20 year-old Maura Dore captured our hearts on the HBO Max / Channel 4 reality series The Bridge. In this Primetimer exclusive, she looks back at her experience on the show, what it was like to watch it on TV, and how she and her fellow castmates keep in touch.
Fed up with lockdown, I was scrolling through my Facebook late one night when I came across a post looking for adventurous people who wanted to be in with a chance to win £100,000 ($140,000 in US dollars) on a TV show.
Before I knew it, I was preparing for an adventure I knew absolutely nothing about — I believed I was going on some sort of “wilderness love island,” where everyone would be single and potentially we'd be doing fitness challenges and tasks. Being surprised is an understatement when the first person I saw was a 60 year-old man... and then a 40 year-old woman. A few hours later, we were told we would have no access to luxurious goods and that we'd be surviving on basic rations while attempting to build a 860 foot bridge alongside 11 strangers, working with logs, rope and our bare hands. This bridge was to a remote island where there was a cash prize of £100,000 — but only one of us could win.
Being the youngest of the group definitely made me feel under pressure, especially when the eliminations started. The work was tough and strenuous and we were always hungry — I actually lost over 1.5 stone (20 lbs.) in just 20 days!
I was sent on an overnight mission with Luke, a guy with whom I'd been flirting and getting on well with.... but the mission ended up being super stressful, as we were faced with the first “twist” of the show. We had to make a choice and we couldn’t agree. I was upset but eventually Luke persuaded me to take the money rather than the nails. Although unsure of the consequences, he assured me this was a game and everyone would get the chance to grab some money before completing and crossing the bridge — which was not quite the case. A little secret: I cried for three nights when I came back from the mission and Susie (who slept in the bunk opposite me) kept asking if I was alright; I had to tell her it was because I was cold and not that the guilt was eating me up! My campmates thought it was hilarious when I eventually got to tell them why I was really crying in my sleep. They were very supportive, and happy for me that I got to leave with some money.
I learned I am very naïve with life in general, from never having been on a date to being obvilious to the game playing going on. I also learned a lot about real peoples’ struggles — from overcoming drug addiction, homelessness and COVID to Ross being an inspiration and powering through after losing his leg. It was very very humbling, and made me very aware of my privilege.
As we were leaving camp, I knew I didn’t want to lose contact with my new friends and created a WhatsApp group (which was harder than you might think, as I had to beg production on the last day for a pen and paper and after a month with no technology, Rowan had forgotten his phone number!)
We do still speak in the big chat, and I speak with lots of them privately, too. Julie is like a best friend to me. We call every day and speak about everything and anything. I’ve been able to meet up with some of the guys since leaving the show. Sly (he showed me his workplace, which often spoke about at camp), Billie (I got to meet her cat and see her in cat-mom mode), Levi (he used to talk about “orange chips” so we got them from his local chip shop and I even got to meet his Mum, Dad and 2 pals from Wolverhampton), and of course Julie (she’s my rock — the two of us will allow the full day to catch up as we both love to chat). Sam and Zac are brothers for life, so I am very excited to meet up with them... Zac even said he would teach us how to backflip!
COVID has put a hold on us having a true reunion for a while, but I’m excited to see the dramas which will erupt when we finally do. Let’s just say they're going to need some cameras there.
Finishing up and finding out all the game playing was very confusing — I think Rowan was a incredible player, but I was not so pleased to learn that Luke actually had a girlfriend all the while he was flirting with me!
Having my make up, technology and all luxury items taken away with only basic necessities and rations has given me a fresh outlook since leaving The Bridge. I’ve cut down on makeup, screen time and being so self obsessed. At the end of the day, the whole experience taught me so much about life and I am grateful for it. Mixing and sharing time with people of different ages, abilities and backgrounds was a real privilege.
It’s been strange and amazing seeing the whole experience become a television show — I had a freak out fangirl moment when I realized James McAvoy would be narrating the show (it’s actually in my online dating profile “James McAvoy narrated my life for 20 days.”)
I was scared before it aired... they recorded hundreds and hundreds of hours and we had no idea what was going to make the final cut. I’ve received some really lovely messages from people saying it was nice to see me wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s pretty epic to think that 12 strangers built a 850ft bridge in 20 days with our bare hands... and now it’s airing in the U.K, Ireland and the USA. To have achieved this over lockdown is definitely something I will forever be proud of and grateful to the production team for taking a chance on me.
Born and raised in the countryside of Ireland, Maura Dore now lives in London, where she currently works as a special needs assistant.
All six episodes of The Bridge are now streaming on HBO Max.