Saturday, 10 November 2012

INTERVIEW: 'Apocalypse' Steven Brosnan

Steve: "Some people just don't seem to think about it,
it's something they can't understand so they think, well, that's not real then."

Let's be honest, Derren Brown has been known to play some wicked tricks. His latest special, 'Apocalypse', is probably the cruellest of them all, but it's all in the name of helping an unmotivated layabout realise the value of his life, his family and his friends. Has it worked? "It's this whole new change of attitude, really" says Steven Brosnan, victim of Brown's apocalypse. Love or hate Brown's techniques, he gets results, creates an entertaining show, and is more than happy to go to the pub with you after for moral support.

Hailing from Buckinghamshire, Steve has had an array of odd jobs, working as a 'jam buster', a gun box fitter, a pizza delivery man and an oven cleaner (I don't ask what the first two are), but none of them have stuck; "Some of the jobs I've had I've stayed in just because they've been jobs and ... I had to stay in them." A two time marathon runner, Steve's had his bouts of motivation but was seemingly 'stuck in a rut' when it came to fulfilling his full potential, precisely what prompted Brown to pick him as his unwitting participant in the first place.

In the last two months, Steve's life has been completely transformed through very dramatic means. He now works as a teaching assistant, goes out for lunch with Brown and retains a charming sense of the gallant hero we saw on our television set; "I still think of Leona as this 14-year-old girl that I just want to protect... even though she's older than me, which is just mad."

In his first (you heard it) written interview, Steve recounts his journey over two (frankly terrifying) shows, in which Brown convinces him that the end of the world is nigh. He divulges what it's like to be only person in the world to come face to face with a zombie apocalypse, survive, and come out the other end with a new appreciation of life.

So, on a day when the world is very much intact, I sit Steve down on the sofa, check him for bite marks, and ask him how and why he didn't run away, arms flailing and screaming, at the first sign of drooling zombie.

Me: So, Steve, most important question first. Are you okay?

Steve: [laughs] Yeah, I'm feeling great at the moment. When it all finished and I woke up, it was just this whole surreal experience of, my God, it was me that went through that, someone picked me out of this entire bunch of people. Just to know that someone thought they could improve my life out of over, about 10,000 people, was incredible.

So no zombie-related nightmares?

No, everything's fine. No zombies, just vampires.

That's good to hear. How much of your experience do you actually remember?

There are some bits I can't remember, just because there was so much adrenalin pumping through me, especially in the second show. When I saw it on screen for the first time I just wanted to know what had happened!

You did go through a rollercoaster of emotions in the second part. You were angry, upset, determined... It must have been overwhelming?

Yeah, it was. When I went to go see Danny in the helicopter, that was really intense. I was just furious. He said he would take Leona and I was just thinking, you better take her! And then he just left her, and I couldn't find her anywhere, and he was just running off. When I took Leona back to the bunker, that's the bit I couldn't remember. It was way too much.

Let's start at the beginning, your life pre-Apocalypse. Did you really take your life for granted as much as they said you did?

[smiles] I think what they did was an extreme version of it, it's what most people my age or anyone would be doing when they're not fully taking advantage of their lives, but they had to show that. I had some bad and some good days, but they had to show the bad to say, you know, look!

I'd probably be doing the same thing if they were filming me too, to be honest.

I was just living life day to day and not really achieving what potential I could. That's why Derren chose me, he said he saw so much potential in me and that I could do a lot more if I tried; that’s why my family were involved in it so much too.

Derren obviously went to a lot of effort to try to convince you of the meteor showers and possible 'apocalypse' threat. Were you taking any of it seriously?

There was the Perseid meteor shower, which Derren used to his advantage. It was constantly a talking point in my household, but I thought nothing of it. There was no real serious threat for me to go on talking about it, I wouldn't bring it up at the pub because normally people aren't interested in that stuff. I didn't think it was that big of a deal until I was on the coach. That's when it started to hit me. It was that fear of, shit, this is real. Seeing the car on fire in front of us and the people screaming, and the news report was saying to keep safe, keep inside at all times - when all that was going on, it was so confusing.

