‘It was a witch hunt’: Alyssa and Meryl on The Traitors and their favourite Edinburgh nights out
The Edinburgh Tab spoke to the show’s Edinburgh-based stars
The Traitors: it’s the BBC reality TV show that has gripped the nation for the last month, as 22 ordinary Brits have battled it out to win up to £120,000.
The Edinburgh Tab has sat down with locals Alyssa and Meryl, two of the show’s star contestants to get all the insider info and behind-the-scenes gossip about the hottest, campest, most chaotic show on TV.
The highly emotive game sees three contestants secretly selected to be ‘Traitors’, while the others remain ‘Faithful’, with the Faithfuls trying to work out who the Traitors are before they are killed or voted off by their fellow players.
Read on to find out whether Claudia Winkleman is in their group chat, which contestant Alyssa briefly thought hated her, the unexpected reason why the Roundtable scenes were difficult to film, and whether the pair would be keen to return for a hotly anticipated series two!
Both Alyssa and Meryl live in Edinburgh
Alyssa Chan, 21, is originally from Cork in Ireland and now studies Business at Queen Margaret University just outside Edinburgh. She was chosen by Claudia Winkleman to be one of the game’s three Traitors, whose mission it was to accuse innocent players of lying and reach the final undetected. She was booted off the show in episode six after fellow Traitor Will encouraged contestants to vote for Alyssa at the Roundtable.
Meryl Williams, 25, is a former call centre agent who has lived in the Scottish capital for 20 years, and was one of three Faithfuls to win the game and share the prize money of £101,050. She reportedly quit her job after winning the show, and intends to build a career in TV and educate others about dwarfism.
The pair were approached by producers to join the show
Both Alyssa and Meryl were scouted and asked by the producers if they would like to apply for the show.
“It was just so different – they didn’t give too much away so I wasn’t sure what to expect”, Alyssa says. Filming took place last summer: “I just thought you know what, I’m going into my final year at university, I’ve got the summer free – let’s apply for the crack…and all of a sudden I was in the castle”.
Meryl was dubious and tells us she regrets not watching the Dutch version of the show before entering the game. It’s become a running joke that the 25-year-old didn’t understand what was happening most of the time after she continuously held hilarious suspicions about her fellow players, something she wholeheartedly accepts: “If I’d watched the Dutch version, then I’d actually know what was going on, I had no idea!”.
She says at points she completely forgot they were there to find the Traitors, and even when she was crying to Alyssa in the toilets after being accused by Maddy, she didn’t suspect a thing. “I just thought free food, with my friends, going on missions, it’s the best thing ever!!”. Chaos.
‘Everyone watching felt represented by someone in the show’
The Traitors has been praised for having one of the most diverse casts of any reality TV show. People of different ages, ethnicities, disabilities and sexualities were cast to represent the country at large.
The candidates think this has helped the show’s success hugely. Meryl believes “everyone watching felt represented by someone in the show”, adding that it completely broke the mold for British reality TV casting.
Alyssa is a fan of reality TV herself. “In recent years, it’s hard to come by a cast that represents so many different types of people….we were just normal”. Contrasting them with those on other TV shows, she says everyone had a bit of depth to them because they were chosen because of their interesting personalities, rather than purely based on looks.
“We were there for the right reasons, not just to use it as a platform for our careers”, she said.
Of course, the game is about trust. The Edinburgh student told us the very premise of the show being based on lies and truth made the group gel even more quickly, and the pair say their friendship blossomed because they were terrified of being targeted and they needed support.
Traitor or Faithful: is one harder than the other?
Alyssa tells us she wanted to be a Traitor from the minute the game began. “When she [Claudia] tapped me on the shoulder, I felt like it was my game now”, and it gave her a sense of being one step ahead of everyone.
In episode one, viewers see her try to convince her fellow players that contestant Nicky is a Traitor within seconds of Alyssa being selected in the role: “I was straight in Traitor mode”.
True to form, Meryl, who went on to win the show, doesn’t think she would have made a good Traitor, although says she might have not been expected by her contestants.
“The mistake I made was trusting my other Traitors”, says Alyssa. Understandably, she experienced a growing sense of guilt as the game went on, and she and fellow Traitors Will and Amanda were forced to convince people that their friends, who they knew to be Faithful, were lying to the group.
Is there any bad blood between Alyssa and Will?
One of the most dramatic moments of the series was when Will threw fellow Traitor Alyssa under the bus, accusing her of being a Traitor in front of their fellow contestants and successfully getting her evicted from the show by persuading others that she was guilty.
At first, Alyssa was upset. “Why does he hate me?” she thought as she cried once she had left the Roundtable room. “It took me two days to realise…it is a game”. Alyssa compares it to a family game of Monopoly – you can put it away and everyone is friends again!
‘The hard part is you have no evidence to prove you’re a faithful’
Maddy was convinced Meryl was one of the plotting Traitors, and said this at the Roundtable on multiple occasions.
But what viewers saw on TV wasn’t the whole picture. “It was off-camera as well: she kept on saying it’s you” and that she didn’t believe her when she said she was Faithful.
