Rise and Fall: Interview with Greg James and meet the Players

Category: Interview

Welcome to Rise and Fall, Channel 4’s new reality show, hosted by Greg James and from the makers of Race Across The World, Gogglebox and The Traitors. Rise and Fall is a game about what it takes to get to the top - how to win power, how to keep hold of it and how to use it to influence others.

Sixteen ordinary British people, from all walks of life and ages, begin the game and compete to win up to £100,000. They start as equals but soon find themselves either in a position of power as a Ruler or as a powerless Grafter. While the Rulers live in a luxury penthouse, the Grafters must survive in basic conditions in the basement. And much like life, those in power will be responsible for making decisions that affect those who have none.

Greg James oversees the action as the Grafters work hard to complete a series of gruelling challenges to build up the prize fund. The Rulers must encourage the Grafters to work harder, but if they push them too hard, they might find themselves toppled from power.

Anyone can rise to a position of power and anyone can fall, but ultimately only one Ruler can win the cash prize at the end of the game. Who rises and who falls will be decided by the other Players.

Here, Greg James tells us what we can expect from the series…

Tell us about Rise and Fall and what attracted you to the show.
Rise and Fall is a show where people from all walks of life and social statuses are split into two teams, the Rulers and the Grafters. We’re in this amazing building where the Rulers live in a beautiful, sort of Succession-style penthouse where Logan Roy would live, then the Grafters are in a sort of Squid Game mucky basement, almost like a prison, at the bottom. The Grafters have to do work shifts to earn money for the prize fund that ultimately a Ruler will win, but Grafters can rise and Rulers can fall. It’s all about winning power and how you go about it. Do you do it by earning respect, do you do it by charming people and getting them on your side, or do you stab them in the back?

I’ve been waiting for a TV show like this to come along, to be the ringmaster of, because I love doing big stunts and mad ideas and concepts, but I’ve never really done one on TV. I’ve always loved shows like this where the host is allowed to get amongst it, and I love the idea of getting to know the contestants. It’s a real treat to launch a new show on Channel 4. It’s the home of some of my favourite comedies, comedians and presenters and it’s a great, innovative place that shares my ambitions for creative, daring and sometimes very silly ideas.

You are a very successful man. How have you done it? What are your top tips for gaining power and influence?
I don’t think I’d be a good Ruler. I genuinely think I’m a good grafter. I like being in a team and I take direction well. I’ve never felt that single-minded ‘I’m-going-to-do-this-for-myself’ thing. In this show, my game plan would be to be a Grafter and if I got lucky, I’d end up in the penthouse. But what are my tips? I’d be nice to people although I don’t know if that makes you a good billionaire, I don’t know if billionaires are nice. Possibly not. To be rich and successful, there’s a certain amount of trampling you have to do and I don’t like trampling on people. So, I think I’d be a terrible Ruler but quite a good Grafter.

The Grafters have to do all the challenges as well as living in the basement, where it isn’t very hospitable - would you be ok with that?
I think I would because there’s a camaraderie when you’re sharing something awful. I’ve done lots of mad challenges on Radio 1 and being part of the team gets you through it. It’s the same in ordinary life. Look at the past few years, I only got through the pandemic by leaning on my friends, my colleagues, my wife and my family. I think I’m quite good at dealing with adversity, so I think I’d be alright as a Grafter, whereas I’d be stressed as a Ruler because you’ve got the power to lose. And I’d be good at the challenges and mucking in and dealing with the funny stuff, whether it be cold showers or awful food, I’d deal with it well. I like to think I’m good in a crisis.

What are you looking forward to seeing in Rise and Fall?
What’s been really interesting working with a rehearsal cast is that even after three or four days, the dynamic becomes really clear quite quickly. The Grafters have disdain for the Rulers because they’re setting the challenges and looking warm and well fed and clean, while the Grafters are having to do all these tasks and challenges. There will be conflict in this show and that will be interesting and hopefully entertaining to watch. It’s a social experiment, what happens when someone who, in the real world, doesn’t have much status in society suddenly has all the status and all the power - and vice versa. We could have someone who on the outside world is a CEO or something but has to be a Grafter here. It will be really interesting to look at those dynamics. I think it will be really fun to watch and you’ll be rooting for people you wouldn’t usually expect. The contestants are all really up for it, I’m really up for it and I think it will be fascinating.

