‘The Circle’s’ Lee Swift Is Proud to Be an Example for Gays of All Generations

When The Circle returned for Season 2, all of us puzzled if the present may presumably match the feel-good magic of Season 1. After all, this was a forged that knew how the sport labored—and so they entered the Circle prepared to play. This led to a blocking heard ’round the world, the end result fo probably the most intense showdown in Circle US historical past. And that was how this season began. But regardless of your first impression of a season, The Circle is ultimately a show about human connection—and no participant embodies that greater than Lee Swift, a.ok.a. River.

In a means he was probably the most fishy catfish of your complete season (till we met John, that’s). A 58-year-old enjoying as a hipster half his age? It was a dangerous sport, particularly contemplating that at present’s slang progresses at fiber-optic speeds. But Lee made it work (#JFTF), his pure intentions, loyal nature, and goofy humor shining by means of each TV display screen in each house.

For me—an individual that you’re not desirous about proper now since you’re right here for River—seeing Lee on TV gave me a style of what I didn’t even know I used to be lacking from my actuality TV weight-reduction plan. Here’s a 50+ homosexual man from Texas flying an all-inclusive satisfaction flag on my TV, in a style that may have a tendency to ignore homosexual males after they flip 30. Lee’s presence on the present gave me extra homosexual pleasure than I ever thought I’d get from a Netflix competitors present—and I believe it’s protected to say that the world agrees with me. His forged mates love him, social media loves him, and I’m past thrilled that I had the pleasure of chatting with this absolute legend. Everyone: hear to Lee.

Decider: How has it been the final couple of weeks? I believe you’re the breakout sensation of the season.

Lee Swift: Well thanks! I really feel like I’m breaking out anyway. But yeah, no, it’s been wonderful. You can’t anticipate it. I believed, yeah, it’s a giant present, blah blah blah. But I actually didn’t know that it was gonna be like consuming from a firehose, and that’s what it seems like!

THE CIRCLE Lee Swift in season 2 of THE CIRCLE. Cr. Ben Blackall / Netflix ©2021
Courtesy of Ben Blackall / NETFL

Did you ever take into consideration catfishing underneath your feminine pen title, or was River all the time the plan?

I believe Deleesa was brilliant at it. I believe I’d be horrific at it, enjoying one other gender. The age distinction I wasn’t nice at anyway. I had this entire backstory about how River got here from a spiritual household as a result of I used to be attempting to soften that he didn’t know popular culture. But I didn’t get very many alternatives to put that on the market and none of it obtained aired, however that was my sport plan. I believe one other gender could be very onerous. You have to be actually good to try this.

The factor that resonated with me as a homosexual man was seeing a homosexual particular person of your age group on tv—as a result of actuality TV virtually all the time focuses on younger homosexual individuals. Did you ever take into consideration the way you had been representing for our forefathers, in a means?

Honestly, that was within the again of my thoughts. But once I was going into the Circle—as a result of I’m a actuality fan, I believed sometimes it’s one homosexual particular person, possibly two. Maybe however actually unlikely. And in order that’s why I had the [Progress Pride] flag [hanging in my apartment].

The Circle Season 2 - Lee chatting with Bryant
Photo: Netflix

There’s rather a lot of work that also has to be completed, particularly for the trans group, so I needed to symbolize that and speak about how necessary activism is to me. But when instantly Courtney popped up, I used to be like wow! And then Bryant had the rainbow coronary heart as an ally, and I’m going, “This is amazing!” I used to be simply overwhelmed and thrilled.

And then homosexual icon Lance Bass reveals up! Have you gotten to Zoom with Lance Bass but? Has Lisa hooked y’all up?

No, however I’d love to meet him. I believe he’s wonderful. I’m truly into greater than his music. I’d drive my husband Stephen to the prepare station as a result of he’s a banker—exact opposite of me. You may most likely inform that by the video from house factor. You know, no “I love you,” no crying, simply “win that money.” But I’d drive him to the prepare station for work and we’d listened to Lance’s present on Sirius with Giggles, Turkey, and his husband Michael, and we simply fell in love with him then. I believe they do popular culture stuff actually enjoyable and so they did critical stuff a bit of bit. I simply assume [Lance] is an wonderful expertise and has a fantastic message. So I’m enthusiastic about assembly him. He could also be like, “Oh, cringe, here comes that crazy guy.”

The Circle 2 - Lee chatting with Lance
Photo: Netflix

“Here comes the fangirl of the season.” You even have what has to be the catchphrase of the season: #JFTF. Where did that come from? Were you informed that it was an actual hashtag?

They didn’t present this, however I truly stated, I’m this 58-year-old man and I need to see if I can create a hashtag that goes viral. I believed, right here’s this nice platform. And I do have a private motto, which is on daily basis I need to do one factor that’s simply for enjoyable, as a result of life can get actually critical and heavy. I attempt to try this on daily basis, simply have a bit of second simply to have some enjoyable, and [find] as many moments as you may. So it was intentional. I don’t assume that performed how they edited it [laughs], which is ok. I believe it was lovely how they edited it. I’m so proud of the present on each degree.

The Circle Season 2 - Terilisha and JFTF
Photo: Netflix

There was additionally that YOLO second in your intro, which units up #JFTF.

It’s completely true I didn’t know [about YOLO]. I believe I had heard it, and FOMO too. My niece and I had this coronary heart to coronary heart, she’s 21 or 20 on the time, and we went by means of every little thing. She didn’t cowl the fundamentals. I talked to her after and he or she stated, “I was sure you already knew that because everybody knows!” No, no, I didn’t know YOLO. Didn’t know FOMO.

