A shocking Herald story alleging serious violence by of one of its grooms has forced an unprecedented move from MediaWorks.
After further details emerged around the alleged behaviour of Chris Mansfield, a groom on the upcoming third season of Married at First Sight NZ, Three has made the unprecedented decision to cut his storyline entirely. In a statement provided to The Spinoff, a spokesperson for MediaWorks, parent company of Three, said “in light of the accusations that have been made against him, his storyline will no longer be part of the Married at First Sight NZ 2019 series.”
On Thursday Stuff broke the story of Mansfield’s arrest in the United States a decade ago on domestic violence charges, a case never resolved due to his failure to front for a court date in June of 2009. The story was followed by an explosive front page interview in the NZ Herald today, in which the woman he is alleged to have assaulted detailed the violence she says led to the charges, saying that he “almost killed [her] a couple of times [through] strangling”, and revealing she was pregnant at the time of the incidents.
Mansfield had been working as an ambassador for DB Breweries’ Heineken brand, a situation now under threat, with DB’s Amber McEwen describing the company “urgently investigating” the allegations. Mansfield was featured on Heineken’s social media, and won a brand-sponsored e-scooter race at Chapel Bar last year.
He’s part of the third season of Married at First Sight a Danish reality TV franchise, since exported around the world. Billed as a “social experiment”, it gathers a group of single people and has them matched up by relationship experts, and wedded without having met or known anything about one another prior. Mansfield was announced last week as being amongst twelve-strong cast.
On Friday, following Stuff’s story, MediaWorks issued a statement saying that “Mansfield had already completed filming prior to these allegations being made, and will not be required by the production or network for any further commitments.” They also underlined the production’s inability to have known about the charges, due to privacy law, and it having occurred in a foreign jurisdiction.
Today’s move comes just eight days out from the show’s premiere, a tiny timeframe with which to re-edit the show to excise his storyline. A MediaWorks source suggested this process was made simpler by the fact of his having left the show early, a frequent occurrence in the New Zealand production, which has had contestants leave earlier than intended throughout its run.
The Spinoff understands that he will still appear in the series, an unavoidable situation due to the Married at First Sight format, which brings the cast together for regular dinner parties and ‘commitment ceremonies’. A source suggests he will be present in certain conversations where there is not a way of editing around him, but that his relationship will not be part of the show in any way.
Hear The Spinoff’s reality TV podcast The Real Pod discuss the allegations (recorded on Thursday August 28)
The Married at First Sight format has been dogged by controversy for almost as long as it has screened, with the Australian version both phenomenally popular and subject of intense criticism. The most recent series became infamous for its display of toxic masculinity and gaslighting, with longrunning affairs conducted and partner swapping which seemed to openly mock the nominal values of the show. It led to the “#boycottMAFS” hashtag trending on Twitter, with industry sources suggesting that despite its huge ratings, Australian advertisers were staying away for fear of being tarnished by association. New Zealand’s version hasn’t been spared, with a long-running civil court case over one wedding, allegations of hidden cameras and abusive Tinder messages.
It caps the end of a torrid winter for Three, which has announced and then postponed a megabudget local version of the Love Island franchise, dealt with the resignation of its longtime head of content Andrew Szusterman (with another senior executive also resigning this week), and had its CEO Michael Anderson openly wonder whether its television business is sustainable.
Those business challenges, though, pale in comparison to today’s allegations, which suggest they may have unwittingly endangered his partner (though there is no suggestion she was harmed by him), and point to the immense ethical challenges of creating shows of this nature.
Read the full statement from MediaWorks:
MediaWorks are shocked by the allegations that have surfaced in relation to Married at First Sight groom Chris Mansfield. We can confirm that prior to commencing filming, every participant is subject to a New Zealand criminal record check, participates in a psychiatric assessment and must have been deemed by a professional psychologist to be fit to participate in the format. All our participants are required to confirm that they have no undisclosed convictions of any kind and have never been investigated by the police for any criminal activity but not then convicted. Under privacy law it is not possible to obtain information about any charges or outstanding warrants (international or otherwise) an individual may face. Chris Mansfield had already completed filming prior to these allegations being made, and will not be required by the production or network for any further commitments.