No catfish here! Frank Grimsley was crowned the winner of The Circle season 4 — and he did it by staying true to himself.
“I wanted to show people that I — as a Black man, as a Black gay man, as a Black plus-size man — that I can go into a game and be popular,” Frank, 29, told Us Weekly exclusively before the Netflix competition’s finale dropped on Wednesday, May 25. “I wanted to show representation in the game. A visual representation, not only to everybody that’s watching but for the other players as well. That we can exist in this space on TV and thrive in it.”
The Netflix hit, which debuted in January 2020, markets itself as a lighthearted and strategic competition series where contestants who are in isolation can choose whether to play as themselves or go in as other people while chasing a generous cash prize. The show, however, became an instant success with viewers not because of its competitive focus, but due to the authentic human connection that formed in the midst of heated gameplay.
While the Maryland native told Us that he “holds no shade toward anyone” who chose to enter The Circle as a catfish or play strategically, it was imperative for him to “be himself the whole time.”
“I have an infectious personality and I know what I bring to the table,” the content creator explained. “And there’s something about me that other people fall in love with. I wanted to show people who were watching that I could play this game by simply being myself. I just kept saying, ‘I’m going [with] my gut here and following my heart.’ And I wanted to show people that you don’t have to be cutthroat, shady, or throw people on the bus to win this game.”
That doesn’t mean Frank didn’t face more strategic contenders who tried to take him down. When the contestants participated in anonymous challenges, catfish “Nathan,” also known as Alex Brizard, continuously tried to call him out as “a snake,” labeling him “Mr. Nice Guy” in an attempt to convince the other players that Frank was fake — something the former social worker didn’t appreciate.
“When you’re being genuine, people think you’re playing a game,” he told Us. “I’m literally being myself. So to continuously be pushed against the wall and [it being] portrayed by other people that I was not being genuine really started to get to me. It really pissed me off.”
Frank added that while trying to ruin his reputation “was really manipulative,” there is a certain level of strategy needed in order to make the show more interesting. “[Nathan] threw a monkey wrench into a game that needed a little bit of fire,” he teased, admitting that the fake frat boy was “needed for the show.”
The ultimate catfish title, however, went to season 4’s special guests: Mel B and Emma Bunton from the Spice Girls, who played the fake character “Jared” and were able to up the prize fund by $50,000 after successfully fooling everyone about their true identities.
“I think the Spice Girls would’ve [gone] a long way! I think they would have [gone] a really long way cause I had no clue,” Frank revealed to Us. “It was only when we had [figure out who they were] that I started thinking about things and analyzing conversations and nitpicking every little thing. I really liked Jared! Even when we found out I was like, ‘That’s a joke. They’re not really here. It can’t be. There’s no way.’ [But] it was real.”
All episodes of The Circle are now airing on Netflix.
Reporting by Kat Pettibone