Meryl took it personally because she’s “never had someone look at [me] in the eyes and say you’re lying”.
It’s so frustrating, the pair tell us, because you simply can’t prove a negative. “The hard part is you have no evidence to prove you’re a faithful, and [Maddy] was just not believing me”, Meryl says.
The roundtable room was ‘freezing’ and ‘like a witch hunt’
Everyone agrees the worst part of the day on set, whether you were a Faithful or a Traitor, was the Roundtable.
“It was just terrifying”, Alyssa says. People are clutching at straws as they try to find any reason to suspect someone is a Traitor: some people are getting defensive, some people are getting offensive.
Players apparently thought about every move they made in the room. “If you drink water, are you a Traitor, if you don’t drink water are you a Traitor?”.
To make matters worse, the Roundtable room was freezing. “It was like minus twenty in there”, Meryl claims, making them all more on edge.
But as a Traitor, Alyssa felt it was even worse. “People were trying to find ME. It’s like a witch hunt, and as soon as your name comes out of someone’s mouth you need to get defensive” to stay in the game.
You might think that the suspenseful music on TV makes it seem more intense than it is in real life. Quite the opposite…the contestants tell us it was even worse during filming than on screen, because it was unedited and prolonged.
Were you ever tempted to make it personal and have a go at fellow contestants who were frustrating you?
“It’s hard to keep your cool”, Alyssa says, who was tempted to out fellow Traitor Will on multiple occasions.
The pair say it took a mental toll on them. “From a Traitors point of view, it was really difficult to watch people rip each other to shreds, knowing that it’s you” they’re looking for.
For instance, when other people were being accused of being a Traitor, “that was a really difficult time” for Alyssa, who says she was tempted to try and divert attention away from her friends such as Aaron and Meryl.
Meryl’s chaotic final change of heart: what happened?!
In the final episode, Meryl and her fellow winners Hannah and Aaron finally turned on Will and accused him of being a Traitor, after claiming it couldn’t have been him throughout the series.
Meryl says if Maddy hadn’t accused her, she would have been more inclined to back her accusation that Will was a Traitor earlier on.
“When Hannah and Aaron chose not to end the game, I realised they still thought it was him”, but before that point she didn’t really consider getting rid of him.
“I felt clueless the whole way through”…we should all aspire to live life like Meryl.
Are you all still in touch?
The pair reveal that (probably to the envy of at least 75 per cent of the UK’s population), a BBC Traitors group chat does exist. It’s name? ‘Traitors’. While short and sweet is never a bad thing, surely some creativity might not have gone amiss here, lads? My top alternative pick is: ‘It could still be Will – Maddy’.
“No one’s left out, there’s not bad blood between anyone at least not that I know of”, Alyssa says.
However it is confirmed, sadly, that queen of the castle Claudia is not in the group chat. “We don’t have her number, which is probably for the best, we’d just be harassing her”, says adds.
They say they felt Claudia really cared about both the contestants and the show. Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Winkleman says she originally turned the gig down, but changed her mind after watching the Dutch version of the programme. Gripped by its witty nature, as soon as she’d finished watching she told the producers: “I’ve booked a train, I’m going to Scotland now”.
Keeping in touch is similar to trauma bonding say the contestants, as no one else quite understands the experience they had. On a more serious note, because none of them have been in the public eye before, they say “it’s imperative that we stick together and support each other”.
Meryl is keen to insist, although she might not have understood every unhinged twist and turn our Claudia introduced, “it was a game!”. She and Maddy are “totally fine”, and says they all need each other’s support.
In and around Edinburgh: where do people find you on a night out?
“Kitty O’Shea’s. WE LOVE KITTY’S”, Alyssa tells us… she truly is the people’s New Town queen. “It’s an Irish pub so it’s not a surprise there”, adding that she adores the constant live music, warm vibes, and the fact that you can always find someone you know there – she gets it!
A clubber at heart, Meryl says she loves a Friday night at Lulu nightclub. “Me and Alyssa have the same music taste” and the two of them became best friends during filming partly by bonding over shared favourite artists.
The ultimate final question…
Claudia Winkleman has said she would love The Traitors to return for series two, perhaps even with the same contestants, with a different group selected as Traitors.
The contestants have in fact already spoken about this in the group chat, they tell us.
“I would love that”, Meryl says. Round two of Meryl consistently accusing the wrong people for the wrong reasons is ON! She says the Traitors would enjoy being Faithfuls far more, as she felt “care free” throughout the series.
In words that will strike a painful chord with many Edinburgh students, Alyssa is less sure. “I’m just trying to do my dissertation”, she says, adding that her fellow contestants have already said they would kill the series one Traitors off first if they did all return just to narrow it down… “suddenly, I’m busy that day!”, she jokes.
All episodes of The Traitors are available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.
Featured image: Via publicist and Instagram.
Related articles recommended by this writer:
• Interview: Nayna Florence on her time at Edinburgh University and what’s next after graduation
• Catching up with singer and former Edinburgh University student Katie Gregson-MacLeod
• We caught up with Edi fourth year Peter Sawkins one year on from his GBBO win