‘Like prison’: Star spills on ‘toxic’ MAFS
Every year, amid the cheating scandals, the breakups, the sex confessions and all the other drama on Married At First Sight, contestants inevitably complain about their edit and the tactics producers use to manipulate their stories.
The past few seasons have consistently outdone themselves in upping the ante of the on-screen antics, culminating in reports that production had actually been shut down as producers were losing control of the various storylines.
As reports surrounding behind-the-scenes clashes intensify, contestant David Cannon has broken loose from the usual MAFS publicity protocols to lift the lid to news.com.au's podcast, Not Here To Make Friends (hosted by James Weir), about the "honest reality of the nightmare" he alleges he was forced to endure on the show.
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David, who's currently facing backlash from viewers after taking revenge on cheating "wife" Hayley Vernon by using her toothbrush to clean the toilet, didn't hold back in describing the "toxic" behaviour on set - most of which he alleged hasn't made it to air.
"Believe it or not, they're actually toning down what actually happened in real life. What you're seeing is a family-friendly version at the right timeslot," he said.
"There's been reports of all sorts of things happening that we can't talk about. But that's just the beginning of it.
"What you're seeing is crazy - but let me assure you, what really happened in real life was (crazier)."
News.com.au has reached out to Nine for comment.
Here are some of the other bombshells from David's interview:
'LOCKED IN OUR ROOMS'
According to the Melbourne-based truck driver, 31, contestants all wound up being put on a 7pm curfew with designated producers policing the hallways.
"We started with a 10 o'clock curfew during the week, and I think a 12 o'clock curfew on the weekends, and in the end, I think it was 7pm, so we were locked in our rooms with this person that none of us really like," David explained, adding that they were "absolutely not" allowed to visit other contestants after curfew.
"We weren't allowed to talk to each other in the hallways, there was a producer (outside our doors), there would be someone who would police it. So they'd walk the hallways and make sure we couldn't talk to each other.
"It was prison."
'PUT THROUGH HELL'
During the days that filming was temporarily halted, David claims contestants were mostly separated from each other and monitored closely.
"They put me in a separate apartment, they allowed us to socialise marginally with other couples," he said.
"I was really lucky that I had Steve and Mishel and Josh and Connie with me - they're just absolute superstars. They could see I had been put through hell for seven weeks and had this kick in the guts at the end.
"No one can really comprehend the stress of being in there."
David also alleged that producers repeatedly stopped filming to give them all "storyline directions" during filming.
"They stop production multiple times - for the first time in many, many seasons," he said.
'CAN HEAR PEOPLE FEEDING LINES'
It's long been alleged by past contestants that much of the drama is staged, but according to David, the experts are actually given live directions of what to say during their "counselling" sessions - by producers.
He dropped the bombshell after being asked by NHTMF co-host Kerri Sackville whether he thought the experts ever try and match people up to be compatible.
"Guys, the experts don't speak for themselves," he told the hosts.
"They have an (earpiece) in their ear, and we can hear, because it's so silent on set. We can actually hear people feeding them lines.
"So they'll sit there with earwigs (earpieces) in their ear and completely stop production, and then they'll say something. What you see is maybe a couple of minutes of it - but we've been sitting there for 40 minutes."
News.com.au has reached out to Nine and Endemol Shine for comment but they are yet to respond.
'RISKING MY LIFE'
One of the more shocking allegations made by David was that MAFS bosses had deliberately risked his health in order to boost ratings.
He explained that he'd given comprehensive interviews in the four or five months leading up to filming, in which he was asked at length about his family, friends, dating history and relationship deal-breakers.
On the show, viewers watched as David seemingly lashed out at "wife" Hayley over her occasional smoking habit, with many criticising him for being too harsh.
But according to him, the truth of that situation was much more serious than what we knew.
"I only had three deal-breakers," David said.
"They're making me out to be a sook, because she's smoking. But I'm a severe asthmatic, and if I'm around a smoker, I have severe asthma attacks that could take my life.
"They were willing to risk my health for ratings."
He also opened up about the other comments he claims were made to him by Hayley, other than the one that made it to TV about her "joking" that his $25-an-hour wage "wouldn't cut it".
"Let's just say that was the least of the comments she said to me," David said.
SECRET PACT: 'I MADE A DEAL'
After being questioned over why he'd stay on the show if conditions were so appalling, David explained that "they wouldn't let me go home".
"You can't leave … I'm telling you the honest reality of the nightmare that was in there," he explained.
