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Greg James talks Rise and Fall

Channel 4

Greg James talks Rise and Fall

Greg James talks Rise and Fall

Rise and Fall, Channel 4’s new reality show, hosted by Greg James sees sixteen ordinary British people, from all walks of life and ages, who 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

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

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