Every Actor Who’s Spoken Up About the Glasgow Willy Wonka Fiasco So Far

For the uninitiated, the Glasgow Willy Wonka Experience was an immersive event that promised a day of enchantment for children. Instead, they got an AI-generated nightmare in a half-empty warehouse.

Every Actor Who’s Spoken Up About the Glasgow Willy Wonka Fiasco So Far

The For You Page is a new bi-weekly column by Alise Morales that will explore, inspect, traverse, sift through, and dive into internet culture. 

It’s been a little over a week since the Glasgow Willy Wonka Experience reminded us all what the internet is like at its best. For the uninitiated, the Glasgow Willy Wonka Experience was an immersive event that promised a day of enchantment, fun, and chocolate for the children of Glasgow, Scotland, and their parents. Instead, they got an AI-generated nightmare in a half-empty warehouse full of haphazardly placed candy-themed decor and–most egregiously–no chocolate at all. (It’s since inspired a horror film.)

The Fyre Fest-like disaster went instantly viral, with images from the event spreading across every social media platform. The deluge of pictures and videos also introduced us to a full cast of Wonka-inspired characters, from a sad Oompa Lpompa that stole the internet’s heart to “The Unknown,” an entirely new Wonka antagonist invented for the event (presumably by ChatGPT) who was supposed to be an “evil chocolate maker that lived in the walls” but ended up looking more like a dollar store Death Eater who popped out from behind a standing mirror. The event ended early after angry parents called the police and refunds are reportedly being issued. (I’ll believe it when I see it). 

So how did this happen? Here’s what we know, from the people who were there: 

Paul Connell aka “Willy McDuff” 

@paulconnellcomedy I was an actor at the #willyschocolateexperience in #glasgow this weekend and here is the first of 3 clips of me talking about it. #willywonka #houseofilluminati #willy #glasgownews #willywonkaglasgow #chocolatefactory #actor #glasgowtiktok #stvnews #bbcnews #bbcscotland #willywonkaexperience ♬ original sound – Paul Connell

The first person to come forward about working at the event was Paul Connell, one of three actors hired to play a Willy Wonka-inspired character named “Willy McDuff.” In a TikTok that has since racked up 3.2 million views, Connell described how he and the other actors were given just one day to learn a script that was, in his words, “fifteen pages–monologue, pretty much–of AI-generated gibberish.” 

It’s from that TikTok that we first learned the backstory of “The Unknown,” who was introduced to children with the following line: 

There is a man who lives here. His name is not known. So we call him The Unknown. The Unknown is an evil chocolate maker who lives in the walls. 

According to Connell, the script called for Willy to defeat “The Unknown” by sucking him up with a “giant vacuum cleaner” at the end of his monologue, however, there was no giant vacuum cleaner on site so he was told to “just improvise.” Connell said it was apparent to all the actors upon arrival for their Friday dress rehearsal one day before the event that the “experience” was not going to be as advertised. He told The Independent that before the event the actors privately agreed, “We’re probably not going to get paid for this, but kids are still going to come up. Let’s make this as magical as possible for them.” 

Unfortunately, it looks like the actors had that right. As of today, the actors have reportedly been paid half of the £500 they were promised. 

Kristy Paterson aka The Sad Oompa Loompa aka “Wonkidoodle” 

Perhaps the most iconic image to come from Willy Wonka’s AI-Generated Meme Factory was this photo snapped of a sad-looking Oompa Loompa (renamed “Wonkidoodles” in the script–a bizarre choice considering their main character’s name is “Willy McDuff,” but I digress…) standing next to random science equipment:

The woman in the photo is an actress named Kristy Paterson who came forward not only on TikTok but also in a full interview with Vulture to tell the story of how she unwittingly became one of the biggest memes of 2024 so far. According to Patterson, she booked the job off an Indeed post promising £500 (about $640) for two days of work. Patterson said that when the actors arrived at the warehouse Friday night for dress rehearsal they were told the team would be working “through the night” to get the event ready for the next day. But when they arrived the next day, the warehouse looked exactly the same. 

Patterson also said she was tasked with handing out jelly beans but they ran out so quickly she ended up having to ration them out to three jelly beans per child, which is very different than the “pasadise of sweet teats” promised by this real AI-generated ad for the experience. 

A pasadise of sweet teats it was not. 

Felicia aka “The Unknown” aka a literal 16-year-old girl 

@felicia.wishes begging for your guys thoughts on lore 🙏 #wonkaexperience #theunknown #willywonka #willywonkaexperience #willywonkatiktok #maskedman #therealunknown #theunknownactor #meme #feliciatheunknown #unknown #intotheunknown #fyp #foryoupage #whoistheunknown #unkowngirl #comedy ♬ original sound – fel👻

Once the sad Oompa Loompa had been located, the internet turned its attention toward the event’s other most viral figure: The Unknown. The desire to Unmask the Unknown led to one now-deleted fake out and a ton of online speculation. (Has anyone seen The Unknown and Kate Middleton in the same room? Just asking questions…) This was until Saturday, when the actor who played the silver-faced demon finally came forward to reveal they were, in fact…a 16-year-old girl. 

The job was Felicia’s first acting gig, and she described the experience of going viral as a “total fever dream.” She also revealed that she was originally cast as one of the Willy McDuff’s but was re-cast as The Unknown with “zero preparation” other than being told to “be creepy.” 

I think I speak for everyone when I say she nailed it. 

Billy Coull aka “House of Illuminati” aka The Guy Who Actually Did All of This 

Behind every good Fyre Fest, there is a scammer named Billy. Someone had to type all those prompts into Chat GPT and that someone was a man named Billy Coull. Coull’s company “House of Illuminati” was behind the event, which has since issued several public apologies for the meme-generating fiasco. In a March 1 post on House of Illuminati’s Facebook page, Coull said he was “solely” responsible for the “disappointment and frustration” the event had caused. He also claimed to have started issuing some 850 refunds. 

The Wonka event was not Coull’s first foray into AI or his first failed venture. According to a Wikipedia page about the event (because of course there’s already a fully-sourced Wikipedia page about the event), “In 2023, [Coull] directed a now-defunct Glasgow food bank, and in summer 2023 he independently published 17 AI generated books on various topics, including vaccine conspiracy theories.” (Suddenly, the Wonkidoodles’ science lab makes a lot more sense.) 

Since the event, Coull has deleted his LinkedIn and YouTube channels. According to an interview he gave to The Times, he also left his family home and canceled plans for a destination wedding in Turkey this June. House of Illuminati also released a statement saying they will not be hosting any future events—which is devasting. 

I think if we’ve learned anything from the response to this fiasco it’s that in a world of picture-perfect Instagram-friendly events, the public is craving this level of unvarnished. House of Illuminati should honestly hold them weekly and not change a thing. They could brand it as an anti-Instagram activation as part of the “de-influencing” movement, giving people a once-in-lifetime opportunity to take the least aesthetically pleasing photos imaginable in the middle of an abandoned warehouse. It’s edgy. It’s punk rock. It’s a damn vibe.

Just be sure to pay your actors this time around.

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