Besties, Flatmates & Pirate Castaways. The Stars of Lockdown 2021: Chris Parker & Brynley Stent

There’s been an extra person in my bubble this lockdown – well, it feels like it at least, because every day he’s popped up with a new video that perfectly captures my lockdown mood and three nights a week I’ve watched him battle it out on “pirate reality show” Celebrity Treasure Island. Chris Parker has been one of the bright spots of this lockdown, as well as his good friend/fellow castaway Brynley Stent.

I’d realised from watching the show that the duo are super tight, but I didn’t quite realise they were besties who lived together – so, we all dialled in for a zoom call to discuss surviving lockdown, dance routines and forever friendships AND then, we turned the tables and Brynley and Chris interviewed each other (check out the video below).

The two are an absolute delight, and if like me, you’re feeling very appreciative of Chris’ insta videos over lockdown, he humbly says thank you and says there is one thing you could do for him in return – Get Vaccinated!!

How are you guys going? How’s this lockdown treating you versus last time?

Brynley: Oooh, it’s nice to have Treasure Island on actually, because it’s on three nights a week and there is a nice thing to look forward to as a flat. In the first Level 4 Lockdown we were making content for a project called Dai’s House Party, which was cool, but it felt like work.

Chris: Brynley hated it. [Laughs]

Brynley: [Laughs] Chris!

Chris: It’s been good, but I’m just kind of over it. It’s less novel, obviously, but I think everyone’s better at in a way? You know how to be in each other’s space. I think it takes a lot of practice and there’s an art form to being in a flat in a bubble – finding a balance of communal time and then alone time.

How many of you are there in the flat?

Brynley: There’s five of us – there’s normally six, but one’s down in Christchurch this time, which is good – it relieves the number of people needing showers!

Oh wow! Is having that many people a good thing, or problematic? It seems to me like week three is always the week when the wheels start to fall off and you lose your mind a bit – is it hard being in a big group with that going on?

Chris: Oh yeah, week three in our bubble the wheels fell off and everyone got really sour and flat. But I think what we didn’t do this time in our flat was take it personally. I think last time I was like, ‘Everyone hates me! Why does everyone hate me!?’ and it wasn’t that everyone hated me, it was that everyone was feeling really low. Whereas this time, I’m like, oh, I’m having a really bad day, and so is everyone else! So that’s fine! It’s nothing on me.

Brynley: Yeah we seem to go through the same emotions at the same time, which is kind of good in a way. Everyone will feel kind of manic one week and the next week everyone’s kind of angry, but at least you can kind of share it rather than one person being on their own feeling low while the rest of you are like, ‘Yay! I’m feeling great, let’s do a boxing class’ or whatever.

Do you have any weird flat rituals?

Chris: Nothing too weird but we a flat dinner every Saturday and that’s a very long dinner. The cooking of it is a big part of it and then the eating is a big part – it’s no phones, just chatting and bonding and that means we’re not doing it every night but there is one night where we really invest in the bubble

Brynley: We also do a dance work out from the deck for our neighbours.

Chris: Oh yeah, we do a group work out exercise class on a Friday and that’s, well, we’re getting quite good! I mean, if you think about it we are essentially a dance troupe who practice twice a week for six weeks!

Chris Parker: CTI pirate castaway and Instagram sensation

Your lucky neighbours!

Chris: They have started pulling the curtains.

Ha! Now, you guys have been friends for a long time. Do you remember the first time you met, or the first time you knew you were going to be friends?

Brynley: Well we’re both from Christchurch and down in Christchurch they do a really awesome Theatresports program, which is basically where all the drama kids get together and compete against each other. And there’s also the Sheilah Winn Festival which is nationwide but it was happening in Christchurch when we were younger and I remember seeing Chris perform as Puck – which is this kooky character from A Midsummer’s Night Dream. This was before I knew him. Actually I think you won an award, Chris!

Chris: I won an award.

Brynley: He won an award and I remember being like, ‘Whoa. This guy is like so funny and so good and so effervescent and…’

Chris: So gay! [Laughs]

Brynley: [Laughs] and I just knew I wanted to have a relationship or friendship with him. When you’re a 14-year-old kid just watching this person be so so good at what they do, I knew I just had to get in there and be friends, so I did it.

Chris: It’s weird, because there’s actually another friend in our friendship – there’s actually three of us but he is not on Celebrity Treasure Island. I mean, he’s famous in his own social circles, but he’s not famous in terms of being on TV, and so all of these stories involve him, but he’s kind of cut out of the narrative because he’s not on Treasure Island. But if he was, oh my god the whole dynamic would have changed – the three of us have a very specific energy. So he and I went to high school together and Brynley went to another school and both he and Brynley started chatting and then he was like, ‘I’m chatting to this girl from Papanui High School and she’s really funny!’ and then we all started hanging out together. I think being at an all-boy’s school we really wanted some friendships with women and that wasn’t available to us and so it was cool having this chick who we hung out with.

And now look at you guys! I have to say I’m obsessed with CTI at the moment – and, you two are pretty much the one’s to beat. It seems like it’s been a blessing coming into it as The Jokers, as you were kind of pitted as the underdogs at the start – but that’s certainly all changed.