Later on, what had been your ideas when John confirmed up? Mitchell even stated he thought you were John when you went to block him. John was a 64-year-old homosexual man and doubtlessly a peer of yours—for those who had been enjoying your self and John wasn’t two catfish in a single.

I believe Jack and Lisa, how sensible of them to create this character in order that he can be this elder to River and Courtney. What they didn’t know was, John’s actually my story, minus the youngsters. I purchased that hook, line, and sinker, I’ll be trustworthy. No catfish vibes. I used to be like, sure! I’ve obtained someone that I can relate to! And no, I can’t ever inform him, however every little thing he says I’m going to simply soak it up. So I purchased it 100%. So sensible of them. I needed John to be actual so unhealthy as a result of I cherished each half of him.

Lee blocking Mitch
Photo: Netflix

Pretty a lot each single particular person I’ve talked to this season—Bryant, Terilisha, Khat—all of them referred to as you their #CircleBestie. That’s why I’m calling you Miss Congeniality of Season 2, after the RuPaul’s Drag Race title that’s voted on by the remaining of the forged. Did you anticipate everybody being so shut to you after The Circle?

No, however I really like them. That’s the crying, for occasion. I’ve had a bit of grief, “How can you cry for Bryant? You just met him.” Well, I’m a really emotive man. I simply am and I’m not ashamed of that. And I knew how unhealthy I needed to be there, and I knew how unhealthy it will have harm if I had been the primary one out. I had had some good chats with Bryant, actually, very nice chats. So that was what was popping out, simply emoting for him. Empathy, empathy.

The Circle Season 2 - Lee and Bryant
Photo: Netflix

So when all these lovely lights which can be round me as forged members—I simply give them my love as a result of I need them to succeed wildly, and I believe they’ll. I believe they’re mega proficient. And so as a result of of that, they provide it again. They’re very beneficiant and type, serving to me by means of this digital quagmire. But I’m figuring it out! I’m on TikTok, Brett!

I really like how your function on The Circle particularly speaks to the homosexual expertise, as a result of so as for us to have youngsters, it entails surrogacy or adoption and typically it isn’t isn’t authorized, and so forth. So we do discover—our nieces and nephews, for occasion. And the way in which that Khat and Terilisha and Bryant all informed me, “Lee’s always checking in, making sure we’re fine, congratulating us.” You’re channeling your parental instincts onto your forged mates, which is absolutely candy.

I believe that’s proper. I believe particularly of my technology—now you’re after me, however I believe older homosexual individuals, we had to create our households. I’m shut to my household, however nobody in my household had ever come out. No one. I used to be the very first particular person to ever come out, and so I didn’t have any examples. I had older individuals again then that took me underneath their wing. It’s this created household expertise. It’s been wonderful to proceed to perpetuate that, as a result of I do know it’s so necessary to have assist and folks that you could say, “Oh, that’s the direction I want to go in.” Not precisely, however there’s a future for me. So that’s what I need to be if I can.

THE CIRCLE (L to R) Lee Swift, Courtney Linsen and Chloe Veitch in season 2 of THE CIRCLE. Cr. Netflix ©2021
Courtesy of Ben Blackall/NETFLIX

And I believe that’s why it was so necessary having you on The Circle, as a result of rather a lot of homosexual individuals my age and youthful by no means obtained to see that future depicted on TV once we had been scuffling with our identities. That is why it meant rather a lot to me to see you on the present and your camaraderie with Courtney. It was simply so cool, like, y’all had been journey or die to the purpose that individuals had been attempting to get one of you.

Yeah—I’d say so far as technique, Courtney and I did make a bit of mistake in that it was so evident that we had been so tight. That, to me, was the technique we missed. But he’s wonderful. One factor that I do, Brett, is my mentors—I name them mentors, of all ages, and Courtney is a mentor of mine. Because I can be taught from anyone. I don’t know hardly something. I attempt to be a mentor in any means I can, however I’m all the time attempting to be taught. He has crammed me up with a lot info and experiences about how the world works now. I used to be lacking it! I’ll be trustworthy, social media, earlier than The Circle I used to be actually lacking out. I didn’t understand! I used to be fearful of it. I didn’t perceive it. I felt like oh, you’re so uncovered. So this has actually turned me round and now I’m realizing how one can be nearly hugged by so many fantastic individuals and actually have some deep connections on social media.

The Circle Season 2 - Finale dinner hug
Photo: Netflix

So what’s the following journey for Lee? Do you might have any extra books on the way in which? Are you getting extra merchandise? Some #JFTF pins?

Yeah, I’ve obtained to get you a pin! I’m doing a little crazy t-shirts with my drawings as a result of, imagine it or not, all these individuals are desirous about my drawings. So I’m like, “Okay, if you guys want them, let me get those out.” Books—I even have an thought for River’s story. I took photos of Doak, who’s the man that River is predicated on, an wonderful younger man. So I’ve a canopy prepared, however I’m so busy. A producer pal of mine, we pitched a TV present to Netflix years in the past. She simply did a movie, Senior Moment with William Shatner and Jean Smart. She stated, “You’re in now. We got to go in with something else.” And I stated okay. So the novel writing goes to the facet and I believe I’m going to pull some outdated scripts out and see if I can do one thing with them. I’m having a lot enjoyable with every little thing. I’m having a lot enjoyable and using this wherever it takes me.

Follow Lee Swift on Instagram at @leeswiftauthor. The Circle Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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