"I begged to go home, they wouldn't let me. So I made a deal that I would stay, no matter what Hayley wrote (at the commitment ceremony), I would get to go home.
"They fed me lines of, you know, 'This relationship is toxic for me, it's toxic for Hayley, it's toxic for other couples' - the truth was that I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.
"I'd been spoken to and treated like a piece of sh*t for seven weeks, so I made a deal with the executive producer that no matter what (Hayley) wrote, I'd get to go home. And they were the terms I agreed to stay."
'I SENT IT CONFIDENTIALLY'
David caused an uproar this week when it emerged he used Hayley's toothbrush to clean her toilet after she cheated on him with fellow contestant, Michael Goonan.
The drama was first aired during last night's episode, when a furious David revealed what his wife had done in footage filmed on his own phone.
In a preview for tonight's episode, another phone clip is played which appears to show him taking his revenge through her toothbrush.
However, David claimed that footage was aired on the show without his consent.
"It was actually shot on my own personal phone, and there are some legal issues around that because (Nine) don't actually own the footage," he said.
"I sent that to a producer confidentially, because what they do is have a producer who wins your trust, and then they have other producers to ask you the more risque questions … So they manipulate you the whole time.
PRODUCERS OFFER UP OTHER CONTESTANTS' NUMBERS
In another scandalous revelation, David alleged that during "nightmare" filming conditions, producers began to try and facilitate cheating scandals between the couples.
"You've got nowhere to escape, you're locked in tents with plastic chairs and two bottles of water for hours on end," he said.
"And you've got producers coming up to you and saying, 'Obviously things aren't going well with you and Hayley, do you want Stacey's number, or do you want this person's number?'"
'VOMIT IN THE SINK'
In fact, conditions got so bad that, according to David, he began to have a physical reaction to his dread ahead of the dinner parties.
"These days are the days where there was always drama building," he explained.
"So all those dinner parties, I was having to wake up in the morning to vomit in the sink - it was a really, really toxic environment."
While the program schedule gives viewers the impression there are days between the dinner parties and commitment ceremonies, the events are actually filmed only one day apart.
"The commitment ceremonies, we'd get there at 3 or 4pm, you'd start filming around 5 or 6pm, and you wouldn't go home until 3 or 4am," he said.
"So you've had a big night the night before, then you have the commitment ceremony, back to back.
'TOXIC, PRESSURE COOKER ENVIRONMENT'
While David revealed that he struggled heavily throughout the process, he admitted others had it "way worse" than him.
"I don't want to name names, because most people - bar a couple - were genuine, lovely people and they've just been mismatched and taken advantage of," he explained.
"Vanessa's definitely one person who struggled - there's a lot that went on behind the scenes there."
He added that the "pressure cooker environment" was worse than he could have ever imagined.
"Keep in mind I was a professional combat sportsman for 11 years - where you can heckle and send absolute filth to your opponent - and I was badly bullied in primary school and high school … and I've never experienced such toxicity."
'THEY COVER THEIR ARSE'
ONE complaint that's dogged Nine during every season is from certain contestants claiming that they didn't receive enough mental health support after filming.
It's a criticism echoed by David, who bluntly stated that producers do "the bare minimum" in looking after for the show's cast, and just put in the occasional call with a psychologist to check in.
"They do the bare minimum to cover their arse … so if I go knock myself off tomorrow, they can say, 'Well, we gave him psychological support, we did psychological testing on him'," he alleged.
"They go through all that, but it's just a tick and cross (off a list) scenario. If they actually gave a stuff about us contestants, they wouldn't lead us on for four or five months before the show, saying, 'Dave, we'd never stitch you up' - and you guys can be the judge of whether I was stitched up."
Since filming wrapped, and as his controversial storyline plays out in front of more than a million Aussie viewers, David admitted to finding things "tough".
"I've got a lot of trolls obviously, but you've got a lot of people who believe what they see on TV is real. It's tough, and it's tough to start dating because people have a prejudgement of you," he said.
"By the time I got (on the show), I was genuinely hoping for love. It's now damaged my ability to go and have a normal conversation."
Married At First Sight continues at 7.30pm tonight on Channel 9.
Watch Not Here To Make Friends live every Sunday and Wednesday straight after MAFS, when James Weir is joined by guests live on Facebook and news.com.au, discussing the couples' ups, downs, sideways, pimples, pashing and misjudged PDAs.