Peter Reed, Reality TV star, fitness coach
I was home sick for a week and Netflix kept me company. While I was chilling on my couch all day, I came across a show called Back With the Ex. The show, filmed in Australia, followed four couples who had broken up, one or more times, and were interested in seeing if they might have another chance together. This looked 100% like the kind of show I love to watch. I was especially intrigued by the fairy tale story of Peter and Diane. Australian, Peter, met American, Diane, over 28 years ago on a visit to the US. They hit it off instantly but when Peter went home to Australia, the relationship fell apart. Long distance relationships are hard enough, let alone when it's intercontinental long distance. Driven apart by distance, it seemed like the two of them might finally get their happily-ever-after.
I binged the entire season in one day. (Hey, I was sick. What else was I going to do?) Once it was over, I hit the internet to see how the couples were doing post-filming. After reading all about that, I reached out to Peter to see if I could interview him about the whole fascinating experience of being on a reality TV show. He graciously agreed. Now, I know we often wonder how much of "reality" shows is "real" and that's part of why I wanted to do this interview. I can say that in my correspondence with Peter, he was just as genuine, kindhearted, and personable as he appears on the show.
Over the course of getting this interview, I learned that Peter is impressively fit and does fitness coaching. (If he ever makes it over to Michigan, I request a Peter Reed workout! Even though he'll totally be running circles around me.)
If you want to see what Peter's up to these days, check out his Instagram page. He regularly posts workout videos as well as other posts about his life in Australia. You can also connect with his fitness business, CyberStrength.
I hope you'll watch the show too and see what happened to the four couples, especially Peter and Diane. SPOILER ALERT: If you read this interview, you'll find out what the result of Peter and Diane's reunion was. If you want to watch the series first, take an afternoon or a weekend to binge and then come back and see what Peter has to say about the experience.
SJ: How did you find out about the show in the first place?
PR: Sometime in December 2016, a casting call for people wanting to reunite with an old flame popped up on my Facebook feed. Diane jumped immediately to mind as I had always held a flickering candle for the girl I let go 28 years earlier. Plus, I was single and had been through a very depressing few years after my marriage break up. Something in the description ignited my heart’s “pilot light”, so after some procrastination and self-doubt, I made the decision to apply.
The application was online, so I started completing the form however concerns set in about whether Diane was even single at this time or that she may not want to “reopen” a relationship. Hence, I didn’t complete it and over the next week or so received emails from the casting agency reminding me to finish what I’d started. The due date for applications had passed, however a voice inside said just do this, or you’ll regret it for life. The online application had expired, so I scoured 7 Network’s website for an email address and sent a letter along with pics of us back in 1988 and some I’d taken from Diane’s Facebook page and as well as a few from mine. I received a call from a producer in an hour or two later! At first, she thought I had made up the story, but I assure here that it was all true, so a meeting a video interview was scheduled in a day or so, as time was running out to confirm all participants.
SJ: On the show, Diane mentioned that you'd connected on Facebook a few years ago. Did you ask her about doing the show before you applied or was it a complete surprise to her?
PR: No, I made no contact. Not only were we advised not to contact the “ex”, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise! I left it to one of the producers to track her down and present the idea. That in itself was a challenge, as the Welsh producer called Diane’s mobile twice and she hung up both times, thinking it was a telemarketing call or similar from overseas! In the end, an email to Diane initiated a call between her and the lead producer. A few days later – on Feb 2, 2017 to be exact, I received a Skype call from the producer confirming that Diane was just as excited to be a part of the show as I was. Hearing that amazing news was probably one of the happiest moments in my life. Now, I had just a little over four weeks to transform from a fat bastard to something more acceptable…as we know, TV adds 10lb at least to your appearance! Using a rigid, high protein, low calorie nutrition plan and training just 3 times per week, I dropped 13kg before filming began. I am now much leaner than that, almost 3 years later.
SJ: It appears the show took place over 3 weeks. Is that the amount of time you were active on it or was there more that you had to do before or after that viewers didn't see?
PR: The total filming duration was almost 4 weeks so yes, very close. My first commitment was the back story which included my hobbies, work and introducing my two children. As became evident once the series was aired, many hours of footage was not included as part of the editing and continuity process, most notably a visit to Niagara Falls, where Diane and had holidayed way back in 1989. I guess they have to obtain as much footage as possible, as it would be impossible to go back and refilm certain segments.
SJ: For the final trip to Paris, did you and Diane have any say in where you went or was it a surprise from the show?
PR: Everything was a surprise, which made the day to day involvement so more fun! At times though, there was some trepidation as we didn’t know what scenario we were going to be thrown into. Many people have asked if the show was scripted. Well, from my perspective, everything I said was straight from the heart with no extra takes. Only the events and situations within which we were placed, were created by the producers.
SJ: Do you feel the show accurately portrayed your personality and the events that took place?
PR: Very much so! The events that ended up in the final series cut were I believe very accurate in terms of timeline and the emotions presented. What you saw was 100% Peter Reed, raw emotions and all! … and yes, the infamous bench top scene was not scripted. That was a major red flag which ultimately came out flying later on that year.
SJ: How difficult is it to be tracked by a camera crew while you're trying to rekindle a romance? Were you both shy at first or was it easy to ignore filming because of the thrill of seeing each other again after so long?
PR: I found it easy to very quickly forget that most of our time together was filmed, during which we were fitted with wireless microphones (much easier to conceal under my clothing than Diane’s!). Diane shy...? Ha! I am normally more reserved and measured with my behaviour and responses to situations, but we settled into “coupledom” so easily. I guess I was very motivated to make the rekindling of our romance work, given I had been single for a while and in the emotional doldrums for way too long.