Who do you think are examples of good leaders?
The people I respect as leaders are people who lead sports teams. Gareth Southgate is a great leader who encourages his players to express themselves and he understands the complexity of each player. Ben Stokes, the England men’s cricket captain, is another great leader. He inspires people to play to his level and work as hard as him.

This series is from the makers of The Traitors, why do you think we are all obsessed with shows about power, treachery and deceit?
People really like bad guys when they’re not real, so in books, films and TV, baddies make interesting characters. In real life they’re depressing and scary because they can really affect people’s lives. Rise and Fall is good escapism but rooted in some truth which is, what if everything was reset, how are you going to divide the power up amongst people? I guess we’ll get an insight into how difficult it sometimes is to rule.

If you were ever to be on a reality show, which one would you choose to do?
I’d be on Gogglebox so I could sit and laugh at everyone else eating worms or whatever. But I can’t host Rise and Fall without saying I’d go on it. It’s a show I would be on and I wouldn’t mind being a Grafter.

Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker?
Well, I’ve never killed anyone but I can’t, hand on heart, say I’ve never jumped a temporary traffic light. Can anyone? My toxic trait is not believing in temporary traffic lights, they’re like supply teachers. You’re not really my teacher, you’re not really my traffic light. I find authority quite fun to question every now and again. I will always push stuff, I don’t deliberately annoy people, but I do challenge if I think the rules are silly or impractical.

Did you follow the rules at school?
Yeah, I was a fairly good kid. You have to be quite crafty at school to get around the boring rules like walking on a certain side of the corridor or having your top button done up. The best way was to be friendly with teachers, then you’d be allowed a bit more leniency. Because my parents were teachers, I knew teachers were normal people. I found out one of my teachers was into motorbikes and if I didn’t want to do Pythagoras' theorem, we’d talk about his motorbike for 20 minutes, then it would be break time. But I did stick to the rules.

Do you respond well to orders?
I think so but only if I understand why we’re doing it. I think authority is there to poke fun at, sometimes you have to laugh at people who are being serious. I find serious things a bit embarrassing. My job is 90% really fun so when someone tries to make it serious, I struggle. I will follow most orders, you have to be compliant enough without being a doormat.

The players will be undertaking an array of challenges to add money to the prize fund, so they’ll be under pressure to perform. How do you cope under pressure?
If I know what I’m doing I can deal with the pressure, if it’s radio or presenting, I can keep calm. When I did Taskmaster, I panicked way more than I thought I would. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was Alex Horne’s face and his general demeanour, but when he was setting me the challenges I’d read them normally, then he’d say ‘you’ve got five minutes’ and I’d panic and go into a bit of a brain fog. But it depends on the situation. If there’s an actual crisis where someone’s ill, or something, I spring into action.

If you could be the ruler or boss of any organisation, what would it be?
I would be the boss of Channel 4 and I would make sure Greg James got loads of exciting new shows because he is a talent, let me tell you.

Rise and Fall begins Sunday 19th March at 9pm on Channel 4 and All 4

Let the power struggle begin…


Age: 45
From: Essex
Occupation: Entrepreneur
Ali is a hard-working businessman who owns a number of successful businesses and is well known in Essex for his restaurants which have become celebrity hot spots.

Who is a great leader?
I think Donald Trump is a great leader because he’s a don’t-take-no-c**p kind of guy.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
The qualities I have that will make me win Rise and Fall are, I’m a great leader, I’m very organised and I can make people do what I want them to do.

Age: 40
From: Liverpool
Occupation: Trainee nurse
Now a mature student, Cheryl was previously a support worker, working with both adults and children.

Who is a great leader?
Me. I’m a fabulous leader because I am me and I like things done my way. I listen, I like to take it all in and we can work together. I’ll work with you so long as you work with me.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
I like to bring everyone together, but I also like to do my own thing. I don’t like seeing anyone struggling so I know I’m going to be very compassionate about those scenarios. But I also like to be a winner, so long as things go my way, that’s fine. But that’s not going to happen, is it? It’s a gameshow.

Age: 27
From: Kent
Occupation: Care home manager
Connor started volunteering in the care sector at the age of 16 and always knew it was what he wanted to do on leaving school. He now works with the elderly and people with disabilities.

Who is a great leader?
A strong leader is someone like my mother. She’s always whipped me into shape, she’s never taken any c**p from anybody. She shows strength and she’s also a diva like me. You have to have that element of sass and characteristic of being diva-ish. You’ve just got to be confident in how you deal with things.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?  
I’m a strong person. To win Rise and Fall I think you have to be outspoken, I’m good at analysing people and I think I’ll be able to sniff out the weaker ones, the fake ones, all the manipulators and I think I’ll be able to sniff out the worst ones. With my charm and sass, I’ll probably work my way right up to the top and win Rise and Fall series one.