What was it like in the hospital? Could you remember what had happened on the coach after you woke up?

Yeah, but that wasn't at the forefront of my mind. When I was watching the news report, it's the first time I'm like, holy shit, what is going on? They didn't show this, but when I went out into the hallway I tried to open two doors on either side of me, but they were locked and I only had two keys. When I watched that back I was like, why am I walking like that? [laughs] I think it was the fact that I had no idea what was going on. Not being in my own clothes anymore... it felt so weird.

What was it like seeing another person? And why did you decide to take Leona with you?

She gave me a massive fright. It was when she was backed up behind her bed afraid of me, not knowing who I was, and then she said she'd been there for a couple of days and lost her mum... I thought, well, I can't leave her here, she seems just as scared as me. I couldn't just leave someone like that. I took her hand thinking I may as well lead her out there the best I could.

I think one of the most terrifying moments was when you saw your first Infected person through the window. What on earth was going through your head?

The place was just ransacked. I remember that window was the only one with light coming out of it, so we looked in and got a bit closer, then Leona started knocking on the window. I wasn't happy about that. I pulled her hand down and we were trying to see who it was. I saw the back of their head and I just remember thinking, my God... that kind of looks like Barry [Steve's brother]. I was thinking, please don't be Barry, please don't be Barry - it was just covered in blood. Leona kept on knocking, and I didn't want her to, but I stayed there until that last moment... I wanted to see that face just to make sure it wasn't Barry, and as soon as it turned around and it wasn't him... thank God. We just started running then. I thought, no way am I staying here! I just grabbed Leona and ran for the nearest exit I saw. 

A lot of people at this point thought I said 'Katy, run!', when I was actually saying, 'it's an infected, run!' I don't think they show this either, but there was a pile of bodies in front of us, mostly covered up by a sheet. That's the last thing I remember of that hospital, just running out of there.

"It was heartbreaking... thinking - what is life now, what is
going on?"
Did you feel relieved when you met Iain?

I did. In that hour in the ambulance, that's when the emotions hit. I had time to think what was going on, thinking where's my family, my friends, who is this man that I've just met. I couldn't really trust anyone but it was heartbreaking, just sitting there thinking - what is life now, what is going on?

What was it like seeing the poster for the first time? Did you think you were going to see yourself on that message board?

I didn't want to think that I wouldn't see myself on there, or that I would. I just went up there because Leona was looking for her mum, so I was helping her. You don't want to get your hopes up and shatter them. When I saw the poster, it was just like... they're safe, I have to get to them now. It gave me a little bit more hope. 

What was it like walking through those Infected to try and get the radio?

When I got out of the ambulance there was an Infected standing just to my right, near a truck that'd been ransacked. Just standing there, motionless. I was just like, oh my God. But we had to get to this hut to get the CB radio, we just had to. When we were in the middle of all these Infected in the field, Iain tells me to stop, because one of them was just growling louder and louder and twitching more. At that point I closed my eyes and thought, I have no idea what to do. Then they started moving towards us so we just ran.

Then you met Danny. I've got to say, I've seen way too many films so when I first saw him I just thought, this guy looks like he's lying. He's clearly bitten and infected. What made you decide to take him?

Yeah, that's what we were thinking. I was still trying to get my bearings, before the lights went on. He [Danny] looked like he’d been there a couple of days. We just wanted the radio, and he said he'd been trying to fix the equipment because it’d been broken. It doesn't show all of it but that's when Iain went mental. I don't even know what a CB radio looks like. Iain gave me a bit of confidence then, he was just so angry at the broken equipment, I was too, but I did feel extremely sorry for Danny. We couldn't just leave him there and make him suffer by himself. It'd be horrible to just leave someone there, no food or water, a busted down door. So I was like, we have to take him.

What was it like when Iain left, and you put yourself up for leader?

