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Joey From Netflix's The Circle Swears He Didn't Know What the Eggplant Emoji Meant

Big strong purple guys only

Lauren Zupkus

[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Netflix's The Circle Season 1. Read at your own risk!]

Netflix's original reality competition show The Circle is one of TV's most popular slow burns right now. The season finale dropped on January 15, but Twitter is still abuzz with no-context screengrabs and praise for Shubham, perhaps the purest person to ever participate in a reality show.

For the uninitiated, The Circle puts several contestants into one apartment building, where they can only communicate by group and direct messages. Each player has a social media profile with photos of their choosing, but face-to-face meetings are forbidden, which leaves players free to masquerade as whoever they want. More curveballs and challenges are thrown in, and eventually players rank each other from favorite to least favorite. Whoever gets the lowest ranking goes home and has no shot at winning the $100,000 grand prize. Think Catfish meets Big Brother.

It took a while for viewers to warm up to contestant Joey Sasso, too. In the premiere episode, I found myself rolling my eyes at the Rochester native, who I quickly judged as a Pauly D knockoff for his love of the gym, hair gel and the phrase, "Yeah buddy."

But as the episodes went on, Joey emerged as an incredibly likable, genuine character who was as thoughtful as he was entertaining. He was supportive and kind when Sean, a self-described plus-size contestant using a thinner woman's photos, opened up about her struggle with body image. Joey's unlikely and withstanding friendship with Shubham, an introverted virtual reality designer, solidified his sincere open-mindedness and authenticity. So perhaps it's not a surprise that his fellow flatmates ranked Joey No. 1 in the end and crowned him the winner. We were, however, still left with some questions about everything that went down on the show, so we brought Joey in for a chat.

Congratulations on winning the 100k. Do you know what you're doing with the money yet?
Joey Sasso: No, I've talked to my parents about it. I've just never had a cushion in my life, I've been bartending, struggling as an actor in LA since I've been 18 so the first time I have something to fall back on later down the road to invest and grow into something. Another portion is going into my career, I have my film in post-production. There's nothing like, 'I'm going to buy a car!' or 'We're going to the club!' People think I'm that type of kid but really, no club, no bottles poppin'... I'd rather be home on the couch listening to a record and FaceTiming my friends. That's much more me.

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When's the last time you hung out with Shubham?
Sasso: Two weeks ago. We were in L.A., we went out to lunch with him and Seaburn and Seaburn's girlfriend, which was great. I met the real "Rebecca." Her name's Sammy, but when I first met her, I was like, 'Dude, can I just call you Rebecca? Just for a little bit?' We all really still are close.

We saw you kissed Miranda... have you guys hung out since?
Sasso: Yeah, I was with her a couple weeks ago as well. We're still in each other's lives for sure. We're very close, we talk all the time.


Did you really not know what the eggplant emoji was?
Sasso: On my mother's life I had no idea what the eggplant emoji was. I wish I could lie and say, 'No, I played it up.' I'm not the typical emoji dude. I use the hearts and the smiles... I know the insinuation, but I would never be like, oh, is this a thing that I need to put into my repertoire?

You called it a... big strong chili pepper?
Sasso: Big strong purple guy. And still to this day, it will always be big strong purple guy.

Occasionally players were allowed to leave their rooms to go to the gym or the roof. How did that work?
Sasso: Basically, you'd have to put a request in, like if i was running low on food or I knew I needed laundry done or I would love to go to the roof or get a workout in... everybody's feeling the same but we obviously can't run into each other or see each other, so [producers] made sure none of that happened at any point in time.

During a challenge on the show you were able to name Joe, Nick, and Kevin Jonas. Can you name the fourth Jonas brother?
Sasso: There's a fourth? Dude, getting Kevin right was the biggest luck of my life. There really is a fourth? Come on. Can I just please beg that Chris was right with Clayton? I watched that clip over and over and I was like, 'Dude. Where do you even get Clayton Jonas from?' So if there really is a fourth, he really should be Clayton.

It's Frankie.
Sasso: Wow. I had no idea.

Would you want ever a future Circle player to catfish as you?
Sasso: Yeah, that'd be fun! I could sit back in the wings and watch. People impersonating how they think I talk? That would be so much fun.

Season 1 of The Circle is now streaming on Netflix.

Editor's Note: The story has been changed to reflect that Sasso is from Rochester, New York.