are they worthy? You feel so powerful in it.

“When you get touched on the shoulder by Claudia, it’s almost like you’re being knighted and when you’re handed the cloak, it’s like: ‘I will wear this with great pride and dignity’. That’s how you feel.”

Sadly, they weren’t allowed to take them home. “But never mind,” she says.

Winkleman, as fans will know, is almost as invested as the players themselves; stern and admonishing when it comes to directing the round table, screaming encouragement during challenges.

“She’s obsessed with it,” says Hannah. “You can see how nervous she is about everything. She messages us still, which is really nice.”

And the one thing everyone wants to know about Winkleman – is her hair really that shiny in real life? “So shiny,” Hannah confirms. “The woman smells like a summer breeze.”

“We never knew when she was coming to the turret,” says Amanda. “That knock on the door would be an actual surprise.

“But you could feel the excitement from her when she came in. I think when she put the cloak on she felt so wicked. There’s a dark side…

“In the missions she’s like the mum on the sidelines at sports day, egging you on. But then at tea-time, she’s like the mum when you’ve been naughty, going round and round that table and it’s like: ‘Who’s going to own up to this?’ That’s what it feels like.”

The room is kept chilled with creepy music playing before they get to speak, she says. “So you’re really in this sombre mood.”

‘There’s nothing more fun than being in on the secret’

Claudia Winkleman hosts The Traitors. Pic: BBC/Studio Lambert/LLARA PLAZA
Winkleman hosts The Traitors. Pic: BBC/Studio Lambert/LLARA PLAZA

One of the biggest secrets this season has not been kept by the traitors, but by mother and son Diane and Ross, two faithfuls who have kept their relationship hidden so far.

It echoes a similar trick in series one, which saw a couple, Tom Elderfield, a magician, and Alex Gray, playing the game separately and stealing snogs on the sly – until Tom could keep the secret in no longer.

“I mean, try playing a game of Werewolf with your family for two weeks,” he laughs. “You’re there for a long time. It plays with your head, that’s why you see emotions running high.”

Alex, who turned down the “golden ticket” to be recruited into the traitors later in the series, says if she had her time again she would go for it, but at the time she felt she couldn’t have played the game lying to her fellow contestants.

“There were such heavy, intense emotions,” she says. “It was too much for me.”

Being the first contestants, it was a “baptism of fire”, she adds, and no one knew what to expect or how they would be received by viewers. “Now, I might have the resilience. But at the time it was the right decision.”

But the brilliant thing about The Traitors is that the audience is in on the secret.

Rather than trying to figure out whodunnit and being shocked by the murderous decisions, you’re with them every step of the way.

This is why it works so well, says Tom.

“It’s kind of like a magic trick in the sense that the audience are in on it, and there’s nothing more fun than being the one that’s in on the secret,” he says. “Everyone knows how the trick is done, they can see who the traitors are, they can see why it’s going wrong. And being the person who knows the secret, it’s very entertaining to watch people get it very wrong.”

It also appeals to our darker side, says Hannah. “This is the one time where [as a traitor] you have permission to lie and cheat and steal and all the rest of it. Dating shows, you kind of feel guilty because you’re taking enjoyment out of somebody else’s pain. But we all love the drama and we can’t deny that. Traitors gives you an opportunity to do that without kind of feeling too bad about it.”

All five series one contestants think a traitor is going to win this year.

“I want a traitor,” says Amanda. “Let evil win this time.”

The Traitors is on BBC One on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9pm, and on iPlayer and Sky catch-up


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