When Iain first saw his wife and was shouting, I was just thinking, shut up! [Because of the Infected] But you could see how much he loved her and I was like, I know, I can understand but please, please be quiet. Iain's just distraught, all he wanted to do was just be with her, and I really didn't want him to go. He'd saved us, he'd given us a place to stay. He knew straight away he wanted to be with his wife and I tried to hold him back, but he just pulled me back and told me how much I'd changed and I just couldn't say anything... I just had to let it happen. I remember turning around thinking, what are we gonna do now? He's walking off and there's Danny and Leona in the same boat as me. It occurred to me that someone had to take charge, I didn't think it could be Danny and it's obviously not going to be Leona. There couldn't be someone there not taking control.

This pretty much included throwing yourself at the Infected...

At this point there just wasn't any fear, I was obviously scared, but I was just doing it. I had to distract them for Danny and Leona, which was what Iain said I should do – help them escape. When I saw Leona wasn't with him, I was just like, Danny, you fuckhead. Then Leona came back and I was just furious. When Danny gave me this speech I was listening thinking, you fucking left her. You just left her. There was no way he was going back.

Did you at any point think you weren't going to make it at all, that this was it?

I never thought that we weren't going to make it, I didn't want to think are we or aren't we. It was more of a case of getting back and doing what I had to do just to survive! By the time I was sprinting back to Leona and the Infected had gotten in [the compound] I was thinking, well, no matter what happens now, happens. I'd never been so much out of breath in my life. I’d run marathons before but this, this was just so much adrenalin.

What was it like seeing the phone ringing on the table? That must have looked a little out of place!

Yeah, I don't think my mind comprehended it was even there until I heard the phone ring directly next to me. Then I was like, okay, I don’t really know what to do here. It was pretty much the last thing I remember. It's just so weird, going from there to waking up in my bed.

What was it like seeing Derren Brown in your living room?

Derren Brown; all gooey and infected.
I was just like... fucking hell. I mean, seeing my family was fantastic but it was this other feeling of relief seeing Derren there, thinking, what I went through was real. It kind of confirmed that all those emotions that I had weren't just in my head and all made up, it was an entire weekend of happy, sad, angry... It took me a while to calm down and believe it all.

Would you say it's motivated you, being at the end of the world and coming back... alive?

Yeah, of course. It's just inspired me to do something other than just sitting down, I hate doing that now. Obviously I like to relax but it's made me think about moving forward instead of just staying in the same place and moving from job to job that I don't really like. It's just made me think, okay, let's do something now. 

And how has it been, dealing with all the negative publicity since? Especially as your whole family and friends would have had to keep it a secret.

There was so much. It was hard. Derren said not to look at it, but it's kind of hard just to avoid it. [Accusations of being an actor] It's hurtful for everyone who worked on that show for 7 months, and for me, to think that after I went through this massive emotional journey for someone to think that I'm a fake. Like, no, that really did happen and, if you don’t believe it, fine, but to go out there and say this is all bullshit - keep it to yourself. But when me, Derren and Karl [Greenwood, actor] did a video and Derren wrote a Q&A on his blog, it started to get much better. If you think about it it's just so ridiculous spending 7 months of your life just to make something that you could have filmed in 5 days with an actor, with all these people, my family and friends, especially, involved. Some people just don't seem to think about it, it's something they can't understand so they just think, well, that's not real then.

But you've also had a lot of positive feedback from the program too. How's it been keeping up with the Steve Brosnan fan club?

[laughs] Yeah, it's weird. I get recognised in the street sometimes, people come up to me and ask me what it's been like to go through. I'm more than happy to talk about it, I'm the only person that's been through something like this! Just to have people come up to you and say, well done mate, you're so brave - it's like, thanks!

Has Derren kept in contact with you since?

Yeah, definitely. It's not one of those shows where they just up and go and disappear after. He makes sure I'm doing okay and we'll meet in London sometimes. He keeps in contact with Matt Galley as well ['Hero at 30,000 Feet']. We went out for lunch and it was fantastic to talk to someone whose been through the same sort of experience as me. And Derren's one of the funniest people I know!


Steve and I after a strong/sugary cappucino.


