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UChicago is taking reality TV? How our own brother Frat found his fame

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Jack Atkins is an outright self-proclaimed Survivor fan. The fiercely island-based competition show, now in its 41st season, has paved the way for a whole slew of competitive reality shows that Atkins has indulged in since falling in love with the genre. at the start of high school. He applied to compete on Survivor more than once, to no avail.

And then, on day one of 2020, a new reality series entered the game, one tragically well suited to the socially distant year it sounded in, although no one – not even the omniscient Netflix producers behind the project. – could only have known at the time.

The circle, a UK import that first aired on Channel 4 in the UK in 2018, debuted in the US in 2020. Each Circle the player gets an outrageously decorated apartment all to himself and apparently doesn’t leave that building or interact with anyone else for the entire two weeks of filming, unless he’s ‘stranded’ before the final round. Featured as a social media competition with ‘real’ and catfish players vying for maximum popularity and influence, The circle is more strategy than sincerity. But again, isn’t it just social media?

Atkins is in his third year of college. When the first season of The circle abandoned, he loved her but did not love her. But, like most social media junkies who saw the show, Atkins thought he might be good at it, or at the very least, he would have fun. “So I was like, come on,” Atkins said. Brown. “I’ll go ahead and send in an application. What’s the worst that can happen? You just haven’t been called back? And the best that can happen is that you win $ 100,000.

A few months later, Atkins was recalled. He had no marked preferences for playing himself or a catfish, so he and the casting directors worked together to find a character who would give him the best chance at making the show for season two. “They wanted strategists this season,” said Atkins. “I stressed that I was going to be strategic; I would be ruthless; I would do whatever it takes to win. This antagonistic angle is fully on display in Atkins’ intro cut at the start of season two. “I’m honestly down to become the biggest villain of Circle the story. I really don’t care, ”Jack said to the camera with a smile.

The producers decided that tall, brotherly, and ruthless Atkins would be the most fun if she caught cat fishing as the girl of a five-foot-tall sorority – a “girl next door” type they decided to name Emily, although the photos of “Emily” actually represent the third real-life UChicago. -Year Mariel Verre. Glass was paid for the rights to her photos, says Atkins, and took charge. She tells him that he played a girl better than she could have.

In the eyes of other players, Emily quickly proved to be sluggish, always playing it safe and trying to be liked by others while avoiding making real enemies or risky alliances. It was a strategy Atkins developed from all his years of study. Survivor, and although he knows he has received mixed reviews, he stands by his choice. But Emily’s graceful manners weren’t what knocked Atkins down in the end. Rather, it was a makeup challenge led by celebrity guest Jonathan Van Ness who got him involved. When other players saw Atkins’ poor attempt to makeover a model in half an hour, it was determined that he just couldn’t be a sorority girl. , and he was blocked from the match.

But unlike most of the other stranded players, Atkins, along with teammate Lisa Delcampo, whose catfish character “Lance Bass” was stranded along with Atkins-as-Emily, got a second chance. Together, they were offered a predefined cat fishing profile (“John”) and lived the rest of their time in the Circle in a shared apartment, planning to split their $ 100,000 check in the middle if they were to randomly win the ranking strategies of the other finalists. (They do not have.)

“I’ve seen a lot of talk like, ‘Oh, Jack and Lisa are so different! [Their living together] that does not make any sense!’ Atkins said of the online reaction to their match. “And honestly, yes, we’re quite different. But I feel like we’re both very down to earth. And so especially after spending eight or nine days in the game when we were alone, then the quarantine two weeks before the game, seeing another person… We’re a team now. Let’s go. ‘”

Atkins, for better or worse, has mostly followed public conversations about her. “Even before the show, I was using Reddit to follow other shows that I liked. So it was quite natural for me to go out there and see what the fans were thinking, ”he said. Brown. Atkins got access to the edited episodes at the same time as mainstream Netflix subscribers, waiting until 2 a.m. in Chicago to watch them as they dropped in batches of three episodes each week, at least before moving to Los Angeles, where they would fall at midnight Pacific time. With each day since the episodes ended, however, his concern for public opinion has diminished even more.

Jack, Courtney, Savannah and Mitchell (clockwise from top right)

@ jackatkins21 on Instagram


Yet public opinion has, in a sense, become Atkins’ job since he left. the Circle. “A year ago, I was like ‘F — TikTok’,” Atkins laughs, making sure to sound the keyword in real time. “I was like, ‘This shit is so stupid!’” He added of the app, apparently no longer self-censoring. Now he has over 175,000 subscribers on the platform and produces regular content, often referencing his time on The circle or featuring other alumni from both seasons of the show. He makes Cameo videos for paying fans and has branded deals requiring him to post. On Instagram, where Atkins claims a coveted blue check and just over 125,000 followers, he recently promoted a relatively unknown social media app called “ibble.”

He may not have made $ 100,000 in two weeks, but Atkins is confident in the value of the industrial relations he is establishing in Los Angeles at the moment. The fall term, he took off from school to film The circle (much to his mother’s dismay) and the summer he is about to spend influencing the west are, in Atkins’ book, solid investments in his future.

A business economics graduate with a minor in astrophysics, Atkins laughs, “I really don’t know much about astrophysics. He’s my miner. [But] they were like, ‘We like this.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, I guess if you want me to look smarter, I’ll just say that.’ Ultimately, Atkins hopes to get into talent management or work in an agency.

There are advantages and disadvantages to Atkins’ increased (virtual) campus profile as a result of The circle, but he reveals that all of UChicago’s new attention to him hasn’t looked particularly positive. I haven’t taken anyone’s temperature on campus, but if I had to make a crazy guess I’d say a large portion of the UChicago community probably sees Atkins as the stereotypical biz-econ-frat-bro character that it shines through much of the show.

In the eighth episode, however, the one in which he fails Van Ness’s makeup challenge and is then ousted, that veneer momentarily gives way to vulnerability. Atkins seems determined to hide from the ubiquitous tracking cameras as he chokes back tears over the knowledge he’s made for, and as a member of the audience, the producers’ pleasure is almost palpable. “When I saw myself cry, I was like, ‘Oh my God, people are going to think I’m so lame,’” Atkins says. And then a bunch of comments online were like, ‘Oh my god, when Jack cried like I really felt for him. “”

DeLeesa St. Agathe, who ultimately won the $ 100,000, was also cat fishing. An eminently sympathetic fan favorite, St. Agathe played the game as her real-life husband, Trevor, posing as a single dad to the couple’s real one-year-old baby. I asked Atkins how he felt seeing St. Agatha win.

“Obviously, I would have liked to win, because I was still in it [as John] at the moment. But you know, I thought DeLeesa played a good game, and I was obviously good with a catfish victory, ”Atkins said. “I also just think [that] of those finalists, DeLeesa was one of the most deserving of a moral point of view — which, I don’t care morally — but look, a mom who was pregnant when she won the game, and already has a child, who wants to make her family’s life better… you can ‘I’m not really complaining about that story.

And besides, Atkins points out, it’s only $ 100,000. Survivor winners get a million.