According to Mark, harsh measures were implemented to curb the cast’s excessive partying. Mark Kiley thought he would finally find Mr. Right and bid adieu to his previous life as a customer service manager when he enrolled in Married At First Sight UK. Instead, after her marriage to husband Sean Malkin didn’t work out, the 36-year-old Londoner left the E4 program jobless and single.
Because of his notoriety as a member of MAFS, Mark thought he would “be living the high life,” but he now claims he is being forced to accept a £7,000 wage drop in order to return to his previous job.
He tells: “I thought I’d be living the high life, going to events, doing lots of Instagram stuff and that life would be better after being on the show. It feels like I was mis-sold a dream.
“If I had known I’d only be there for such a short amount of time I wouldn’t have bothered. My match wasn’t ready for a relationship and I’ve had to go back to my old workplace.”
Unlucky in love Mark decided to apply to go on MAFS last year after spending 10 years without a boyfriend.
He talked about having a “really bad dating life” and made an appearance on First Dates in 2017 before the show. When Mark got the call from MAFS producers informing him that they had found him a match and thought he would finally have his “happy ending,” he remembers “bursting into tears.” He was disappointed to be one of the “intruder couples,” who joined the show later, and says that the show was “more focused on creating drama than love” after signing up.
He claims that in an effort to “make the show even bigger” and draw in record-breaking viewership, executives borrowed strategies from Love Island.
He tells us: “They told us we would be ‘bombshells’ – which they later called intruders – and that it was ‘like Love Island’. I’d never watched Love Island so I didn’t know what that meant.
“They said ‘Put it this way, Ekin-Su [Cülcüloğlu] was a bombshell and look at her now, you’ll be fine and great’. I looked her up and was impressed.”
Mark regrets not being chosen as one of the show’s original cast and says it made him feel like he was an “extra, put in to make up numbers”.
He says: “There were too many couples this year. At one point there must have been 24 of us and everyone was talking and yelling over the top of one another all of the time.”
Mark claims many of the cast told him they were “scouted” by producers, instead of applying, and not all of them wanted to find love. He said: “It seemed like the show had a focus on showing young people causing drama. I was one of the oldest ones there at 36 years old.
“All of these young people were like, ‘I’ve tried everything to find love, I want to be married’ but how could they? Some of them were in their early twenties, they had barely left their teens.
“Some people were pretending to be someone else and causing drama just to get airtime. It feels like a lot of the show was focussed on that rather than people trying to find lasting love.”
He recalls conversations with some cast members, who he claims gave tips on how to get more airtime.
He says: “When we came in, I remember someone asking ‘Have you done TV before?’ and telling me to what to do and what not to do to get more airtime.
“A lot of them seemed to be in there just to get on TV. I know one couple had decided they would just be friends but kept it quiet because they wanted to stay on the show for as long as they could.
“There was a lot of drama. The producers would regularly try to stir up problems too and encourage you to say lines they wanted.”
In addition, Mark says he was given quotes by producers that included remarks about his profession, which he “didn’t care about,” and that his husband’s wedding suit looked like it was from a “f***ing funeral.”
He c ontinues: “Other castmates told me they had been encouraged to bring up comments or say things to cause drama too.” In response to Mark’s assertions, a Channel 4 representative maintained that MAFS UK is “an unscripted reality series.”
“What spectators witness on-screen is an authentic portrayal of the actors’ behaviors and viewpoints during that period,” they continued.
Curfews & parties
According to Mark, the producers clamped down on the antics of several cast members who looked more intent on “partying until the early hours.” He explains to us, “In the end, things had to be locked down.” Since some of the cast couldn’t be relied upon to go out and have a good time and return, we were given a curfew of 7 p.m. to return to the hotel.
“We were staying near Boxpark Wembley and some members were constantly going out to get drunk rather than working on their relationships.
“When the curfew was brought in, you had to be back by 7pm and were allowed to be in other people’s apartments until 10pm.
“Then the production team would go to check that everyone was in their apartments by knocking on their doors to see if they were still there.
“If they weren’t in, they would search for them in other castmates’ apartments – they even looked under the beds and in wardrobes in case people were hiding.”
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “Each individual agrees to a standard of behaviour before commencing filming and we take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis if contributors fall below that standard.”
‘Mis-sold a dream’
When Mark’s companion Sean declared he no longer wanted to participate in the experiment, Mark’s time on the show came to an early end. It came after one of the show’s dinner parties, when he began to have questions about the romance and the couple received a letter informing them that they looked more like friends than husband and wife. Mark feels that his spouse “wasn’t ready” for a relationship this serious. He claims that he “unfollowed him” on social media and that they have “not stayed in touch” since then.
He says: “It was really disheartening. It feels like I was cheated, it wasn’t great.”
Mark also claims to have been misled about the opportunities that could arise after leaving the show. Instead of living a “life of luxury” and becoming a “massive TV star”, like he hoped, he’s gone from reality TV back to real life. Mark says: “When I went on the show, I quit my job and I missed a prepaid holiday that I spent £1,700 on. I left everything to do this, only to come out with nothing.
“I know it was my choice but it felt like I was mis-sold this dream that it would work and I would say goodbye to my normal life.
“Before I thought ‘This is great, I could have a husband and a better career’ but now I don’t have either. It seems like it was all just talk and I was promised a lot more than I was actually given.
“Luckily my old workplace took me back but not with the same role. I’ve had to take a pay cut to come back because they had already filled my position.”
In response, a Channel 4 spokesperson said: “All contributors are thoroughly prepped for the experience of being on Married at First Sight UK, a prominent TV reality series.
“We stress to all cast that the series should not be seen as a vehicle to gain fame or celebrity and warn against unrealistic expectations of this nature.”
Since leaving the show, Mark says he has struggled to get in touch with many of his former castmates. He told us: “It felt like we were all in this together and were friends but now I don’t feel that’s the case.
“On social media, they are like ‘We support each other’ but when I try to ring or message them they don’t pick up or respond.”
While Mark’s dream of finding love and a better career didn’t happen, he says the one positive is that he “learned a lot” about himself.
“Talking to the experts was really useful and I do think it has helped me to grow as a person,” he says.
But he doesn’t believe this year’s intruder couples concept works and hopes it won’t be brought back next season
Mark says: “Coming in halfway was a bit ridiculous and I don’t think it should be an option.
“You already feel pushed against a wall because you haven’t had as much time as everyone else and I don’t feel the public like it either.
“There was too much of a focus on the drama and not enough on building strong relationships.”