The Traitors: Manchester casting assistant on how she found the stars of hit BBC show

The battle of wits between the Faithful and the treacherous Traitors at a Scottish castle had TV viewers gripped.

A Manchester woman who studied at university in Greater Manchester has shared the story of how she found some of the stars of hit BBC reality TV show The Traitors.

The game of deception, trust and betrayal between the treacherous Traitors and the Faithful who were trying to uncover the identity of those working against them had television viewers gripped. And it made cast members such as the winners of the show Aaron, Hannah and Meryl and traitors Alyssa, Amanda and Wilfred household names.

Now Olivia Ahmed, who did her degree at Salford University and worked on the programme as a casting assistant, has lifted the lid on what programme makers were looking for and how they chose the cast to play the game.

What did Olivia Ahmed say about casting The Traitors?

Olivia, 29, works as a freelance assistant producer and cast almost a third of the 22 contestants who took part in The Traitors, including estate agent Amanda who became a firm favourite with fans of the show as she bamboozled the Faithful into thinking she couldn’t possibly be one of the sinister robed figures meeting in the middle of the night to eliminate players from the game.

The idea of the show was that the 22 strangers would be thrown together at a Scottish castle and take part in various missions to swell the cash prize pot. The Faithful had to try to uncover the identity of the Traitors, who were trying to remain undetected. The players were whittled down as contestants voted for who they thought should leave while the Traitors also got rid of participants. At the end of the show the Faithful would split the money between them - but if a Traitor got all the way to the end they would scoop the lot leaving everyone else with nothing.

Olivia Ahmed, who was involved in casting hit reality TV show The Traitors. Credit: The University of Salford

Olivia says the show, which became a sleeper hit gathering an audience of millions by the time of the finale in December through word of mouth and social media buzz, worked because its contestants all came from very different walks of life, something she says is not always seen on TV.

She said: “It felt really different when we were casting. Usually, you get told a certain criteria for casting, such as a for male of around 18-26 and then they’ll keep narrowing it down. But with The Traitors, we were told to look at any age, creed, background and to just throw it all at them. Nothing was off limits.

“They wanted people who were a bit nerdy, perhaps had a law degree, people who would be great at playing games but also could be perceived as being great liars as well. We would ask questions like ‘tell me the biggest lie you’ve ever told anyone’, try and find out their deepest, darkest secrets and asked them for times that they think they’ve been lied to or tried to suss someone out. It was my favourite casting gig that I’ve done.”

A fan favourite nearly didn’t make it onto the show

Olivia revealed that Amanda, who got all the way to episode 10 before she was banished and told the stunned group that she was a Traitor, nearly didn’t make it onto the TV screen at all.

She said: “Amanda was one of my favourites during the process and she was initially put into a ‘no’ pile as the producers were going through the potential options. But I went back to them to say that they should have a look again and give her a chance. There was just something about her and the show backed that up!”

Amanda is a 54-year-old estate agent from Swansea.

In addition to Amanda, Olivia also cast doctor Amos, couple Alex and Tom, BMX athlete Matt, school welfare head Fay and fund-raiser Wilfred, who ended up as the last Traitor standing before he was finally eliminated.

Olivia was not the only Mancunian involved in the show as Aisha Birley from Prestwich was one of the contestants, only to be the first person to be murdered by the Traitors.

Could more programmes follow the example of The Traitors?

Olivia, who graduated from Salford with a BA in television and radio production and lives in Manchester, says she reckons The Traitors is an example of the future of reality TV. The BBC has already moved to satisfy fans’ appetite for more Traitors content by snapping up the rights to broadcast the US version of the show.

“I think more reality shows are going to go the way of The Traitors and that more producers will be saying we need to cast in this way,” Olivia said.

“It’s going to change the way we cast television shows altogether now. Casting older people and having those from different careers is much more fulfilling. They just haven’t been given a chance in reality TV for so long and I think it is going to come full circle.”

The Traitors was one of the most popular BBC shows over the festive period. Picture: BBC

Olivia also shared what she had learned about casting based on her time picking the contestants for the reality show.

She said: “I would say that with casting, you just need to speak to everybody. Give them all a chance, no matter what their background is. Every individual has a story to tell and in casting, we have to find those little nuggets or special things that prick our ears up and make us visualise how they would do on the programme.”