Age: 27
From: Devon
Occupation: Account manager
Edmund comes from one of Britain’s oldest aristocratic families. He leads an ordinary life and says he’s someone who can find common ground with anyone.

Who is a great leader?
I think Ben Stokes is a great leader. He’s somebody that doesn’t mind doing the hard work but then is also somebody to look up to.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
I think I have the qualities to win Rise and Fall because I’m more than happy to muck in and do the hard graft, but then also take a step back and organise and lead a team.

Age: 28
From: Hertfordshire
Occupation: Builder
Jack works in construction and plays semi-professional football. If he were to win the prize fund, he’d take his mum on a luxury holiday.

Who is a great leader?
Someone who’s a great leader to me is Lionel Messi because he can lead a team by himself and carry them over the line, like at the World Cup.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?  
I’m up for anything and I don’t take it too seriously. I’m a winner. I’m not here to come second or make friends. I’ve got my friends and I play to win. It’s as simple as that so we’ll see what happens.

Age: 26
From: Newport, South Wales
Occupation: Employment coach
James works as an employment coach but is also passionate about fitness and runs fitness classes.

Who is a great leader?
Beyonce is an amazing leader. She’s a trailblazer. She’s led herself, women, men and the queer community to feel themselves, to be their best selves and to release their wiggle.

What qualities do you have that would make you a great leader?
I’m trustworthy, I’m extremely down to earth and I’m extremely honest. I’ve been at the bottom and I also know what it feels like to be at the top with power. If I win and get to the top, I want to make sure that I win fairly and treat other people fairly, too. A leader needs to lead and not just be a boss.

Age: 69
From: London
Occupation: Entrepreneur
Jeff is an East End boy at heart. He began working at Sotheby’s in the 1970s before setting up his art dealership and is best known for his role as an expert in Channel 4’s Four Rooms. Today, he oversees and runs eight businesses.

Who is a great leader?
Somebody who was a great leader with great attributes was Winston Churchill. He had a sense of humour and you get nowhere in this world without a sense of humour.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?  
The qualities that I believe would give me a fair chance of winning Rise and Fall are my sense of humour and that sense of looking out for those below and giving them a chance, making sure that they can make a mistake, maybe two mistakes, but a third one and they’re out. 

Age: 50
From: Suffolk
Occupation: Interior designer
Joanna grew up in Suffolk and was involved in many different sports, instilling her competitive spirit. Her ancestors descended from Corfe Castle in Dorset and owned an estate in North Wales. With a love for travel and adventure Joanna left for a voyage around Greece, which has allowed her to exhibit her work as a photographic artist.

Who is a great leader?
Margaret Thatcher was a great leader because she was a very strong woman with balls of steel. There was no woman like her and she led the country for many years, she was one of the longest serving prime ministers and still is.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?  
I’m strong, physically and mentally. I like to rise to any occasion thrown at me. I love a challenge. I’m very energetic so throw anything at me and hopefully, I’ll be capable.

Age: 18
From: London
Occupation: Receptionist
Marina lives at home with her parents. She recently dropped out of university to follow her dream of being an actor. She currently works as a receptionist.

Who is a great leader?
It’s hard to choose a public figure because I feel like I’ve never been led by a public figure.

Are you a good leader?
I’m a good leader because I come with a lot of positive energy and I don’t provide problems, I provide solutions.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall? 
The qualities I have that I think could help me win are that I’m quite sociable and I’ve got good communicative skills to get people on board and supporting me!

Age: 32
From: The Midlands
Occupation: Nurse
Matt has dedicated his career to helping the most vulnerable members of society but after over a decade on the frontline, he is becoming increasingly frustrated with social policy.

Who is a great leader?
It’s cheesy, it’s a cliché but it’s my mother. My mother is my role model. She’s one of the strongest, most empowering women I know. If I could be half the nurse – because she was a nurse as well – and half the parent to my two daughters that she was to me then I’m happy, I’m successful. I’ve achieved in life.

What makes your mum a great leader?
She’s a great role model. She’s empathetic, compassionate, kind, honest. She’s quite humble, caring and understanding. She puts me in my place when I step out of line, she guides me, she gives great life advice. Even though I’m 32 now she’ll always be my rock and I strive to be as successful and as well thought of as her in my life.

