Interview with Rickie Haywood-Williams and Melvin Odoom

Category: Press Pack Article

Rickie Haywood-Williams

Why have you joined The Circle?

Do you know what? Firstly, when the show first launched, myself and Melvin were just blown away by the concept of it. It was just so of this time, social media and the whole kind of trap that falls around catfishing and things like that. It's just really fascinating. We've always been really interested in doing this reality TV show. We were massive fans of Big Brother, obviously, when that was in its heyday and beyond that and just the psychological element of things as well. Like trying to see if you can be cut away from technology and away from your family, your friends, and work. So it's going to be challenging and fun on so many different levels. So that was a big thing for us.


Are you pleased to be doing it with Melvin?

Yeah, I think it makes it even more fun and less daunting as well that we're going to be doing it together. So we can lean on each other if need be. I do reckon there will be a few moments where he's going to want to go left, and I'm going to want to go right. So that should be interesting to watch because we are quite different in terms of how we process and think about things. So that's probably why we get on.


So if you disagree, how will you decide what to do?

If I'm honest, normally if it's something that I feel really strongly about, I'm open to saying I don't tend to back down. Yeah, you could see some arguments. You never know, it could be us just ignoring each other for half an episode, "You stay over there, I'll stay over there!”


Is there anything about the concept of the show that worries you at all?

Yeah, not so much a worry, but the main thing that I just don't want to get wrong is that, obviously we're not going into it as ourselves, so we're representing somebody else and we've spoken to the person that we're representing.


You're playing the game as Will.I.Am, do you have a game plan?

I think we have to try and go about it as organically as possible. If you've got too much of a stringent game plan, I think people will find you out quick. I think you have to be able to adapt with the landscape, and someone might come up with something that means that you have to kind of be a certain way, or go down a certain road. So if you're quite stringent in what you're going to do, I think that could go against us. But then again, I don't know. I've seen other people have game plans and it worked really well for them.


Are you worried that there might be somebody else in the show that knows him well?

Yes! That’s why I'm saying if we go a in with a game plan that could go against us. That's why I think if we try and be a bit fluid and a bit loose, you can kind of roll with it a bit better. If we go in there, and go "Well, we're going to talk about this and talk about that." We might get something wrong that's quite factual. And then someone might know him and pick us up on it, and then we're really screwed. So I think, try not to take it to game planning maybe, but obviously we want to win. We're both competitive, so we want to win. But yeah, I think we need to be able be adaptable at the same time.


How are you feeling about the fact that you are going to catfish people?

We are faking it. Do you know what? After being on the end of catfish on a daily basis on social media, it's quite nice to be on the other side! Obviously I’ve never catfished anybody, however I have thought about it, I've thought about making a profile. Not for the general public, but just for your mates and stuff, but then I thought it's a bit of a slippery slope. Once you start catfishing, where do you draw the line? It's a slippery slope, so I've never indulged myself in it, because I thought to myself, "If you're going to do it well, you have to go down quite a dark road kind of thing." So this will give us the licence to explore that. And I feel okay about it because we've spoken to Will with it.


Do you think you and Melvin will be naughtier because you're impersonating Will?

I definitely think so. I think, especially Melvin, if an opportunity presents itself where there's an opportunity to be a bit cheeky and a bit annoying, he will want to take it! I call Melvin Quagmire from Family Guy. He's just that good. You can hear some kind of innuendo from a mile off before it's even hit. So yeah, that'll be fun, that'll be fun. But yeah, I think just as long as we're not taking Will's good name and putting it to disrepute, I think we're going to be up for a laugh. The last thing we want is a phone call at the end of the series, going, "Guys, that's it, you're off of the party list.” That cannot happen, that cannot happen. And that's the only thing he asked of us, he was just like, "Look, I don't care what you do, just don't do a Kanye West on me." So we've got to stay away from that!


You and Melvin lived together at uni. How are you feeling about living with him again?

Do you know what? Myself and Melvin we are all really, really good friends, but we're more like family. So it's more like having to live with your brother. You can do it, but you'd rather not! But we do get on, we see each other all the time, we work together every day, we get on like a house on fire. So I think it'll probably come down to the fact that we're both snorers. We are both worried because we both snore really loud. We were both worried that we would have to share the same room, because there's been times we've gone on holiday, we've gone away with work, or whatever, we would be put in the same room. And it's literally a fight to get to sleep first because whoever doesn't go to sleep first, is not going to sleep that night because the other person snores so loud. I'm sure there'll be some funny clips of us snoring away.


