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Who Is the Real Adam from ‘The Circle’? Meet Eddie van Heel
Eddie van Heel is a handsome guy—not just regular handsome, but model handsome. The British-born, Brooklyn-dwelling sales manager has an Instagram full of like-worthy photos featuring his equally attractive wife, beautiful landscapes, and a very good dog named Margaux. But most of the world knows Eddie as “Adam,” a socially awkward, macho guy who uses words like “arouse” to flirt with human women.
“Adam” is the creation of Alex Lake, a 32-year-old artist and competitor on Netflix’s reality series The Circle, who used van Heel’s photos to catfish the other people on the show. Lake came into the series about social media and public perception banking on van Heel’s good looks to endear people to him. But unlike the show’s other catfishes, who didn’t go above and beyond to disguise their personalities behind they fake photos they used, Lake gave “Adam” an aggressively flirty, bumbling demeanor, which didn’t go over well.
The whole situation has been bizarre for van Heel. He wasn’t completely unaware of what was going on, even if the results were difficult to watch at points. He got on the phone with Esquire to talk about what it’s like to star on a reality show that he technically never participated in and what the real Adam Eddie is like.ESQ: I’m going to be honest. This is probably the weirdest interview I’ve ever done.
Eddie van Heel: Yeah, it’s pretty surreal for me too, actually. The whole experience is slightly odd, but funny at the same time.
First things first: how did The Circle get your photos?
I submitted them to an application on Backstage.com. It’s a job board for modeling, commercials, extras in movies… and then this one came up. I applied and they offered some money to submit, say, five pictures. Then they said, “Look, if you get chosen, then you’ll get paid another amount of money.” I didn’t know what show it was for. I didn’t know it was going to be on Netflix. I had no idea what I was submitting my pictures for, but at the time I was in between jobs, so, it was an opportunity I jumped on.
Do you regret it at all?
No! No regrets at all. Everything has been positive and just supper funny, really. There’s been no real negative feedback. I think the show makes it very clear that it’s just my pictures. I’ve loved the process. It’s been good fun.
What do you do in New York?
I’m in sales. So I used to work for an energy drink brand, but I’ve been in sales in beverages. I’m also opening up a coffee shop in SoHo in a couple months! That’s a little side project I’m working on, so that as well.
We should get in touch with Netflix and see if we can at least add an addendum to the episodes that says, “If you’d like to meet the real Adam, just swing by this new coffee shop.”
I was trying to throw that in there somewhere. Just like… this is where I’ll be! Come get a coffee and a selfie!
You’re from the U.K., which has its own version of The Circle. Did you know about the series before the U.S. version came out?
So, I knew about it when [production] got in touch with me and told me what it was going to be. One of the producers called me and I had to sign some papers, and he said, “Look, it’s called The Circle. You should go and watch the one in the U.K. and get up to speed on it before you sign any papers.” I hadn’t known about it, but I asked all of my friends in the U.K., and they said, “Oh my God! Yes!” It’s pretty popular over there, so I told them I’m going to be on it in the U.S. on Netflix.
I did a little social media stalking, and it looks like you have had contact with Alex/Adam.
He reached out to me actually and said, “Thanks very much for letting me use your pictures. It’s great to meet you.” He was super nice actually. I was like, “Do I have anything to worry about,” and he was like, “Noooo” with a winky face. That was all before the show aired. I was a bit apprehensive, but Alex is just a really sweet guy. We’ve kept in contact since. Hopefully we’ll meet up in person, maybe if I go out to L.A. sometime. Until then, we just chat about it. He’s talked to my wife. It’s been fun.
Have you gotten the chance to watch The Circle?
It took me a while to get through the first four just because I had bad anxiety, and I was watching it through my fingers. After I saw those [episodes], it was easier, knowing the process. Once you get used to people commenting about how you look, then it gets a little easier. The first few episodes I was very apprehensive to watch, but it all came out well.
From your Instagram, you seem like a fun and goofy guy. What’s your social media style?
Mine is just very honest. I don’t post too much, but I like to have jokes. I like to be a bit self-deprecating and not take myself too seriously. I love to post when we’re out and about because, clearly, I’m British and a lot of my friends and family are still in the U.K. I always post what I’m up to and any cool places we’re going. Super chill, like you described it.
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re probably a bit better at flirting than “Adam” was.
Maybe I used to be for sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “arouse” in normal conversation or ever used the word “romp” when I’ve been trying to flirt with girls in the past. When I was watching him use those kinds of words, I was kind of… yeah. I was cringing at the same time. I think he just went in it trying to figure out how to be a jock character. I think he realized halfway through that it was better to just be himself: to be a funny, nice guy. Not all jock characters talk like that and aggressively flirt. But he definitely came in strong.
I mean, you’re a married guy. How did you find a wife without using the words arousal or romp?
[laughs] See, my wife wouldn’t have been interested if I’d ever used those words during a date. That’s for sure.
What does she think of the show and your likeness being used?
She was a little bit apprehensive at first, as well, but once we started watching it, she just finds it hilarious, actually. We keep having a bit of a back and forth about our social media because I now have more followers than her.
I was going to ask! Has anyone found you yet? You’re Eddie, not Adam or Alex.
I’ve tried to stay behind the scenes, generally. I haven’t changed my name to Adam on Instagram, but people have definitely found me. I think I’ve gotten another 500 or 600 followers in the last week, which isn’t huge, but people are definitely reaching out. The main question people keep asking is: Were you asked to use your pictures or were you shocked to see them on TV?
Could you imagine if you weren’t asked?
I know! It would have been wild. I think it would have been very illegal as well. But I submitted like 50 pictures, and he only used three in the end. I think I only sent two topless ones, and he used them both, so, I think he was playing the game.
My most important question: how is Zipper (aka Margaux) the dog handling the fame?
So you found Margaux! It’s my friend’s dog. I think they’ve watched; they sent me an Instagram of them watching it with Margaux, and she had no interest. She’s a beautiful dog, even though she’s not mine. Even if I had a dog, I don’t know that I’d call her Zipper. [laughs]
Now, if there’s a Season Two and you could go on as another catfish, are you game?
I was thinking about that! If they approached and said, “Hey, do you want to come on and catfish as someone else?” that would be a twist for Season Two. I’d definitely consider it, I think. Could be funny to play the game for real.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.