Chris: I was kind of reflecting on that this morning, because we have some interesting game play happening this week. Like, we’re not exactly loyal players but you see some alliances forming – and I think that’s the joy of being branded a joker as well, like no one is expecting you to be the stalwart legend who has always played straight down the line. You’re able to twist things and kind of manipulate and play things a bit more. I don’t know – we can just be less kind of “good” in terms of our morals on the show which also makes for good TV. Once I started relaxing into being a joker it was fun, because you could twist and turn and no one had any expectations on how you should play.

Brynley: Absolutely! We were talking about how in traditional narrative you have the king, but then you have the jester who actually sort of informs the king!

Chris: It was also really weird when people started having eyes on us, because we were surprised that it was us that people were talking about. I mean, people were obviously suss, because they knew we were friends and thought, obviously, we’d be in an alliance, but we never actually made that formal. I think people didn’t know how we were going to play and then saw that we were really kind to each other – that we really wanted ourselves or the other to win – that people wanted to get rid of us.

And you’re both smashing it in the challenges. I mean, Brynley, Art Green?!? What a coup!

Brynley: What. A. Coup. I honestly couldn’t believe it, which I think you could see on the show – I mean, I put my hand up over my mouth and am like crying laughing at the same time. And obviously not laughing about the fact he was going, it’s just I could not believe it.

Chris: I think because you just believe… I mean, Art is an amazing guy and he can do anything. He’s an athlete.  But also, we can all do anything on a show like that.

Brynley: Oh yeah, you buy into the narrative, 100%, like ‘He is the one to beat’. He’s this monster, the Thanos character and so we listened to that as well, and were like ‘Of course he’s going to win.’

Chris: Which he absolutely could have, but I think anyone could have won this game. It’s just chance. Like, any decision can change the outcome – if Ritchie wasn’t captain, he wouldn’t have made that call, and it all just changes everything from there. Anyone can win this game.

Brynley after one of the TWO elimination battles she has now aced.

If I could just go back to some of the things you’ve said about kindness, because you too do show so much kindness to each other, but to the group as a whole! You’re often the biggest cheerleaders. Like Chris, in that elimination challenge early on when Kim was really struggling, you were the first to rally around her and start yelling encouragement at her. Was playing with kindness and empathy important to you?

Chris: Oh thanks, but we definitely played with daggers too at time. Like there were some moves that I was like, ‘wow, well that wasn’t an overly kind thing of me to do’ like, say, putting Candy up for elimination. But then also I barely knew her at the time. There’s a fine line, but in a moment like that with Kim where you can see a player start to doubt themselves beyond the show, you kind of want to remind them, ‘Hey, hey, hey, this show does not define you.’

There was a line, but you had to think beyond that, so you put Candy up and of course she was hurt, and yes you’ve been an asshole for doing that, but then, cameras go away and you’re in the camp together and you begin to apologise, repair and get to know everyone for who they are, because you are people beyond the show.

Brynley: Yeah, because you could see people questioning their value from this show and you cannot do that, because if you go home first it doesn’t mean that you were the worst person on the cast, it’s just chance. Yeah, I’d hate that people would question their value based on how they did on a reality pirate show.

Chris: It’s so weird because if you were playing a game like monopoly – you wouldn’t come away from an intense board game like that with your friends and go, ‘am I a terrible person?’

Were you worried you might be put on opposing teams?

Brynley: I was so shocked that they didn’t put us on opposing teams, because I thought, surely if you had best friends you’d split them up immediately. But I wasn’t worried about ever ending up on opposing teams because I knew our friendship would last because we are extremely good at communicating and we don’t take things personally and we know that our friendship goes beyond a reality show. But I did know I never wanted to go up against him in an elimination challenge, but we did have a conversation about that and said, if it comes to that, it’s just a game, there’s no hard feelings, let’s just go. Let’s fight for our charities.

Chris: Also, I think being in our profession we’re so used to being submitted for the same role and being in an audition against each other – and that’s real life, there’s money on the line, and your profession. So we’ve learned to negotiate really awkward situations with each other! Communication is really important, being honest is really important. And y’know, we’ve dealt with big things in our own personal lives and have always been honest and known that at the end of the day nothing is worth throwing this friendship away.

Well, I think you guys should be so proud of what you’ve achieved and how you’re coming across on the show. Do you ever think about what it would be like, if your teenage selves could have a glimpse at it all and see what you’re both doing together now?

Chris: We joke about this all the time when we go on our morning walks together – because we go on big hour-long lockdown walks in the morning. And I keep being like, ‘Bryn, can you imagine 15-year-old us, like hanging around Christchurch being absolute idiots on the street and wanting so much for us and now seeing ourselves, like, in the TV Guide?’ This is epic! It’s so amazing to see that growth in yourself, but then to see it in your friend at the same time, it really becomes this big deal and I just love reveling in Bryn’s success, because it feels like my success in a weird way! There was no better feeling in the world than seeing Bryn win that challenge against Art, and not because I hate Art, just because I love Bryn and watching her grow into this power and become this battle queen! In that moment I remember the world disappearing…

Brynley: Oh yeah, we stared at each other

Chris: And we just looked at each other, like mouthing, oh my god, and it was this EPIC moment. It was like that movie Big Fish, you know, when the world freezes? That was it. It was wonderful.

Celebrity Treasure Island screens Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm on TVNZ 2.

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