Other than the snoring, do you have any bad habits that you're worried the nation are going to pick up on?

I hope not. Everybody farts so I’m sure you’ll see that! It's fine. But the farting thing, if you've got to go, you've got to go. Right?. You've got to do it, you've got to do it. We're lads, that's what lads do!


Have you thought about how you're going to entertain yourselves in there?

Definitely some books, but I get bored really easily. Boredom is like a big thing for me. I try and stay away from ever being bored at all costs. I'm going to have to figure out something. Maybe cards, cards are a good thing as well.


Do you think fans will see a different side to you on this show?

Oh yes. I go from one extreme to the other. So I can be in the best mood, happy go lucky. And then I can just be, "I'm miserable", in the next. But obviously you can hide that when you're on the radio, you can kind of mask it. So I'm excited to see how I react in that scenario as well. How will I cope with the fact that I'm in a shit mood and I've still got to listen to Melvin saying something that I don't want to hear, or making any decision that I don't want him to do. That's going to be interesting. Melvin's a grumpy old man. He's really grumpy. People don't see that side of Melvin when we do our show. He's grumpy, like proper grumpy. I'm sure he'll say the same, by his own admission. So yeah, it's going to be fun to see how we navigate around those traits of ours. Because we're just going to be ourselves. You have to be.


What do you think about social media?

I've always been a big fan of social media. Obviously it's got its pitfalls as it's gained in popularity and it's become commonplace amongst everyday life. You're going to have downsides to it. But I think it does more good than it does bad. Obviously people have to be aware of the pitfalls, and there are trolls, and there are people on there that are catfished. But I'm more of a fan of social media than I am not, but I'm also a fan of taking breaks. Same with anything in life, just because you do something doesn't mean you have to do it all the time. So people should take breaks from social media I think.


Do you have to deal with trolls much, and if you do, how do you deal with it?

So luckily, our followers are quite good. The only time I tend to experience trolls is when you comment on something that someone else has posted, and then someone's like, "What are you talking about?" And if you're not savvy enough, you can quickly get into a two on two situation. So I don't really post anything that's controversial or that's really highly opinionated. I just stay out of it.


Is that something you’ve always been conscious of, or just lately?

When Twitter first came around the landscape was so different to what it is now in terms of political correctness, and different movements and whatnot. I think society is going through a transitional period where, I don't want to say hypersensitive, but people do tend to kind of voice discomfort over things that we wouldn't have seen as uncomfortable in the past. I think we have to go through it before it gets better. So I feel like it's a good thing that is happening. Because it's highlighting a lot of things that people are upset about, or they haven't enjoyed experiencing in the past.


You must have girls in your DMs all the time!

No, not so much anymore. If you post something, then you get a wave of people with the heart eye emoji thing or wherever. But I think it's changed now. I think there's a stigma to sliding into the DMs now, I think. I think people are not as open to it as they once were. I think if you want to do that, just go on a dating website. Once Tinder came in, people were like, "Okay, I don't have to be like that on Instagram. I could do that on Tinder, or Hinge, or Bumble or whatever it is."


Do women send you sexy or random things online?

Yeah. And this is the reason why I don't actively use Snapchat. I'm on Snapchat but I don't actively use it. I call it the hub for catfish. I don't know why, that just seems to be where they live all the time. I can literally open my Snapchat now, there'll be a regular person that sends stuff continuously and it'll just be stuff that we can't talk about. X-rated stuff. In the beginning, you're kind of like, "Okay, this is interesting." But then you're kind of like, "They must be sending it to a lot of people, and why are they sending it? Is it actually them?" It's just weird. It freaks me out a little bit.


Do you use social media to contact other famous people? And if you have, who's the most famous person you've had a social media chat with?

Good question. Yes. You do use it for that. Because obviously, sometimes you might be really friendly with someone, but you've never asked for their number or whatever. So social media is a really easy way to kind of just get in contact with somebody. Who have I spoken to? I don't know, loads of people I guess. It's normally artists. When they come in they'll be like, "Oh, thanks for doing the interview. You want to come to our show? Just let me know." It's normally stuff like that.


Have you been starstruck by anyone?

