New ITV storm after Love Island star 'pressured to appear on spin-off'
New ITV storm after tearful Love Island star Jacques O’Neill was ‘pressured to appear on spin-off’ show Aftersun
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ITV was embroiled in a war of words last night amid claims that a Love Island contestant felt under duress to appear on its spin-off programme to talk about his ordeal on the show.
Sources claimed that Jacques O’Neill felt he had little choice but to agree to be interviewed by host Laura Whitmore on its Aftersun show because it was stipulated in his contract.
But friends believe his reluctance should have been clear to producers given his obvious distress at the circumstances in which he decided to leave the show.
One informed source confirmed the rugby league player was unhappy about appearing on Aftersun after being left distraught when former contestant Adam Collard, who has a reputation as a womaniser, was drafted in to the current series by ITV producers. Collard quickly began flirting with O’Neill’s girlfriend Paige Thorne.
Jacques O’Neil, 23, was visibly distressed about his relationship with Paige Thorne (right) as he left the Love Island villa
O’Neil on Love Island spin-off show Aftersun following his departure from the villa – sources say he felt pressured into appearing on the show with host Laura Whitmore because it was in his contract
In a newspaper interview after leaving the show’s villa, O’Neill described taking part in Love Island as ‘the worst decision’ of his life, adding: ‘I was crying my eyes out. I couldn’t cope. I was literally feeling awful. It was the worst I’d ever felt in my life, I was crying, saying to them, “I’m ready to go home.”’
Rounding on ITV, which has been forced to fend off claims that it does too little to support the mental health of Love Island contestants, the source said: ‘Jacques kept saying he wasn’t mentally well enough. It was quite obvious that was the case, especially when you read what he said after he came out of the villa.’
But ITV last night flatly rejected claims that it pressured O’Neill into appearing on Aftersun, insisting that it is ‘genuinely committed to making sure the Islanders have a positive experience on the show’ and that producers would ‘respect an Islander’s decision if they didn’t want to participate and we would never force someone to take part in the programme’.
The row once again turns the spotlight on broadcasters faced with balancing a desire for dramatic television to lure in viewers and the need to protect those taking part.
Allies of O’Neill also criticised ITV for showing a video of Collard – including footage of him kissing Miss Thorne – just before the 23-year-old sportsman was interviewed by Ms Whitmore on Aftersun last Sunday.
During an episode on July 12, O’Neill was seen sobbing as he told his co-stars that he was leaving the villa because of anxiety over the arrival of 27-year-old Collard.
Days earlier, O’Neill’s sister had revealed that he ‘struggles with his emotions’ because he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
ITV declined to comment on the contestants’ contractual obligations, but a spokesman said: ‘Aftersun is usually part of the itinerary for any Islander after they have left the villa.’
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