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'We just can't wait for celebrity grumble in the jungle'

Spiders, midnight wake-up calls and bickering might not sound appealing, but the I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! Now! presenters are itching for Series 14. Jeananne Craig meets them.

In a shiny office, thousands of miles from the Australian jungle, comedian Rob Beckett is nursing an injury: a perfectly round red patch, bang in the middle of his forehead. "I've got to get married on Saturday! I'm a bit worried it won't go in time," he says ruefully. "It was an accident. I've got a little plunger thing that I use to prop up my phone, and I got bored and started putting it on my head last night."

It's a busy couple of months for Beckett. After the big day, he's jetting Down Under to front a new series of I'm A Celebrity's ITV2 spin-off show Get Me Out Of Here! Now!, alongside Irish presenter Laura Whitmore and former show winner Joe Swash.

Freak forehead incidents aside, the trio's excitement is palpable as they giggle, talk over each other and exclaim their way through our interview.

"It's like a back-to-school feeling. We don't know who's going in, so it's like we don't know what teachers or what subjects we're going to get," enthuses 29-year-old Whitmore, who interviews the contestants once they've left the jungle and spoken to the main show's hosts, Ant and Dec.

"I'm like, 'Where the hell am I going to get some summer dresses in this weather?' But it's actually perfect timing. November's not the best month to be [in the UK], and then we're back just in time for Christmas."

At the time of our interview, the presenters insist they know nothing about this year's celebrity line-up, although Whitmore has her eyes on Simon Cowell as a dream contestant.

"Because he's always the boss, and always in comfortable situations. I like to see people out of their comfort zone. I'd love to see Ant and Dec in there too, but they won't ever."

"It's normally the dynamic more than the person," Beckett adds. "You have someone with a big name go in and you think they'll be amazing, but you never know once they're in there. So as long as we've got someone who's loud, someone who's quiet, someone tidy, someone messy, you know those people will clash with each other."

Ex-EastEnder Swash (32) was crowned king of the jungle in 2008 after winning viewers over with his happy-go-lucky attitude and friendship with Star Trek's George Takei.

During his stint, he passed the time collecting wood for the camp, and recommends this year's celebs keep busy to avoid conflict. "You need to do something, because if you're not doing trials, you're just stuck in the camp all day, and that's what breeds hatred and makes you want to kill people.

"It's a jungle in there, it's like a big playground!" he adds. "There are animals, there are dams to be made, and I was younger then, so I was interested in everything. There are so many different characters, you find out about people. I'm quite nosy, so I want to know about people and their lives."

Once the contestants have set up camp, it doesn't take long for them to forget there are cameras watching their every move.

"When you've been recording stuff all day, after a while you don't really care," explains Beckett.

Whitmore adds: "You can see when the contestants first go in, they go into the Bush Telegraph and say, 'Oh, this person's so nice', and then a day after they're like, 'They're not pulling their weight'. It changes so quickly."

Aside from the financial gain (some former contestants are rumoured to have commanded six-figure sums), the show offers celebs the chance to turn their public image around.

"I remember hearing Mark Wright was going to do it and I thought, 'Oh, it's that eejit from TOWIE, and then he did it and I was like, 'Actually, he's really nice'," says Whitmore.

"And also, if you want to lose some weight, it's great! [Christopher] Biggins lost two-and-a-half stone."

Not that stars look their best after three weeks in the jungle; as Swash points out, they also "stink of campfire and BO".

On the spin-off show, the former jungle king gamely tries out some of the bushtucker trials, which have included munching on witchetty grubs. "I couldn't do them in England," he says, before gesturing to a platter of fresh fruit. "I couldn't even eat that strawberry, because I don't like hairy fruit, but in Australia I'll eat a fermented egg. It's my little mission now not to say no to anything. I haven't said no yet. And it's nice to push yourself."

It would take a "hefty amount" of money to get Beckett in there as a contestant. "I get bored on a three-week all-inclusive holiday. Never mind when you've got to cook your own dinner."

The presenters see plenty of the great outdoors during filming anyway, with a treehouse-style set, which Beckett describes as "the closest you ever get to being in Jurassic Park".

"In the live show, you've got so much to think about - you've got the guests coming in, I'm counting down, you've got the boys there, you've got the ad break coming up, and then you've got this bloody big mosquito landing on you," Whitmore adds with a laugh. "You just have to go with it. It's live TV - it's a beautiful thing."

  • I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!, ITV, tomorrow, 9pm. I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! Now! follows on ITV2 at 10.40pm

Contestants' career turnarounds after the outback

  • Phil Tufnell - Shortly after retiring from professional cricket, Tufnell took part in - and won - Series Two. His popularity led to presenting slots on ITV game show Simply The Best and BBC One's The One Show.
  • Katie Price and Peter Andre - Glamour model Price and singer Andre fell in love in Series Three. While their four-year marriage didn't last, they both enjoyed a significant boost to their profile.
  • Myleene Klass - The former Hear'Say singer's white bikini caused quite the stir in Series Six. Klass auctioned off the swimwear and secured higher-profile presenting gigs.
  • Helen Flanagan - The former Coronation Street actress threatened to go home if she was voted to do any more trials. But she generated plenty of column inches, and continues to feature regularly in gossip magazines.
  • Ashley Roberts - Before Series 12, Roberts was one of the lesser-known Pussycat Dolls. She soon won the nation over with her charm and good humour, and ended up as a judge on Dancing On Ice.

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