SJ: I was so sorry to hear that you and Diane are no longer together! If you had it to do over again, would you still choose to do the show?
PR: In a heartbeat! Seriously, how many people have a similar chance to reconnect with an old flame? When combined with overseas travel and a huge variety of situations within which to observe each other’s reactions and just to enjoy the companionship, it was a once in a lifetime experience.
SJ: I enjoyed the episode where all the guys and ladies got together for dinner. Was that super awkward or fun? Did you ever see the others again? Would you want to?
PR: I met the other three guys at a hotel in the Sydney CBD, after waiting forever in the downstairs bar. Not sure of the reason for the delay – probably setting up the cameras in the upstairs function room. After quite a few beers, I was asked to come upstairs and the other three were enjoying some shots. Clearly the producers’ ploy was to loosen our inhibitions via alcohol, as we weren’t fed until late in the evening. I think the banter and outcome speaks for itself!
Lauren and I follow each other on Instagram, but I haven’t had any contact with the other contestants. Lauren, by the way, is in a relationship with Mick, one of the cameramen who followed her and Eric around. Not surprised that happened!
SJ: What advice would you give to anyone who's considering reconnecting with an ex?
PR: Considering reconnecting with an “Ex” very much depends on how the relationship ended. With Diane and I, it was simply distance and only seeing each other infrequently put paid to our initial relationship. Usually, there is a good reason a relationship ended… infidelity, insurmountable incompatibilities, lack of mutual respect…. the list is endless. Unfortunately, in most cases, one or more fatal flaws will raise their heads again, inevitably leading to another break up.
SJ: You said on the show that you met Diane on your first trip the US. How many times have you been here and which states did you visit?
PR: At the time, I was managing a Nautilus fitness club in Sydney, but was keen to pursue a dream of having my own business. In actuality, my first trip to the US was to visit an American girl I had met in the Health Club. She had left her husband and moved back to California. After the first week, it became obvious that this wasn’t going to last, so I headed to New Orleans to attend an IHRSA Fitness trade show and explore fitness equipment importation options. A “sliding doors” moment, that’s for sure as I met Diane in an Irish pub the first night I was there… and she just happened to be a final year student at the University of Florida, where incredibly, I was headed to a week later for a MedX seminar held at the company founder’s residence and offices in Ocala, FL. Of course, I stayed with Diane for the ensuing weeks and the rest as they say… is history. Upon returning to Australia, I started my first business, Fitness Design securing a number of premium products with manufacturers all over the US, from California to Florida. Since 1988, I have lost count of the number of visits… must be more than 30. There aren’t many states I haven’t been to!
SJ: If I'm getting this right, the show originally aired in Australia in 2017. Is that the same year you filmed it?
PR: No, the show was filmed during March 2017, but didn’t air until March 2018. Yes, a whole 12 months during which we were obliged not to divulge the outcome of series, even though it was obvious to people who knew me, that Diane and I were no longer a couple. We were banned from being on dating sites and using social media to mention or post pics relating to the show. This didn’t help my prospects of finding a new love, I can assure you!
SJ: Now that Netflix is showing it globally, is it weird to have people reaching out to you for something you did years ago?
PR: Wow… the response has been incredible! I have over 6000 followers on Instagram – an app I didn’t use much before the series was filmed. It’s definitely not weird… although I have had some very “interesting” dm’s and comments! Overall, it has been very humbling and heart-warming to receive so much outpouring of positive comments from both men and (mostly) women. Thanks to Instagram, I have met many wonderful people from countries the world over. There is no doubt that Diane and I were the favourite couple!
SJ: Has your daily life changed for having done the show?
PR: Honestly, my daily life hasn’t changed that much. Sadly, as of writing this response…I’m still single. It’s definitely tougher finding my Ms Right for Me at my age (now 60). Most importantly, I have changed since the show. I’ve regained my mojo, so to speak and my confidence has taken a huge lift upward. I’m working on a unique Over 50’s fitness concept – a gym that caters specifically for this “forgotten” age group. This was sparked by motivating myself to transform into decent shape, as I detailed in a previous answer. Who better than me as the spokesperson for such a venture! Developing a concurrent online exercise and nutrition coaching marketed via Instagram is also part of the strategy, taking advantage of my global following.
SJ: I feel like it's amazing and crazy that I just watched a TV show about you and then I was able to contact you, from across the world, and have you agree to an interview. How does it feel to have people all over the world know who you are and want to connect with you?
PR: I had no idea that the Australian 7 Network had sold rights to Netflix. So, it was a huge surprise when 12 months ago I started to receive a flood of Instagram follow requests from all over the world. As mentioned before, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and helped reaffirm that I’m on the right track as a human being! Overall the following has been a very humbling and gratifying experience.
SJ: What is the most unexpected thing that's happened to you as a result of being on the show?
PR: Obviously, the global Netflix release of the show – especially almost two years after filming had wound up, was certainly the most unexpected outcome. Hence, I didn’t think that almost three years on, I’d still have to explain to people that I’m not married and why! Irrespective of that, I don’t regret being involved for a minute. Ultimately, Diane and I reuniting after almost 30 years closed that book, which still had pages flipping open occasionally – for both of us.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about the show, Peter. It's been a real treat.
If you'd like to read about an international romance with a different ending than Peter and Diane's story, try Scotsman in the Stacks- my low-angst, closed-door, romcom inspired by the true life romance of my American friend and a handsome foreigner who walked into the library we worked at.