Surprise! The third season of viral hit The Circle (opens in new tab) dropped on Netflix on September 8, 2021, just months after (opens in new tab)the second season (opens in new tab) came out. The reality competition first hit screens on New Year's Day 2020, when the idea of being confined to an apartment and only communicating through social media was a unique premise rather than a socially distant reality. The Circle followed a rotating cast of players who competed to become the most popular person a voice-activated social media platform, while either presenting as their true selves or catfishing through false pictures or personalities. At the end of season one, two prizes were awarded: $100,000 to the player rated highest by the contestants, and $10,000 to a Fan Favorite chosen by the viewers.
Fans of the show quickly become familiar with the luxury apartment building where The Circle is filmed. In addition to the time spent watching each contestant in their customized apartments, the show includes multiple shots of the red brick building's exterior (and its giant LED-lit circle).
The city shots are not where The Circle is filmed...
Viewers were left wondering where the apartment building is located, judging mostly by the weather and whatever else we can see in the exterior shots. Turns out, although the show uses cityscape shots of Chicago and Milwaukee, the building isn't actually located in an American city. Or anywhere in America, for that matter.
...because The Circle building is in the UK, in Manchester!
Instead, the Circle building is actually located in Salford, a town near Manchester, England. Per The Cinemaholic (opens in new tab), the building is located 15 minutes away from the Manchester City Centre, near River Irwell.
What do we know about The Circle building?
The Adelphi Wharf Phase One building has 65 units total, and the show maintains 12 for contestants, which are decorated, soundproofed, and rigged with cameras for filming. The show also redecorates the apartments slightly for each new contestant. The Circle creator Tim Harcourt told the Chicago Tribune (opens in new tab) that the studio also built a gym, yoga room, and jacuzzi space, and the contestants never left the building.
Also, though the show only filmed for a few weeks, Season 1 contestant Bill Cranley told the Chicago Tribune that the contestants and stayed in the U.K. for nearly a month. "They wanted us to get comfortable in our new environment and get over the jet-lag and feel at home," he said.
If you're like me, you're now wondering why The Circle would fly their players and stand-by contestants (as many as 50 people) out to the U.K. to film. It's actually because The Circle started out as a show in the U.K., and then expanded to include versions for the U.S., France and Brazil. (The France and Brazil series are available on Netflix.) Harcourt told Vulture (opens in new tab) that all of the international versions of The Circle film out of the same Salford apartment building, with the different versions being filmed one after the other. The show also keeps each of the apartments furnished and ready to go for each season.
As for the shots of U.S. cities? Harcourt told Vulture that they were included so the show would feel familiar for American audiences. He said, “We wanted the building to be in a nonspecific location for the U.S. version—the feeling that it could be anywhere. However, it didn’t make sense to add shots of the U.K. and its cities—in fact, it was confusing—so we added U.S. cityscapes to give it an American feel for the majority of the audience who assume it is somewhere in the U.S." He also said that they use the same tactic for the other countries too, swapping in images of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for the Brazil version. Sounds like the production and the catfishing contestant's had similar ideas.
Any more fun facts about The Circle building?
You bet. Thanks to Chloe Veitch's interview with Refinery29, we have a no-holds-barred perspective on what it's like living in The Circle building. Like, for example, how do you use the bathroom? “You just give the producers a heads up! You just say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to go use the toilet.’ Or, ‘I’m just going to pop in the shower,'" Chloe explained to Refinery29.
What about the cooking situation? "We had a shopping list of stuff that we wanted. We could tell the producers and they would go out and grab all the groceries. They would leave the food outside the door because of, obviously, COVID and quarantining. But, I couldn’t cook. So, I didn’t know what to ask for. Because I don’t know how shopping works. I don’t really know how ingredients work. I’m not going to start asking for pesto. I had to ask my producer to help me," Chloe said.
And can contestants go out on those balconies? “To be honest, no! I don’t think so. But we did film in England, so it’s freezing. And I wouldn’t want to go out there," Chloe said.
Who's Who in the New Season of 'The Circle' (opens in new tab)
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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