The inner workings of TV celebrities’ WhatsApp groups are revealed, including a policy of blocking any diva behavior from Gemma Collins.
There is a bustling WhatsApp group behind every popular TV series. This group is used by people involved in the show to brainstorm plot ideas, organize contests, and witness dramatic exits from the group. These lively groups are always active and full of action.
Larry Rickard, co-creator of Ghosts and actor playing Robin and Humphrey, jokes that a group of nine show-offs becomes lively quickly. To manage the wildness while producing the popular BBC comedy, he created multiple group chats. One chat, called “Ghosts,” includes all of the lead actors and even allows non-ghost actors Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Charlotte Ritchie to join. Another chat, called “Idiot News,” is specifically for the writers and not the cast. These chats are filled with voice notes of impersonations, such as Jim Howick’s helium-voiced cockney and Martha Howe-Douglas’ Noddy Holder impression. However, not everyone is always attentive, as Simon Farnaby sometimes takes a month to reply, treating it like a visit from the Queen. In fact, there was one instance where he didn’t reply because he was actually with the Queen!
The WhatsApp groups associated with popular TV shows gained attention after Nikolaj Coster-Waldau revealed the existence of Game of Thrones’ star-studded chat during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. Following the airing of the final season, he admitted that the group was buzzing with excitement during that year’s Emmy awards and shared that Alfie Allen is very involved, even singing entire songs for others. Emilia Clarke later shared that this is where she first heard about the controversial House of the Dragon prequel in 2019, to which she responded with an enthusiastic “Ooh!”
In other instances, Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin have stated that the fourth season’s cast of The Crown aided in creating a strong bond – despite Tobias Menzies struggling with it. Corrin shared, “I found it amusing to hear Olivia [Colman] and Gillian [Anderson] figuring out how to send voice notes, saying ‘I’m sending my voice.'” Anderson, who was the most frequent user alongside Helena Bonham Carter, admitted to becoming “enamored” with voice notes after watching Colman record one during filming.
Celebrities and television production teams also rely on WhatsApp for support and communication, just like regular people. For example, actress Jodie Whittaker had a “Friday bangers” group with her co-workers on the set of Doctor Who, where they would share music to get through the week. Lisa McGee, the creator of Derry Girls, tweeted during the Oprah and Prince Harry interview, which resonated with many others who were discussing the same topic in their own WhatsApp groups around the world.
According to Jack Rooke, creator of the Bafta-nominated LGBTQ+ comedy Big Boys, the group chat has become a hub for various activities such as gambling, sharing memes and dick pics, and sending birthday wishes. During the production of its second season, the group was constantly buzzing with activity. Rooke explains that the chat is mostly filled with British gay icon Camille Coduri sharing memes similar to those found on the viral Instagram account Love of Huns, or posting astrology-themed motivational quotes. Actor Dylan Llewellyn also takes charge by organizing multiple sweepstakes for lesser-known tennis tournaments or the Eurovision song contest. In fact, during this year’s Eurovision, Rooke won £30 and treated the group to iced lattes on set.
Although there is plenty of fun and casual conversation happening in group chats, they can also have a significant impact on the final product we see on screen. For example, Candice Carty-Williams utilized group messaging to gather music for her highly anticipated BBC drama, Champion. This resulted in rapper Ghetts sharing never-before-heard tracks for the show, which Carty-Williams described as a dream come true. Similarly, comedian Bridget Christie exchanged texts with actor Jerome Flynn to perfect a line in her menopause comedy, The Change. Rickard also mentions how their group chat, “Idiot News,” is used to plan out scenes for their show Ghosts, rather than gossiping about actors.
Next, there are the explosive moments in the WhatsApp group. Martin Compston recently shared that Jed Mercurio has changed the name of the Line of Duty 6 group to Line of Duty 7, implying the significant news that they are working on another season, even though the previous one was meant to be the final one. “What I find interesting is that we haven’t discussed it since,” said Compston. Additionally, earlier this year, it was widely reported that the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing sent heated messages in their group regarding a pay disagreement, angered by the judges receiving an 11% salary increase.
Sometimes, tensions can escalate to the point where it is necessary for celebrities to leave a group before they are kicked out. Brian McFadden removed Gemma Collins from the Dancing on Ice chat on three separate occasions due to her behavior, stating that “if she acts like a diva, she’ll get blocked.” In response, Gemma defended herself by saying “I simply speak the truth.” Janice Dickinson was the only contestant on I’m a Celebrity… South Africa who was not part of the WhatsApp group, and Paul Burrell claimed it was due to “obvious reasons.” However, Regé-Jean Page showed good manners by respectfully leaving the Bridgerton group after season one because he did not want to put them in an uncomfortable situation of having to remove him.
A contestant named Wilf Webster, who participated in the popular reality show The Traitors last year, made the decision to leave the large WhatsApp group that was created for all 22 contestants after filming. He explains that the constant influx of 300-400 messages in the group caused him stress, as each person joined individually upon leaving the show. While there were no arguments, the uncertainty of how they would be portrayed to the public made it overwhelming to read everyone else’s comments while also dealing with their own portrayal. Webster found solace in a smaller subgroup of finalists and they are currently planning a reunion.
The use of messaging apps as a means for TV stars to connect and form real-life bonds should not be underestimated. It can serve a practical purpose, like the “Fun Club” group on the set of Ghosts, where they could coordinate meeting times at Wagamama. But these seemingly minor communications can also foster friendships, as seen in the annual Great British Bake Off groups. Former contestant Selasi Gbormittah revealed that his original WhatsApp group with his fellow bakers is still active six years later, as they continue to wish each other happy birthday. And it’s not just the contestants who benefit – new co-host and friend, Noel Fielding, was messaged late at night by Alison Hammond during production. “Just stop sending me those pictures, I don’t like it,” she joked with him on a recent episode. “That’s not what you said last night,” he replied with a smirk.
Rooke says the Big Boys’ group – which has seen “this little gang” through “channel changes, commission cancellations, crew shortages and a cheeky two years of Covid” – has helped to create a genuine sense of community. “When something lovely happens, we just celebrate the fact we actually got to film it and work together again,” he says. “When the four Bafta noms were announced in March, we went to a pub near Arsenal and drank them fully out of Campari. It felt very right.”
WhatsApp groups may be silly, stuffed with annoying emojis and often totally wild, but they have undeniably become integral to making fantastic television. The ultimate proof is Quinta Brunson thanking “my group text, the Butts” while picking up a Golden Globe for her beloved comedy Abbott Elementary earlier this year.
However, some television personalities still need to be convinced. According to Krishnan Guru-Murthy, this year’s Strictly Come Dancing WhatsApp group is a highly supportive community. In a recent interview, he mentioned that whenever someone is having a difficult time, they will share it in the group and receive support and advice from others. Even Angela Rippon shares her experiences with cryotherapy chambers. However, contestant Judi Love only vaguely remembers being part of the group during her time on the show. She also mentions not being part of any groups for other shows like MasterChef, Taskmaster, or Loose Women. She jokes that she will have to check if she is still part of the group now that the show has started.