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Too Hot To Handle’s David Birtwistle on Where He Is Now, Who He’s Dating, and Masculinity
By the time Too Hot to Handle comes to a close, David Birtwistle hasn’t paired off with any of the other contestants. The Londoner had a couple close encounters on the new Netflix dating show, where hot singles are placed at a gorgeous villa with one rule: no physical interaction. While other contestants repeatedly gave into their instincts, Birtwistle only had one dustup—sharing a kiss with Chloe Veitch. From then on he leaned into the concept, and even found a new outlook on his romantic life on the other side.
Like the rest of the world, Birtwistle is currently holed up in his London apartment with his sister and her boyfriend, so applying those new rules of dating aren’t as fruitful right now as he’d hope, but if anything could have prepared him for the value of a FaceTime call over a physical connection, it’s Too Hot to Handle. Birtwistle hopped on the phone with Esquire to discuss dating post-reality TV, staying fit, and if there’s a nice bird who already has laid claim to his revamped heart.
Too Hot to Handle is an interesting concept. You have these people who are aesthetically pleasing, but you take away the ability to interact physically, but honestly—do you feel like you took much away from it?
I definitely had a takeaway from it. I gained a lot from the experience, for sure. For me, personally, it was about vulnerability. It’s like, I would protect myself by not putting myself out there. I’d keep people at arm’s length and that would stop me from getting hurt. But by doing this show, I learned that in order to get what I really want, I have to put myself in that vulnerable position and take a chance.
I picked up on that distance a little bit, but you did take a couple of swings! The chemistry just didn’t end up being there. Assuming you’re back on the dating scene… are you seeing anyone right now?
Um, right now it’s difficult, isn’t it? We’re on lockdown so I can’t really get out of the house that much! You know, I’m kind of… I’m in a position where it is… maybe, is what I’m going to say. I can’t put too much definition on it at the moment. [laughs]
Maybe is better than no, right?
Definitely. There’s always FaceTime, right?
So what’s the difference now when you, say, go out to the bar? Is there really a greater importance on emotional connection?
I think it’s definitely a blend of the two. I don’t think you can completely disregard how someone looks from the equation, but the emotional side of things is so vital. It is the thing you fall in love with. Someone can be beautiful aesthetically. They can be objectively fantastic, but if there’s nothing else, it’s hard to fall in love with how someone looks. It’s the quirks in someone’s personality. It’s the way they tell stories. It’s how they smell. It’s how you two connect. It’s those things that you fall in love with. Without that, there wouldn’t be enough substance.
I think that maybe I was putting too much weight on how someone looks in the past. Now, my eyes have been opened up a bit more.
Beyond the sexual nature of the show, you had a couple of “workshops” that challenged masculinity stereotypes. How did you handle that?
That was a really important moment for myself and I think for a lot of the guys. It’s often that guys are too scared to show their flaws and insecurities around other guys. We hide them away and it causes things to feel much bigger than they actually are and make us think that these things that we’re going through are just us. In seeing each other’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, we became a stronger group. And I think that’s something that the male demographic misses out on. Say, we go through a bad breakup. We call up our boys and say, “Let’s go get some drinks. Let’s go clubbing,” but you never actually take the time to talk through the things that happened in a smart way to get to the root of the issue.
Ana Cristina Blumenkron/Netflix
Your “character” on the show was so interesting because you were open to those experiences like the workshops. Other people weren’t so interested in the process. Some even left early. How obvious was it when you were going through this process that some people weren’t interested in what the show had to offer?
Oh, it was blatantly obvious. When you spend that much time with people, you can see a little more clearly. There’s no distractions, so it’s very much about the process and the relationships you form. If people weren’t buying into the concept or committing themselves to the process, that was clear. I had conversations with some of the cast who weren’t taking it seriously, and it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall.
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Can you say who?
I’m not going to say who it was, but we talked for a long time and their response was, “My life is good right now. Why do I need to do any of this?” And I said, “But your life isn’t always going to be good. You don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know what’s around the corner. The situation might change and being prepared as much as possible for those things is a wise way to look at your life.” But they didn’t seem to share that same thought process, so when the relationships were forming, there was a bit of a disconnect.
But the people who applied themselves were the people who got the most out of the experience. That’s what I’m taking into my life because when you find yourself out of your comfort zone, that’s when you grow the most as a person.
I mean, here we are a few months later and you can’t interact with anyone, so it’s like Too Hot to Handle was preparation in the making. Netflix has been doing a lot of series where the premise gets turned on its head in the way we interact. Do you think you might’ve been better for another show?
That’s a really interesting question. I think each of the shows bring a certain uniqueness, and the people who went through them would probably say it’s the right show for them. I think for me, it’s hard to say because I wasn’t and never will be in the position to try any of them out. For me, I’d say Too Hot to Handle provides something different than what the other shows off.
For me, it came at such an interesting time in my life because it’s something I’d been thinking about. It was something I needed to do. There were things that I was missing in my life. Things I needed to change and doing this experience was definitely a catalyst for me believing in myself enough to make these changes and push through some fear that I had to realize that there is more that I want out of my life. And deeper connections with people are at the center of what makes me happy.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.