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Emma Willis: 'Making TV series What Would Be Your Miracle? about people who have cerebral palsy or who are deaf or blind has proved a real revelation'

Emma Willis tells Susan Griffin how meeting three people whose lives have been transformed by medical science has taught her an important life lesson about not sweating the small stuff.

Published 27/04/2016

Mum’s the word: Emma Willis is expecting her third child
Mum’s the word: Emma Willis is expecting her third child
Emma with her husband Matt
Truly inspiring: Garin Morgan in his wheelchair with Emma on ITV’s What Would Be Your Miracle?
Emma with The Voice co-presenter Marvin Humes
Emma with Daniella Westbrook on Celebrity Big Brother

Emma Willis is about to welcome her third child, but that didn't stop her from marking the end of The Voice UK in style. "I stayed at the wrap party until 1.30am because I thought, as soon as I leave, that's that, it's over," says the 40-year-old presenter.

Indeed, following five series on BBC One, the singing show is set to move to ITV in 2017.

So it's not 'over' completely, but the new line-up is yet to be confirmed and it's not known whether Willis will return, or which famous faces will take up positions in the judges' swivel chairs.

Either way, Willis has had a blast co-hosting with Marvin Humes for the last three years (when they took over from previous presenters Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates), and confesses that choosing her favourite mentor is "like picking a child".

She's close friends with Ricky Wilson, but adds "you can't help but love Will.i.am".

"He's just Will. You can't really describe him, he's fascinating and brilliant and bonkers. And George was fantastic, and Paloma and Kylie," she notes.

It's been a busy year for Willis - who already has daughter Isabelle (6) and son Ace (4) with her husband, Busted singer Matt (32) - and she admits that while she's "feeling good" ahead of baby number three, she's happily "done" with work, until Big Brother returns to Channel 5 in June.

"And then it's just one day a week, so I'll have plenty of time at home."

Willis might be stepping away from the cameras for a short while, but she'll continue to appear on our screens - specifically in new three-part documentary, What Would Be Your Miracle?

Filmed over the course of two years, it tells the inspirational stories of people whose lives are transformed by modern 'miracles', made possible by advances in medical science. "It's so different. I'd never done anything like this before and I loved it. I'm so proud of it," says Birmingham-born Willis, who was a model before making her TV debut on MTV.

In each episode, she meets two people undergoing incredible operations in the hope of changing their lives, such as little Garin Morgan who has cerebral palsy.

Confined to a wheelchair, he hopes cutting-edge surgery will allow him to fulfil his wish - to play football.

"He's so amazing, so sweet and fun, full of life, and a real character. If he's not on TV or the stage at some point in his future, then I don't know who should be," remarks Willis, who finished filming the series only a couple of months ago.

"It's two years for three hours of telly, but it's the whole process: pre-op, op, post-op and then recovery time, which can be anything from two months to a couple of years, so you're at the mercy of how they recuperate and the consultants, surgeons, the NHS," she says.

"But it was worth the wait, to reach the moment they find out if the miracle they've dreamed of for years will happen."

To witness someone walk for the first time unaided, hear their father's voice through new cochlear implants, or see after 30 years of blindness, certainly makes for moving television.

It's no surprise it was an emotional experience for Willis. "Especially in the beginning, when you hear the story in its entirety for the first time," she says.

"Unless you're experiencing what our participants have experienced, you don't know anything about it. Unless you have someone in your family with cerebral palsy, what do you know about it? Or have someone in the family who's blind or deaf, then you don't know what their lives are like and how it affects them day-to-day. That was a big eye-opener."

Making the series has made her re-evaluate her own priorities: "It makes you realise when you're pulling your hair out because your little one's dropped milk all over the floor, life could be a whole lot more tricky."

Willis, who regularly tunes in to watch programmes like One Born Every Minute and 24 Hours In A&E, contemplated a career in nursing when she was a youngster.

"My mum worked in a hospital for 40 years and my dad worked in one for a while, so it's always been there, always been a huge part of my life," she says.

"It fascinates me. It's my favourite subject matter, so when this series came along, I was over the moon," she adds.

She has no regrets over her chosen career path, though.

"No, I've been very lucky, and I would never have met Matt," adds the presenter, who's fronted CD: UK, This Morning, Loose Women and Prized Apart over the years.

"Part of me would still love to do something in the health field, but at the minute I'm very lucky being able to do what I do. Who knows, maybe one day when this all falls apart," she adds, laughing - then quickly adding that we all have to remain pragmatic, whatever success we're enjoying.

"It's brilliant, but at any point it can just finish," she says of her own career.

"Make the most of it while it's here ... and then start panicking when it's gone."

Willis turned 40 in March, but far from bemoan the fact she's getting older, she says she's really enjoying it.

"In my 20s, I had no idea. I didn't really know who I was, what I was doing, where I was going or what I wanted. And in my 30s, I was like, 'okay, I get this a bit more'. Now it's all about three little monsters - or four if you include Matt."

As keen as she is to embrace this new decade, a big birthday party is on hold - for now.

"I'm considering it my 40th year, so any amount of celebrations can happen in my opinion," says Willis, grinning. "But it will definitely be after this baby's out."

What Would Be Your Miracle? begins on ITV tomorrow, at 9pm

Belfast Telegraph

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