1-on-1 with Joey Sasso from The Circle: Rochesterian is America’s newest heartthrob

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Editor’s note: The final four episodes of The Circle were released early Wednesday morning. To find out how Joey did, visit this page.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Joey Sasso has taken the Internet by storm. The Rochester native is a contestant on Netflix’s new reality show, The Circle.

The winner of the show walks away with $100,000, but the winner of the fan vote gets $10,000. So for Sasso, $110,000 is on the line.

Before the final episodes are released at midnight, we caught up with him to chat about the show, about his Rochester upbringing, and more.

Find out how to vote for Joey HERE:

How is The Circle different than other reality shows?

The reason it stands out so much compared to other reality shows is all the contestants never meet each other.

It’s all social media based, we all live in an apartment, we’re on camera 24 hours a day, and we set up a social media profile in “The Circle,” but the twist of it is you don’t know if you’re talking to someone who’s real because there are catfishes in the game.

You made the decision to represent yourself honestly, instead of catfishing. How did it help you in the game and in the show?

For me, I never contemplated being a catfish, because I’ve always believed in myself, and have had confidence in myself.

Being a catfish sounds like it would be fun, but not when it’s a level of competition like this.

I went in there just saying: “You know what, anything can happen, and there can be so many things that can be out of my control, people aren’t ever meeting me face to face, who knows how they’re going to perceive me.”

So I’d rather just go in there, be myself, stay true to who I am, and do my best. And so far, the reception from all the fans worldwide has just been absolutely insane.

What was it like living in an isolated situation for the whole show?

To tell you the truth, you really start losing your mind a little bit, and people ask me all the time: “Is the show scripted, is the show fake?”

I can’t speak for other reality shows, because I know some shows are, but this show was 100% real. I am locked away, I have no music, no television, no nothing, and you want to hang in the game as long as you can …

But the downside to that is that the longer you stay in the game, the more crazy you start going. At a certain point, you’re looking at the screen, and you’re looking at these players’ profiles.

The relationships you start to build, the connections you make, you really buy into it — it’s not something that you can have as a facade. Every person that stayed in the game with me up until this point, you really felt like this is all you have right now.

Are you still in touch with any of the other contestants?

Yes, all of the contestants are still friends, we all keep in touch, we have a group chat on Instagram and that’s sort of been our only way of communicating for the last four or five months because we weren’t allowed to follow each other on social media, talk on social media, until Netflix announced this.

And even since the show started to air, there’s been limitations for how much communication we’ve been allowed to have publicly.

I’m excited for the final four episodes to come out so we can just talk about everything that happened.

The reception from fans who really get invested in all of our relationships on the show — it’s kind of crazy because it’s such a different reality show. You’re tuning into see people fight, be at each other’s throats, you’re really tuning in for these personalities that you’ve responded to.

How has this show changed how you use and view social media on a daily basis?

To tell you the truth, I’ve never been huge on social media; I’ve always had profiles, but especially living away from back home in Rochester where all my family is, that’s the main reason I try to keep a presence, but now I’ve shot up to 70,000 followers on Instagram within two weeks.

I’ve talked with so many people in the cast about this, you can’t define yourself by how much attention you get on social media, all the people who are reaching out to you for fake reasons.

To me what’s been beautiful about it is I’ve had so many people send me messages about their life, how the show has inspired them to be themselves, to take a risk and be vulnerable, and that’s where I sit back and go, “I have so much gratitude for this entire experience.”

It’s been such a blessing.

What’s something you learned growing up here that you were able to apply to both to the show and life outside of it?

Being a Rochester kid is something I hold so proud to my heart.

Especially living out here in LA, you meet a lot of people from Rochester or people who know it, and we all rally around each other.

When I went on the show, being a kid from Rochester helped me to get to the point I’m at currently in the game because I’m not afraid to call people out, I’m not afraid to say exactly what’s on my mind.

Especially living out here in Los Angeles, so many people are fake, they tell you what you want to hear to your face, but talk behind your back.

