James Lock has branded himself the Phil Mitchell of The Only Way Is Essex as the star has been on the programme for nearly a decade after making his debut appearance back in 2013.
Lockie, 35, has had some sensational storylines on the hit ITV reality show, from his dramatic on-off relationship with Danielle Armstrong – who is now a married mum-of-one – to his equally turbulent romance with ex Yazmin Oukhellou.
But he's since moved away from his "lothario" image, choosing to "focus on himself" instead of chasing women and being part of gripping storylines.
Now, in an exclusive chat with OK! magazine, James has opened up on all the behind-the-scenes secrets about the show the nation loves so much – from there being a full production set to the cast doing "improvised reality" scenes.
"Being on its 30th season is just testament to how good the show is as it's the first of its kind in this country, I think people forget that," he explained, before describing himself as "part of the furniture" having been on the show for so long. "I feel like the Phil Mitchell of TOWIE, it's good."
James said that one thing he thinks everyone who watches them on TV thinks is that there's one man with a camera to film the scenes, before it goes off to the editing suite for the on-screen release.
"They don't realise there's a full production team there," James explained, insisting there's a great deal more that goes on in each scene than meets the eye.
He continued: "There's a full production team as if we were on a set of a soap opera. You've got full coverage, got a full crew there, a full set up."
This isn't the only assumption he believes viewers might have made about the show though as many people question whether the programme is "fake" based on how cast members react to news from their pals.
James explained that they practice "improvised reality" on TOWIE, which means that when a key moment is caught off camera, they redo it all to get on film so viewers can get an insight into their lives.
He said: "People don't understand when you 'improvise reality', they don't understand what that means. Basically, say we got into an argument, say we bump into people, or something good happens off camera – we have to relive that so the viewers can see our lives."
"People think it's being fake, that it's set up. It's not set up," he insisted, before adding: "The cameras aren't with us 24/7. So sometimes we have to redo things again for the camera."
Its genuineness is no surprise as the show is loved by viewers and is already on its 30th season. And it appears James has cracked the code as to why it's such a hit on TV.
He said: "We're OTT, we've always got a bit of banter. We're charismatic and we've all got big personalities. Think of Essex people going onto Love Island. Look at Ekin-Su, she's from Essex. Essex people are overpowering and such confident, charismatic people I just feel like people are quite absorbed by it in a good way."
"We make good TV. We're good characters and we bring the drama," he added.
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