Before we do anything else within this The Circle interview piece, let’s unleash a warning — there are spoilers from the final episode within! If you are not done with the season yet, you may want to stop reading.
For everyone else, we’re going to be sharing our interview with the winner of the season!
Through the entirety of season 1, Joey Sasso showcased himself to be a force to be reckoned with — but also a real friend to many in The Circle. He understood the social game, built genuine friendships, and also thought strategically near the end in a way not everyone else did. He took some risks, but they paid off — including not ranking Shubham lower in the final rankings. He is a very likable guy who was easy to root for and now, he serves as a worthy winner to the first season.
In our interview, Joey talks about his experience on the show, getting through some of the lonely times, and what it was like watching it back.
The Circle videos! We covered each episode of The Circle at our YouTube channel, so if you are interested in joining the discussion and getting some fun breakdowns, be sure to check out our video below. For even more videos on The Circle. Be sure to subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube so you don’t miss any of our coverage and view our show playlist.
CarterMatt – How hard has it been keeping this a secret?
Joey Sasso – It was almost like being in a Star Wars movie or something of that magnitude. I don’t keep secrets and I’m always honest when something’s going on, but when it’s serious, I can keep my mouth shut.
With this, it’s insane. You come back from the show, you get back into normal life, get back into routine, and you got this thing that you know is coming! But, no one else even knows that it exists. It was this feeling of ‘this thing will come out eventually but, even though I did it, it doesn’t feel real.’
Watching the show the past couple of weeks with everybody, it really brought me back to being in the Circle and playing the game. I’m having as much fun with it as the audience because even though we were there, we’re kind of experiencing it again through all of their eyes.
What has it been like for some of your friends and family to watch it the past couple of weeks?
For me, the biggest thing this represents is validation for my mother and father, my sister, my aunts and uncles, and my entire huge family. I come from such a big, close family in Rochester and I moved away when I was 18 to pursue my dreams right out of high school. Film has always been my life. It’s been almost ten years of grinding non-stop — being broke, living day-to-day, week-to-week, and never losing hope that this is what I’m supposed to do.
For this opportunity to come and for it to play out like it did — it’s been super-gratifying. No one in my family besides my mother and father know what’s going on. I just can’t wait to share this with all of them. It’s amazing to not just get myself out there, but get my family and their values out there into the world.
How do you contend with the loneliness when you were in there? Is that something you really felt?
Oh, yea. You definitely feel lonely. The best way I can describe it is that we all love a day at home to do nothing, relax, but if you do that for a few days, your body starts aching and you go nuts a little bit. That’s sort of the mental game you’re well-aware could happen before you go in. You want to do well and make it past each blocking — the longer you stay, the closer you are, but the crazier you start going.
I know, for me at least, towards the end it got really hard. It went from being really fun to ‘okay, now this is serious.’ It was like the last round of the fight.
I brought a sketch pad with me and that’s really all I did. It’s fun to see what other people did. Being an actor and a writer, my mind always moves a million miles a minute. You can probably see that on the show, I’m ADHD times ten. One thing that’s always worked for me is that I sit down with a sketch pad, a bunch of pens, and I draw. I don’t know how to draw a real object to save my life, but I draw these weird things to put my mind into perspective. In between games and chats, that kept me going and let me breathe a little bit.
You took some big risks this season, including when you were super-influencer. You didn’t take out Shubham, even though you recognized he was a big threat. Was that kindness, strategy, or confidence you could beat him?
I never once thought about winning the game. I say that in the most honest way because, when this opportunity came up, it was such a different experience for me. I’ve had other reality shows offered in the past and I always turned them down. It was always a stigma that if you’re an actor, you couldn’t do reality television. But, this was such a different thing that felt so fresh.
I know a lot of people when they saw the trailer they didn’t get the concept, but when they saw the show, they did. I felt the same. I knew if I went there and thought about money or winning, it would give me ulterior motives and get in my head. I know that naturally, I’m extremely competitive. For me, winning was making it to the finals, and at that point it was like ‘dude, I already won.’ I didn’t get blocked and I made it to the end.
