When filming was over from Series 1, it was like the Gladiator bubble had burst and we all flew back to our homes. Personally, I felt a huge sense of relief that I had survived it. I walked away with a really bad shoulder injury as well as further bruising all over my body. I felt as though I had just emerged from a two month long fight.
In hindsight, this was not even a rational thought as I am one in a million and what I brought to Gladiators was totally unique from anyone else, but I didn’t have the wisdom and love that I now have in my body.
So I embarked on getting my shoulder fixed, paying for all the medical bills myself. I knew who to go to and what was needed . . . yet time was tight. I also had to maintain my training and preparation for the next series so that I could try to avoid similar injuries.
Even though after that few days it would start to feel strangely normal, I always found myself working hard during our filming breaks to be assured that I had done everything I could to make wearing this costume easier.
Also, we all had to maintain our Gladiator’s bodies; they had to stay the same as the day we were hired. In our contracts it was stipulated that we could lose our jobs if our bodies changed in any way – weight gain, weight loss, hair colour, etc.
The ironic thing was that it was ok for the producers to change things . . . One of the weirdest things was when I walked into our wardrobe room to find I had padding in my costume. Without any of the producers talking to me about it, there was a noticeable addition to my outfit. During season 2, I suddenly became ‘Blade in a D cup’. Obviously someone felt this was needed and everyone noticed. It felt degrading, especially as I had never had an issue with the size of my breasts.
I was a ‘thing’, an object.
Because I was on TV people seemed to feel they knew me well enough to touch my body. Even as I type this today I can feel the upset of how this felt. Who does that? Who goes up to a beautiful woman and simply squeezes her arms? But this happened on a very regular basis. I remember trying to cover myself up regularly with baggy clothes so I didn’t stand out.
During Series One I had struck up a friendship on the set, one that felt supportive, safe for me to be me, in this world of Gladiators. Trust in people was rare in TV so to find trust in someone was a gift. This friendship developed into a secret relationship, one of those that would only complicate matters if anyone knew. Then I had the other secret of my shoulder injury. Up until a couple of days before filming I still couldn’t lift my arm up above my waist. To hold all this inside was such a burden.
The first time I ever experienced gentleness with my body, was with our massage therapist. Instead of kneading and pushing my shoulder to heal, which for sports people is normal, she was instead gentle with it. I remember her famous line: “Blade, you’re carrying emotional burden. . .” How did she know?
It was with this care and gentleness that my shoulder began to feel better. During training and before filming commenced I had to prove to the producers that I could still be the “Queen of the Rings (Hang Tough) in Series 2.” Still in pain whenever I raised my arm above my head, I had managed to go on the rings twice – at strategic times to ensure that the producers could see I was up to the task. Both times the pain was excruciating.
As a team, the Gladiators had a moment, a moment that was defining for its opportunity for brotherhood. When we first began as Gladiators we had been given a contract to look at, get legal advice on, and then sign. Well that was the theory. Because of the delay in production, some of us only got the contract a few days before and some literally received it on the first day of pre-filming and publicity shots. It was expected it would be signed on the dotted line there and then. The contract was terrible: we were to be given minimum wages, we had to sign for 1-3 series (depending on the show’s run), we were to get no royalties for the use of any of our images on advertising, no insurance and absolutely no guarantee of anything. To sum it up simply – we sold our soul to the devil, and from then on the production company owned us. We had no control of anything. We were especially vulnerable because we were not eligible to be part of any Actor’s Union. We existed in a non-category; we were ‘Athlete Entertainers’ doing physically high risk work that was considered uninsurable.
During this time many of the Gladiators started to give up their ‘day jobs’. In Season 1, there were some on long service leave, holidays or juggling other commitments, but as time passed, many of the Gladiators had to make a choice to let go of their old jobs and commit to Gladiators due to its time demands. At this point the reality that there was ‘not enough’ lucrative appearance work to go around began to create tension between the Gladiators. The manner in which this was handled by some brought more and more separation within the team, taking us further and further away from the powerful group that we really were. The producers must have been smiling. When we were in competition we weren’t in our true strength as a team and it was much easier for the producers to play us off against each other . . .
Even more to come in the next article . . .
For some people it may sound easy to ‘walk away’, yet at this time of my life this was an opportunity, a business opportunity and hopefully a financial opportunity with all the appearances and endorsements.
Midway through Series 2, after a conversation with a Channel 7 crew member, one of the team discovered that the Gladiators were being extremely underpaid in our per diems (living away from home allowance). While everyone who was contracted/employed to Channel 7 were receiving the proper amount, our production company was paying us substantially less.
From our experience we knew that we had to stick together 100% – our strength was in numbers – if someone cracked we would all fail . . . Two key Gladiators took our request to the producers to raise our per diems; we would not work (next day) until this was resolved. We waited and we did stick together. As the day’s filming came to a close we learnt that they had agreed to our request. We had won the right to have our per diems raised and backdated. We drove off in our two Taragos, yeeha-ing and laughing. It was one of those rare times that we felt the power of us united as a team.
Sadly this was the last time that this unity would be experienced. After that day the producers clocked who the influential Gladiators were and they began pandering to them to keep them onside. They did this until the end of the final season.
At the end of Series 2 there were more public appearances – at shopping malls, nightclubs, sporting events and as guests on other TV shows. We were told that Public Appearances were where we would make our money. This was not to be the case. We were told that as new jobs came up, they would be assigned amongst the thirteen of us equally, yet the reality was that the Gladiators who were the most popular with the producers became the Gladiators who were more in demand with the public, as they were the ones who were more well-known to audiences through more air time, more games and more interviews.