IN THE HOT SEAT: Marlene Service
EPISODE ONE of Channel 4's latest experimental immersive reality show declares that they have "selected 15 men and women with exceptional potential" to take part in Spies. The Voice sat down for a quick Q&A with Marlene Service, one of the exceptional 15; to speak about her experiences.
The show is similar in concept to programmes such as SAS: Who Dares Wins which saw participants take to the jungle for SAS-style survival training and the ever-popular Hunted, in which contestants have to stay 'off the grid' and undetectable by police in hopes of winning a large cash prize.
Q: We don't see much of you during episode one. Episode two is on tonight (Thursday 12 January) - will you be more visible as the series progresses?
A: We trainees do not have a hand in the editing process and so you will have noticed that of the 15 candidates selected; in episode one you would have possibly met only half. What I will say, is that an essential part of the selection process includes elimination as directed by 'Control' (the former British Intelligence Officers). As the weeks go on there will be less candidates, so it is likely that there will be a lot more focus on those who remain in the process.
Q: How did you and the other contestants get to hear about the chance to be on such an intense and unique show?
A: This show was advertised widely across the UK and so we all heard about it via different means. Personally, I saw the training programme advertised online and applied that way. The selection process was gruelling and encompasses several interviews and tests on and off camera before being accepted. Would you believe, an old acquaintance of mine was even contacted, visited and asked to give a character reference for me as part of the vetting process?!
Watch the trailer for Spies below:
Q: What was the selection process like for you?
A: This process was intense and difficult but undeniably character-building and extremely exciting. I remember feeling my heart beat faster than usual several times, especially during an anti surveillance task where I had to detect and identify whether or not I was being followed.
Q: During the filming, it seemed like you had to isolate yourself from family and friends. Was that the case? If so, what was it like?
A: We did have to isolate ourselves from family and friends and this was tough for me, as I had to be away from my husband and children who are aged five and two. Perhaps the hardest part of this process for me was being away from them. However, it was also important me to remain focused and contribute my best efforts, knowing that they were well cared for and rooting for me at home.
Q: What made you want to study criminology?
A: I achieved a 2:1 BA Hons. Degree in Criminology in 2009. I chose that course because the study of people and behaviour has always fascinated me. I was particularly interested in understanding the different variables that make people tick and the reasons why people commit specific types of crimes. Since studying I have invested a lot of time looking into crime prevention research methods that focus on how to reduce crime across particular social groups.
Q: Do you think a career in intelligence beckons for you?
A: Indeed. Gathering evidence is my thing, I very rarely miss a trick! Perhaps because I’m nosey, haha!
Q: You said you had applied to become a police detective - what happened there?
A: Actually, I applied to work for an independent detective agency in Spain. I was offered the role even without being able to speak Spanish; but when it came down to it, the thought of relocating and being away from family worried me. Shortly after, I got married and had children, but hey - never say never!
Q: As a black woman potentially working in law enforcement and intelligence, do you have any reservations about being a minority amid all of the stories we hear of institutional racism and sexism within those types of jobs?
A: Not at all, I am apprehensive about a lot of things but this is certainly not one of them. I have always believed that you cannot disentangle a problem unless you fully understand what causes it and this cannot be solely achieved from the outside looking in.
Q: What did you gain from being part of the show, if anything?
A: Being part of the show motivated me to look at crime in a different way, considering potential weaknesses in an infrastructure as opposed to putting single focus on the ‘criminal’. There are people who will offend if they are given the opportunity, perhaps as a society we could put our efforts into removing the opportunities, asking questions like, 'Is a car thief 100% at fault if we leave our car unlocked with the keys in?' Since being on the show I have considered a career adjustment and have enrolled back into higher education. I am now completing a Msc in Security Management and Fraud Prevention.
Q: What can viewers expect from you as the show goes on?
A: Ah ha...well - I would love to tell you but if I did, I’d have to kill you!
Watch Marlene in Spies tonight and every Thursday thereafter on Channel 4 at 9pm GMT.
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