What’s the reaction been like to you taking part in Strictly this year?
I have never in 50 years of working in showbiz had a reaction like it to anything I have ever done. People are thrilled, absolutely thrilled. Honestly, I’m really not exaggerating. I’ve never known anything like it. Everywhere I go, people are like, We can’t wait. Oh my god, we’re so glad you’re doing it. That’s so exciting. It’s been so delightful.
Has that reaction surprised you?
I’ve been so surprised. Until you’re in the eye of the storm you don’t really know how much people love something. I’ve been working with Elizabeth Hurley and she’s more excited about it than anyone I’ve ever met. She has told me so much information about the programme that I didn’t know, past years and winners, what’s happened and how to go about it. She and her son Damien have been extraordinarily supportive. In my local grocers, I got a round of applause when I went to buy some fruit!
What do you think about the rest of the line-up?
Bill Bailey I’ve met before and he’s lovely; Clara Amfo is a hero in my family as my son and daughter worship her. Jason is hilarious and Nicola Adams is a boxing legend! I’m just delighted, it’s gonna be a really fun time.
Is there anyone you think is your big competition?
I think anyone under 60. Anyone with a pair of knees that function really well, I think might be my competition. Youth and energy are going to be the thing that might hold me back. It might be my stumbling block when you look at people in their 20s who are sports people, and then you look at me and you think there might be a bit of a discrepancy here. But I’m not, I’m going to give it my best shot.
Why did you want to take part in Strictly?
It’s definitely something to do with the times we’re living in. I was about to do a play at the National Theatre which was cut short as we all went into lockdown, so I was reeling a bit from that. Then Strictly came, and I thought, this might be something just delightfully fun. It’s pretty bleak out there for people at the moment and I wanted to do something for myself that was joyful, but also for all of us, my family and friends and, God Almighty people love it. It was definitely the right choice.
Do you have any previous dance experience?
I went to ballet school in 1963 until I was 10, then went on to study all sorts of dance till I was about 15/16. I did a bit of tap and modern but never any ballroom dancing. I’ve done a few musicals where I’ve had to move about a bit but I wouldn’t say I’m a trained dancer.
What are you looking for in a dance partner?
I’m looking for expertise, a problem solver, someone who knows if I’m struggling with something and can find a way around to make it excellent. Someone with a sense of humour. If there’s any lifting involved, I’m going to need someone with a bit of bicep action.
What do you think your biggest challenge will be?
Biggest challenge will be turning. I’m going to struggle with turns because my balance isn’t what it used to be, but maybe that’ll get better. Learning routines quickly is terrifying. As long as my knees hold out, I think we’ll be right.
Do you have a secret competitive streak that’s going to come out during this process?
It’s really not a secret. There’s little point in going into anything, whether it be a game of snap or Strictly Come Dancing without some intention to do well and I really want to do well.
How do you feel about being Stricty-fied, costumes etc?
Well, I’m not quite sure what it’s going to entail. But I think some of it might be uncomfortable, some of it might be vaguely embarrassing, and some of it would just be delightful. As long as most of it is delightful, that’s a win for me.
Who in your family is most excited about you being on the show?
I think it’s my son. I’ve got a 17 year old boy who plays a lot of rugby, he loves sport, and he’s quite competitive. A lot of his friends are very big fans of the show which you wouldn’t expect from 18 year old rugby players, but they really love it.
Do you have a favourite dance or a competitor from previous years?
Dance wise, I think they all have their own challenges. So I don’t really have a favourite or one I’m particularly looking forward to and I don’t actually know what I’m going to have a flair for. As for a favourite competitor? John Sargent. Just the fact that he did the show and was clearly not a born mover, but he just had common grace and dignity. I thought that was very lovely. I will not have any of those things. I tend to be ruthless. I’m going to fully embrace it and have a great time. I’m so excited.