Actor fooling people with harrowing clips of tragic family events responds to backlash
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Warning: Distressing Content
An actor and TikTok user who led people to believe he'd experienced tragic family events has responded after being branded 'sick' and 'weird' for his videos.
Lewis Saunderson, from Cambridge, joined TikTok last year after training as a stage actor and claims to use the platform as a way to help raise awareness for tough situations adults may go through.
He's gained more than 100 million views on TikTok thanks to his performances, with some proving so convincing that some viewers think Saunderson is truly suffering.
One harrowing video shows Saunderson reenacting the moment his 'son' drowns in a paddling pool, sobbing as he holds a 'dead' child, while another depicts him finding his 'beautiful daughter dead'.
In another video, Saunderson shows his followers what it might look like if he was 'grieving the loss of a soulmate'.
The actor has posted some videos to stress the experiences aren't real, and he includes the hashtag 'fiction' on his fake clips, but the main captions don't always make it clear that the videos aren't real.
The title of the 'dead daughter' video, for example, reads: "Finding my beautiful daughter dead - every parent's worst nightmare."
As a result of their realistic nature, many viewers have responded to Saunderson's videos to express their condolences and tell him to be strong.
"I'm sorry for you man, stay strong and be safe," one commenter wrote, while another person said: "This broke my heart so much. Losing your baby is so hard. I lost my son last year. Prayers."
Finding out the videos aren't real at all has left some viewers furious, with one writing: "I feel so played. I prayed so hard for you because I thought I really lost your soulmate."
Saunderson has since responded to the backlash, saying that while he takes people's belief as a 'compliment', he's 'always having to set the record straight and clear up any confusion'.
"When another video goes viral I have to do this justifying again." he said. "The majority of people will just scroll their page, my videos will pop up and a lot of people assume they're real.
"It's annoying because I'm never trying to make out that I'm going through these things. At the end of the day people will believe what they will believe."
Saunderson said there's a 'divide' between people who understand he's trying to raise awareness and people who 'can't understand' why he does it, but he's argued he's 'just an actor playing a character and telling a story'.
"It's nothing different to when you watch a drama on TV," he said.
"What I'm doing is harmless in terms of using a platform to demonstrate my skills and tell powerful stories. That's what my brand is... If I was trying to convince people it's real I wouldn't be putting out explanation videos regularly after videos do really well."