  1. Cool interview. I never saw the program but it sounds intense!

  2. This was one of the best shows I have ever seen! I am in awe of you Stephen for the man you became because of it. Don't worry or listen to the doubters, they are just jealous it wasn't them who were chosen. Well done, you were so brave.

  3. Great read! More Brown at

  4. So interesting to see what he was thinking at each stage- Ahw Stephen, you seem so nice and genuine! Good luck with the rest of your life!

  5. i wish i could bump into you on the street too!!

  6. Everything begins as a thought, keep moving forward. This is just the start and you're not going to waste it like the rest of us, are you?

  7. The only real obstacle to belief for me is not having had any experience of hypnosis in real life. It's hard for a cynic to suspend belief based on a cult of personality. As much as I admire Derren for his showmanship and work showing up frauds, that would be an excellent cover story.'keep your opinion to yourself' has always been a good response to the burden of proof.

  8. Nice interview. So frustrating that someone as talented and thought-provoking as Derren Brown is having his work ruined by lazy cynicism.

  9. Brilliant stuff Steve. Another great program from Derren Brown. It will be inspirational to a lot of people watching as well. I've been inspired from a lot of Derrens stuff. I decided to do give up my day job and do stand up comedy full time from last year. Its been an amazing year.

  10. Absolutely amazing stuff. If all TV was like this I would have one in every room.

  11. Great interview Carlotta... and another great show by Derren and his team. Steve is living proof that you truly can make wonderful changes in your life by using the power of your subconscious mind in a positive way……

    1. Thanks! He is, and all the more luck to Steve for it!

  12. I loved watching the show,
    Derren browns shows are always spectacular,
    Has anyone ever been experimented on like that before?
    I mean had a full reality imposed on them?
    I saw Fear and Faith last night, and thats placebo, so its not the same degree as completely taking over someones environment and behaviour

  13. *oven cleaner (not over cleaner)

  14. I absolutely love Derren Brown he is such a gentleman and cute and funny with it. He is amazing. Saw the show and enjoyed it thoroughly, great interview!

  15. Very intense shows and edge of your seat stuff , 2 things have stuck with me since the shows ,one of you watching the news in the hospital which really tugs the heart for me and the other one being you shouting for leona when she was left behind.......quite intense heart pounding stuff and a slight jealousy i suppose that it gave you that jolt to sort your life out that so many of us need inclu bloke for agreeing to let it air and keep up the new motivated you xxx

  16. Really well-written and researched interview. On top of that, Steven seems like the perfect subject for an interview. (Guess Derren knows how to pick em.) Really impressed with this, well done!

  17. I watched both parts of 'Apocalypse' just now and I have to say how impressed I am at the quality and organisation of the production. So much hard work must've gone into creating this brilliant programme and experiment.
    I'm also immensely impressed with Steve Brosnan as he reacted so well to the challenges faced - his thoughts and emotions must've been so intense over that weekend. I can relate quite a lot to the 'pre-apocalypse Steven' as I often lack motivation for life, so placing myself in his shoes I can only hope to react so well if I ever found myself in that situation.
    Derren Brown is excellent :)

  18. Does anyone know if he kept in contact with the three actors at all? Especially the girl who played Leona

  19. If you have a self-cleaning oven, you can run that option, but because it’s a smelly job it is best done after a quick clean up of food on the interior and with the windows open. If you don’t have this option or don’t want to stink up the house, heavily spray a non-toxic degreaser or all-purpose cleaner in the interior of the oven and shut the door, letting the cleaner work on the grease and such.

    Oven Cleaning Melbourne | Oven Cleaning Gold Coast

  20. Replies
    1. Steve - Greetings from the U.S.! You truly are known and admired 'round the world! I watched the entire show and was riveted throughout. I'm so happy to know that your life was truly changed for the better and that you are doing well years later. Derren gave you the gift of a lifetime, and I love that you have perpetuated that gift by inspiring others with your story! Best to you and your lovely family - and best to Derren, who so generously uses his gifts and talents to help others in such profound ways.