The weird thing is, in my experience, you're never starstruck by the people that you think you're going to be starstruck by. It's always the ones that you just didn't imagine that you would be, they just kind of have aura that you didn't know. So I think a good example of that, do you remember Nelly? Nelly was someone that I was just not bothered about. He's made a couple good songs or whatever, but when you meet him, he's so nice, he has this presence about him that's really cool. Another person, Nicole Scherzinger. She’s beautiful. She’s crazy too, but she's just cool. And she's very interactive as well. So yeah, she was one that I’ve chatted to online.


This series is for Stand Up To Cancer, is that something you’ve supported in the past?

Yeah. Every year, if there's some kind of project that we can get involved with, with Stand Up To Cancer, we always try and do it because it affects so many people's lives. I lost my Gran to cancer when I was about nine. So it's always something that we always try to get involved in, in some capacity. Sometimes it's something great like this. Sometimes it's something quite small. But we always try and do something because it affects so many people. It feels more important after what we’ve all been through with COVID to remember that we need to help raise money for research and to just help out. When you realise the impact that the pandemic is having on people that are terminally ill, and were either scared to go into the hospital or they couldn't because of the situation, it's been heartbreaking. So Stand Up To Cancer is like a really, really good thing. It does really good, good things. I'm just happy to be a part of it.


Melvin Odoom

How are you feeling to be joining The Circle?

You know what? Me and Rickie are secretly excited. It's an amazing concept and idea. And it's the cause, the fact that doing it for Stand Up to Cancer is a great cause as well. I think Channel 4 have done very, very well in addressing such a serious topic, but connecting them to shows that we all love. So, yeah, I think we're really lucky to be part of it, and we're gassed about the person we're going to pretend to be, as well.


You guys have decided to play the game as Will.i.Am, why?

We wanted to play someone that we know, and we've met, because I don't think I'd be comfortable doing anyone that we don't really know. And it has to be someone interesting, someone fun to play, who we love. The thing about Will is he has stories for days. And everything he says is so out there, that you're just sitting there going, "Wow." And it'd be amazing to play someone like him. He's such a cool character as well. He's super talented. When I was growing up, I used to listen to the Black Eyed Peas. I'm talking about the real deal, hip hop, Black Eyed Peas. So I'm a big fan of Will’s, he's achieved so much. There's stuff that people don't know about him. Do you know that he's actually created a comic book, which you hover your phone over it, and then there's moving characters on your phone. He's done so much stuff. He was kind of part of the development of Beats as well. He's done a lot of stuff. People just think he's a musician, or people just think he's like that guy on The Voice. So I think to play someone like Will would be quite interesting. I think you could take it in so many different directions.


Do you think that you two have got it easier because you're doing this together?

Yeah, I'm so pleased they asked us to do it together, because Rickie's like my brother. It's weird, because we actually met at university. So I've actually lived with Rickie before. We lived with each other for three years at university, but this will be the first time that we've lived together since then. Obviously we've been on holiday and stuff together. I suppose that's similar. But it would be the first time we'll be in the same environment, it’s like fresher's week all over again! It sounds crazy, but it will feel like uni again. I'm looking forward to it. Rickie's really tidy, though, so he might get annoyed with how messy I get sometimes. I'm not that messy, but I'm messier than him. But I'm really looking forward to it because, like I said, he's like a brother to me.


Have you discussed a game plan?

No. I'm guessing Rickie would just be like, "Let's just go in there and do it." I think our game plan is, how we are in life. Just be nice.


But you're being Will, though…

Well, we purposely picked Will because I think, although he does a lot more than me and Ricks, I think the foundations of his character are very similar to mine and Ricks', in that no one goes, "Will's a horrible guy," or no one goes, "Will's a mean person." I think the foundations of him are just being pleasant, getting on with everyone, and being friendly. He's a people person as well, that's reflects with me and Ricks. I think for the viewers, the fun side will be it's two mates pretending to be someone else. And then for the people within The Circle, it's like, "Whoa, Will.i.Am, this really cool guy, and he's got these amazing stories, and he can rap, and he can dance, and he's a presenter," like all these things. That's the game plan, just be cool, just be nice. I think the thing about reality TV is don't overthink it.


How do you feel about being filmed 24/7?

I don't know. I think I have to get used to that, because I suppose as presenters you can just kind of switch it on, and I'm worried, like I'm one of those guys that if I get tired or hungry, then I get hangry. I’m that guy. I think everyone's very used to seeing happy Melv, and used to seeing joker Melv. I mean, that's why I couldn't do the jungle, because that will bring out hungry Melv. But if there's food in there, Rickie's a good cook. He'd like cooking something up. And it's warm, it's not going to be cold. So there's no SAS business. So I don't think you're going to see hangry Mel!


