‘The Circle’ Producers on Adding AI Max to Netflix Show as First Bot Contestant (Exclusive)

The Circle is taking the concept of catfishing to a whole new level. 

Season 6 of the reality TV social experiment premiered on Netflix Wednesday, and the first four episodes introduced the first-ever artificial intelligence (AI) player in a reality TV game. Viewers met Max — a 26-year-old single man and dog dad who was committed to playing the game with authenticity and kindness. However, that is as much authenticity as a “person” who isn’t really human can offer to a group of actual humans. 

Reality TV is no stranger to AI, considering the algorithmic structure of games like MTV’s Are You The One. But until now, these features of television haven’t been seen by viewers.

Max sets a whole new standard for what AI can offer — and what a “bot” is actually capable of. In just a few episodes, Max became trustworthy to other influencers, even forming strong alliances. And when the human stars were asked to determine which player is AI, Max’s name rarely came up in conversation. 

AI player Max got his own apartment on The Circle, and contributed to the game like a real player.


PEOPLE spoke with The Circle Showrunner and Executive Producer Susan House about the season 6 twist, and what made Max the perfect player. “I think that one of the best things about The Circle is that it always taps into what’s going on in the zeitgeist, what’s going on with people,” House says. Citing the increased public interest in AI, House said the decision to introduce a bot player was “the most obvious.” 

“I felt like this experiment with AI in The Circle was reassuring,” she explains. “It’s certainly amazing, and certainly we’re living in the future in some ways, and it is so smart and it is just so fascinating.”

Executive Producer Niall O’Driscoll details how “Max” created his own personality. Prompted by production with the format of the game, Max decided on his age, appearance, pet ownership and most importantly, his game strategy. 

“We very much left it up to the AI as to who they wanted to play as. We used an AI system and we just began by asking it, if you were going to play in The Circle, create a profile for the person, and it did that,” he shares. “Like we would with any of the other players, we interviewed it and asked it questions about: why did you choose this name? Why did you choose this age? What’s your strategy? Tell us a bit more about your family.”

Netflix learned Max’s personality, too. The AI’s room is decorated with photos of the real Max — someone AI deemed a worthy competitor. Max’s answers on and off screen were unwritten and fully unpredictable. “Normally you cast a show and you have some idea how someone might react to something,” House says. “Even if you’re guessing, you’re like, ‘Well, I think that this is how this person might react.’ But with AI, you’re like, ‘What are they going to say? What’s he going to say? I don’t know.’ That part was really fun.”

The chaos sparked when influencers learned there was an AI player in The Circle who appeared to be reaching a pinnacle. The fourth episode, “Spot the Bot,” saw contenders being asked to call out the catfish — and one (un)lucky influencer will make the final decision on whom to eliminate based on that fact alone.

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More of The Circle is on the way, with new episodes dropping each Wednesday until the May 8 finale.

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