When I went into the game, especially when you can’t meet face to face, putting yourself out there, calling someone out, is a really ballsy move to make, but I think being a kid from Rochester definitely helped with the confidence. I didn’t have to think twice about it.

Why did you want to move to LA when you were 18, and what was it like for you when you moved out there?

So I was a month out of high school, living on my own, and in complete culture shock.

I’ve had a dream my entire life I was going to pursue, now I’m doing it, where do I begin?

It’s really been such a journey, and that’s why when people ask me about the show, it’s not something I celebrate for myself, it’s a celebration for my family as well, because they’ve had my back and supported me for so many years — aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, everybody — so for all of us, it’s a testament to say:

“We’ve all been on this journey for a long time, now we can sit back and reflect and say the journey has been well worth the wait.”

So what’s next for you?

I have my film in post-production currently, which was shot in Rochester, it was a longtime passion project, it’s called Young Lion of the West, which funnily enough, is the name of the movie, because years ago, before Rochester was named “Rochester,” it was called the “Young Lion of the West.”

I spent almost eight years trying to get the film made, and somehow, some way, almost two years ago, we got it done.

We didn’t cut anything from the script, we came home, we hired local talent, as well as a lot of name talent from Los Angeles, and currently we’re in post-production, and we’re going to be looking for distribution sometime in the next three-to-five months.

What can we look forward to in the final four episodes?

What I can tell you is if you watched The Circle or haven’t watched The Circle yet, it’s a wild ride.

These final episodes are just like the first eight episodes, there’s a lot of unexpected twists, everyone is very excited to see what happens in the finale, because the winner is finally going to be crowned.

I just say that without giving anything away, every episode leaves you on the edge of your seat, the finale and the last four episodes is going to be no different.

Everyone who tunes in is going to be really pleased to see the outcome.

You’re a film guy. What did you think of the Oscar nominations, and what do you think is going to do well this year?

You know, when it comes to the Oscars, there’s no doubt that I will always love them, because it’s the Oscars, it’s the highest honor there is in film …

But to tell you the truth, I’ve lost faith in the Oscars over the last five years. I don’t like saying that because so many film fans try to sound pretentious, like they know more than everyone else, but I think the Oscars need to do better at acknowledging not only films that are well-made, but films that audiences really embrace.

Last year, A Star Is Born was such a masterpiece of a film, and audiences also loved it, and they sort of shut it out on purpose, because it had Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper …

Uncut Gems this year; Adam Sandler turned in the best performance of his career, and the fact that he wasn’t nominated, or the Saffey brothers weren’t nominated, to me it’s a criminal thing, because “it’s Adam Sandler, the comedian who makes bad movies, so we can’t let him into our club.”

You see all the films that all really remembered down the line are the films that the films that weren’t even nominated or didn’t win anything at the Oscars.

Here’s The Big Three. What makes Rochester such a great place to cultivate original art and artists?

The special thing about Rochester is the blue-collar mentality that you have growing up there.

It’s very family oriented, and also the fact that if you were like me growing up, which a lot of people are, you’re in LA, you’re not in one of those big cities.

Those seem like a different world, it gives you hope, it lets your imagination run wild, getting to a place in your life where you can be some place where other people are like you.

There’s nothing wrong with Rochester mentality, everyone has a lot of heart, a lot of soul, and really working class way of living that doesn’t exist in a lot of other places.

If you could accomplish one thing in your artistic career and be happy, what would it be?

It would be (working) on a set of Quentin Tarantino, or Martin Scorsese, in any single sense.

I don’t care if I’m an extra, or I’m a speaking role — to me, those are my heroes.

I got to meet Tarantino outside my new apartment complex, probably six or seven months ago, and that was a dream come true. They say don’t meet your heroes, and he was fantastic.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

You have to be in one of the big cities.

Do not get held back, do not put it off, don’t say you’re going to move away eventually, you gotta just do it.

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