Do you guys have any bad habits that you don't usually show the nation?

We both have the same habit, which is why, the thing I'm a bit scared of, is if they put us in the same room. We're both bad snorers. Like next level, can't go to sleep, snorers. We went snowboarding together once, and we were in the same room, and it was a battle to go to sleep first, because if you don't fall asleep first, you don't sleep that night. I remember the week before, I was in the room with Rickie's old housemate, James. James basically found my snoring so bad that he slept in the car. And this is Austria, when it's below zero temperatures outside. And he slept in the car. He'd literally rather freeze to death than sleep near me. So yeah, we're both bad snorers.


How will you entertain yourselves?

You know what? It's really weird because I suppose I've always been good, my music's always be my thing, but are we allowed to have music in there? I don't know. And then Netflix. Netflix saved my whole life in lockdown. Well, me and Rickie are going to actually have to have more conversations than we generally do. But if you think about it, our job is to talk on the radio. So it shouldn't be difficult. Who knows? I don't know. My thing is, me and Rickie talk about some deep stuff. So that’ll be where you'll be having to think about editing stuff!


Do you think fans will see a different side to you?

I hope it's a good side. My thing is, I've always said with radio, it can't be faked. It's such an intimate medium. If you think about your favourite radio presenter, they're pretty much the same in real life as they are on air, because it's hard to fake that emotion and that character because it's such an intimate form. So I hope it will be the same. I don't think it will be any different. Like I said, as long as I'm fed and watered, I should be all right!


The theme of the show around social media. What do you make of it?

I mean, I love Instagram. I'm a big fan of Instagram. But I've got a love-hate relationship with social media because, with our work and stuff, I don't get to see my family all the time. So it's a really good way to stay in contact with my mates and my family. But then I do get sad when I'm on social media and I see people getting trolled. Obviously off the back of the BlackLivesMatter stuff, I saw some disgusting stuff online that really upset me. So yeah, I've got a love-hate relationship with social media. I think it's great for staying connected. I think it's a great way to see creativity.


Have you had any weird, funny or embarrassing moments on social media?

I remember Skyping someone who turned out to be a catfish. I was chatting to this girl, Skyping who I thought was a girl, but then I later found out it wasn’t. I think Joel Dommett’s got a similar story, and he ended up meeting his dream woman because of the person the catfish was pretending to be then contacted him, he did it in one of his stand up sets. And then the girl got in contact, was like, "I'm the real girl." So yeah, there was a period when people were pretending to be other people on Skype, and they would then video you interacting, and then use it against you. So yeah, that happened to me as well.


Do you get much negativity or trolling online, and if you do, how do you deal with it?

Do you know what? I remember once I did a show once and someone was saying that I'm speaking too fast, or they didn't think I was as funny as I was on our breakfast show. And I remember being really upset. And then my agent called me, and was like, "Melvin, there was one message. And there were like 50 really nice ones." And I was like, "Oh yeah." And they were like, "Why did you take notice from one?" It's just human nature. You always take notice of that one little negative thing. And then the maddest thing is, the exec producer messaged me and was like, "In all the seasons I've done with this show, that's the most positive feedback that we've had from people online." I was like, "Oh, okay, cool." So it's really mad. I think we've been blessed to not have any trolls. Actually, tell a lie. There was one time I said something about, what's the girl group from America? Fifth Harmony. We had Camila Cabello in the studio and as a joke at the start of my interview, I went, "Fifth Harmony who?", and the Fifth Harmony fans killed me. For about two weeks, they were like, "Melvin Odoom who?" Wow!


You talk about sliding into DMs. You must have women sliding into yours all the time, surely?

Is that an invitation? Me and Ricks do all right. We do okay!


What's the craziest thing a lady's said to one of you?

I mean, the most extreme is a girl you haven't even had a conversation with will send a photo of themselves to you. That's probably like the extreme. But yeah, I haven't had anything that I've gone like, "That's a lot.” I did have one girl send me a gift when we were at KISS, she made a box with my name on it, and put sweets and stuff, and then wrote a letter to me. Rickie used to wind me up and call it love posts. Like, "Have you got any love posts today?" So yeah, that's probably the most extreme. I think maybe we were talking about James Bond on the show, and so she used to say, "Oh Melvin, you're my Black Bond. I'd love you to be my Black Bond." So yeah, that was fairly tame, there's nothing massively explicit I can think of.


Are you careful about what you post on social media?

