TVNZ's hyped new hypnotism game show
says it used actors in its debut episode.
You're Back in the Room debuted on TV2 on Sunday night with host Jason Gunn introducing "four complete strangers" who work together to complete simple tasks while under hypnosis by UK hypnotist Peter Powers. It has prize money of $10,000.
The UK show faced criticism that actors were used to enhance the show's comedic moments - and a producer on the New Zealand version has now admitted two of Sunday night's cast of Kiwis were actors.
The four contestants in the 90-minute episode were introduced as footballer Luke, chef Moses, homemaker Rupal and student Amie.
But the show didn't reveal the backgrounds of Rupal and Amie, who both feature on websites advertising themselves as professional actors.
Rupal Solanki is described in You're Back in the Room as a "homemaker with a small family" who also works as a full-time volunteer.
But on her website she describes herself as "a hardcore actress" and says acting "is my passion".
"When it comes to stage and camera I have God given gift to showcase different shades of emotions," (sic) she says. "I love to call myself a Thespian in love of stage."
Another of the show's contestants, Amie Bentall, is introduced by Gunn as a student and horse rider.
But she is listed on the Actors Agents Association of New Zealand website with a string of theatre credits dating back to 2005.
On Facebook, she says she's studied screen acting, and film and TV production, at South Seas Film and TV School.
You're Back in the Room's series producer Dominic Smith denied Rupal and Amie were used because of their acting abilities.
"The contestants for You're Back In The Room were cast from a wide range of sources, including open public auditions and approaches to extra agencies," he said.
"Two contestants had some acting experience, but mainly in amateur theatre, film and community radio. Both have full time jobs in the non-acting professions.
"They auditioned in exactly the same way as all other contestants and were tested for their susceptibility to hypnosis over three filmed audition sessions and assessed by a clinical psychologist.
"On the night of the recording they were hypnotised in front of a live studio audience."
Both Solanki and Bentall have been contacted for comment by the Herald.
Powers admitted during the show's opening moments that there were skeptics who didn't believe hypnotism was real.
"Hypnosis is certainly real and I know there are a lot of skeptics out there. When I show them what I've got up my sleeve for them tonight, we'll turn them into true believers," he told Gunn.
The UK version was heavily criticised by viewers who vented on social media that it was "set up" and claimed actors were used to make situations more comical.
In an interview with the
Gunn said the show's best contestants were the quieter ones who came out of their shells under hypnosis.
"You want that slightly quieter person who isn't the first person to get up and make a speech," he says.
He hoped people treated You're Back in the Room as "old fashioned entertainment".
"Don't try and read too much into it. Some people love to analyse and overthink TV these days. Don't. Just sit back and enjoy it," he said.
"Let them entertain you and I guarantee they will."
• Watch the first episode of You're Back in the Room here.