Age: 39
From: Hertfordshire
Occupation: Postal worker
Born and raised in Sierra Leone, Prince describes his upbringing as challenging but believes that, although harsh, it has set him up for success.

Who is a great leader?
Well, a lot of people may not know him but the person who I think is a good leader is my Uncle Frank.

What makes him a great leader?
He is a very disciplined and logical person. He’s taught me a lot in life. He’s definitely a great leader, my uncle. He’s very generous.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
I am very, very disciplined. I’ve got 20 years of martial arts training. I’m very focused when I decide to put my mind to something and I’m a very deep thinker. I don’t follow the crowd. I’m an individual, I’m quite strong minded and I’ve got good willpower.

Age: 27
From: London
Occupation: Influencer
Influencer Rachel is also an identical twin. She specialises in fashion and beauty content creation. She says if she has to, she’ll put on an act to get herself to the top.

Who is a great leader?
I think Oprah is a great leader because she’s inspiring, she obviously has her own TV show and she’s a winner in all areas of life.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
The qualities I have that will make me win Rise and Fall are, I’m very observant and I like to be social, but I’m also very competitive. I’m here to win. No one’s going to take my spot, just saying.

Age: 34
From: Born in Germany, raised in London.
Occupation: CEO
Ramona credits moving from Munich to London as a child and having to learn a new language with sparking her desire to work hard and excel in the business world. She is now CEO of numerous hospitality and tech businesses.

Who is a great leader?
In my eyes it’s really someone who has been with me for the last 10 or 11 years and that’s my husband. We work together. His leadership, skills and professionalism have really been something to look up to and together we are a power couple. Then of course there’s Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos but, really, having someone close in heart who’s a great leader is a little bit more special.

What makes them great leaders?
What makes my husband a great leader is that he’s persistent, focused and thinks before he acts. He’s great with people and team building. Other people, such as Jeff Bezos, he’s great, he’s built something from nothing. You can just see the development in his work and his work ethic. As for Steve Jobs – talk about technology. He went all the way from something to creating one of the most incredible types of technology that we use today and things we cannot live without. That is very idealistic.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
My qualities that will help me win are from experiences I’ve gained in business. I have been doing this since I was 21. I’ve worked in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Germany and the UK. I’ve learnt so much. I’ve worked with so many people from different cultures and backgrounds and I can lead people using the knowledge and experience I’ve gained.

Age: 26
From: Birmingham
Occupation: Communications officer
Rishika grew up without great wealth which made her understand the value of money and the need to earn nice things. Rishika runs a charity helping people who live in shoe poverty.

Who is a great leader?
A great leader is anybody who can take charge of any situation but also listen to anyone, so I think I fit the bill. I’m a great leader.

What qualities do people need to have to be a great leader?
A good leader is someone who listens, who takes other people into consideration and isn’t scared to say what they think even if other people might be against it.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
The qualities I have are that I’m really outspoken and say what I think and I’m not afraid to take the lead. Also, I’m really empathetic so I’ll take into consideration what other people feel and think.

Age: 21
From: Essex
Occupation: Politics student
A member of the Young Conservatives, Sophie is outspoken about her political views and is a regular commentator in the national media. She is also a keen footballer.

Who is a great leader?
The best example of a leader I can think of, who is actually my personal idol since I was a child, is Margaret Thatcher.

What makes a great leader?
You have to be strong, I don’t give into this consensus nonsense, we want conviction. If you know you’re right, you’re right. You have to be confident in what you’re doing, share your ideas with everybody and just be yourself. Be a normal person, don’t try and be someone you’re not because it just never works out in the end.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?
I can win Rise and Fall because I’m really personable, a lot of people tend to gravitate to me. I’m a natural born leader. I’m really strong, I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me at all. I’m intelligent and I’m extremely active. I’m a well-rounded person so I think I’ve got it in the bag.

Age: 24
From: West Lothian, Scotland
Occupation: Delivery driver
As well as working as a delivery driver, single-mum Sydney is also studying for a law degree with a view to working in the human rights sector.

Who is a great leader?
One of the best leaders is Marilyn Monroe because she’s iconic and had the world in a chokehold during her time.

What qualities do you have that will help you win Rise and Fall?  
My best quality to help me win the show is that I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose. I can get on with anybody regardless of age, gender and the background they come from.

Rise and Fall begins Sunday 19th March at 9pm on Channel 4 and All 4