When social media kind of blew up, we were on a breakfast show. So we were always very careful anyway. And like me and Ricks, we're not here to offend anyone. We get guests in and stuff like that, we're not here to offend anyone. Also I came from kids TV. My first job was Dick & Dom in Da Bungalow. So that period of working at the BBC, and then being at KISS kind of meant that I was very careful on social anyway. But you do have to be careful. I do feel for some of these guys. I see presenters and people in the public eye, reality TV stars getting pulled apart when they've tweeted stuff as kids. If someone had recorded everything I said as a kid, I would be in trouble. So I do feel for them. I'm not going to mention the name, but I know a presenter who lost their job because someone had saved a tweet that they had posted online and sent it to his boss, and then they were like, "Well, we can't keep him on." But the tweet had been deleted. So you basically took a screenshot of this person's tweet to use in the future. That's how much you didn't like him. That's a really horrible mentality to have.


What do you think we can do to make it a nicer environment?

Well, if I had to answer to that, it'd be a different place. What makes me sad is my job is to make people laugh. And if I was to name my favourite comedians, I'm sure you could pull up a skit that they've done or a sketch that they've done, that if you really wanted to pull it apart, it would offend someone somewhere. And I get it, we're in a place now where you have to be sensitive, and like I mentioned, with things like Black Lives Matter, I think it's important to acknowledge what offends different people in different communities. But at the same time, we're in a time now where everyone's so over-sensitive about stuff, and it kind of takes the fun out of certain things. I just want people to not to forget the importance of smiling as well, and the importance of humour. There's a very, very fine line between offending someone and making fun out of life. It's a very fine line, and I think the greats of our world, people like Ricky Gervais, people like Dave Chappelle are very good at that, being on that line. Some people cross it, and they get in trouble. I think the most important thing is that we're all having conversations now. There would have been a time when no one would have. There was an amazing Channel 4 programme called The Talk, and it was about how it is for Black people within the UK growing up. There's this really, really powerful clip where Rochelle Humes was talking about trying to wash the colour off her legs. I've worked with Rochelle for many years, I've been around her. I didn't know that story. I felt sad even knowing that part of her character. So the fact that people are having these conversations, and that Rochelle has a huge following, for her to open up and her following to see that, hear that story is important. No one should be left feeling like that.


The show is supporting Stand Up to Cancer, have you and your family been touched by cancer?

Yes. Recently a friend, Dionne, passed away. She's been battling with cancer for a few years. And then what happened was during COVID, she couldn't have a treatment, so then she relapsed, and then they basically gave her a certain amount of time to live. I have a younger sister who I'm really close to, and Dionne is exactly the same age as my sister. They used to call each other twins. That's how close they were. So Dionne was so like my sister, she's got two young boys, I just thought she had a lot of time. I don't know why, I just thought she had time. I probably just didn't want to believe that she was that ill. So I was chatting to my sister and she was like, "I just had a message from Dionne's mum. She's passed away." And it's mad because she's the same age as my sister, she was two years younger than me. And so there's so many different things that made me sad about it. A, she's younger than me, and then B, she has two boys that she's left here. And there was nothing that any of us could do. And actually, if it wasn't for COVID, then maybe she'd still be getting her treatment and she might have been alright. There are so many little things like that. I think the thing that got me was I didn't get a chance to call, I was so busy doing stuff, I didn't call her and be like, "Hey, D." Because I just thought I'd have time to see her. So I didn't get to speak to her. She sent me a voice note to say thanks for something. And I was like, "Hey, don't worry, D." I just wanted to make sure to tell her, don't worry but I didn’t call her back properly and now I’ll never get the chance to speak to her again. There's so many others, like my auntie passed away from cancer too. I'm sure everyone can pull on someone who has either suffered with it or lost someone to it.


It feels after the year we’ve all had that raising awareness is even more important…

It's a mad time. Dionne wasn't allowed to go to the hospital because of the virus. I've heard it from another friend who works for MacMillan and she was telling me about cancer patients who were scared to go to the hospital for their treatment. They were allowed, but they didn't want to go because they didn't want to catch COVID. It's madness. So I pray that all the stuff that they're doing on Channel 4, like Bake Off and stuff, helps, because people are suffering out there. Also mentally as well, imagine you know you're ill, but then there's a global pandemic going on as well. I'm sure us, we're worried as it is, just worried about COVID. And then you've got to worry about your health on top. It's mad. So I'm so happy that they asked us to be part of something like this.