The Sean blocking that you brought up, that was when I was done. I felt so terrible. I’m such a sensitive guy, especially when it comes to someone being hurt, and that’s why The Circle was so challenging for me. It’s a game and everyone was so aware of that, but you know at certain points, people are putting in their personal feelings. I never would want to hurt somebody, especially someone like Sean, who took an amazing risk and put herself out there in a way that will inspire a lot of people. I was glad it was face-to-face so I could tell her why and talk to her. It really devastated me, man. It broke my heart and made me wonder how long I could keep doing this?
When you’re thinking about taking out someone, you’re either sitting in bed or looking at the pictures on the screen. You start playing a chess game in your mind, linking this person to that person. It starts driving you insane!
How bad was the paranoia in there — I remember times people thought you were a catfish, and you were one of the most genuine people in there! Just watching, it was like ‘wow, this is what this game does to your brain.’
Oh, yeah! I had so many people reach out to me and say ‘why did you think Antonio was a catfish?’. There’s so much that happens in a day and a lot of stuff that people don’t see. With Antonio, it was simply his bio — that he was a professional basketball player and the fact that he said ‘they call me Chef Antonio.’ Nobody calls you Chef Antonio! I don’t believe this. It was going into day 1 and I didn’t understand everything yet, but that’s how I learn — throw me into deep water and I’ll learn how to swim.
I remember day one looking at the screen and being like with everyone ‘don’t like ya! Don’t trust ya! Next.’ I think it’s totally understandable how someone could’ve looked at me and been like ‘this kid ain’t real.’ For those who were lucky enough to stay in the game long enough, we all got a grasp of who we really were.
How is the bromance between you and Shubham. Have you been keeping up since the show?
Oh yeah. That kid is such a sweetheart. I love him to death. We had a conversation on the first day that wasn’t in the first episode — it was around the time Alana was being blocked. He was terrified he was going because he was in eighth place and I could tell from looking at his picture and his profile the type of person he was. I respected the fact that he was putting himself out there. The hardest thing someone can do is get out of their comfort zone and be vulnerable. I could tell on day one that this was what he was doing. It became really solidified.
As for some other conversations — not with Shubby, but with other people — you really sit back and wonder whether the conversations are real or just strategy.
The show made a lot of your moment with Miranda. Where are things with the two of you now?
We are definitely in each other’s lives. I know a lot of people have been sucked in and want us to get married and have kids from all the DMs and tweets that I get, but when it comes to a situation like that, I don’t like to ever confirm anything — like saying ‘oh, we’re officially together.’ Then, you’re setting people up, if anything bad ever happens, to be upset.
I can definitely say that she is someone I love and respect very much — she’s a big part of my life and someone I would do anything for. I’m so happy that this experience brought us all together, especially me and Miranda, since otherwise I wouldn’t have found her. She’s such a beautiful person.
Now that you’re done with this show, what are you looking to pursue now? Are there any specific passions?
My specific passion is acting, but I’m a writer as well. I have my first film in production as we speak — it took me almost eight years to get it made and it got made a year and a half before The Circle even happened. My problem has never been my acting ability or my ability to read; it’s that I’m such a specific type being New York Italian. So, casting directors will say ‘Joey’s great and he’s on the ball, but he’s so hard to pinpoint.’
So, with this, it was backing up my film even more. In my film, the character I play is a raw, mean-streets cautionary tale — he’s very much what people thought I was in episode 1 without getting to know me. When the film was in post and this presented itself, I was like ‘what do I have to lose at this point in my life and career?’
I can only hope that, after this, I can get some real opportunities. I’ve always known that if a door opens for me, I can represent myself in the best way.
Let’s say another season of The Circle happens — what advice would you give to new contestants?
The best advice I can give is just be yourself. I think the one thing people see with a lot of catfishes is that they’d be more interesting and likable if they were just themselves. The catfishing perspective is really fun — I think the best one was Seaburn as Rebecca and that’s why he made it to the end. He’s secure with himself and he was having a blast! With the other people, the insecurity within themselves was something you could see, but they should know they’re all beautiful and they are awesome. Had they been themselves, they would’ve had a better chance in the game.
The last thing I would want to do is leave the show and have regrets — so I would say to always stay true to yourself, trust your gut, and whatever happens, happens. So many things are out of your hands when you’re in the game.
Are you happy that Joey ended up winning The Circle in the end?
Be sure to share in the comments below! Meanwhile, stick around for some other news on the series. (Photo: Netflix.)