Phillip Schofield: "I fought Jeremy Kyle in charity show"
It's a good job Phillip Schofield has so many fans - because he's going to be all over ITV next month. But it's for a good cause, as Keeley Bolger finds
Phillip Schofield chuckles as he recalls the welcome he gave his This Morning co-presenter Holly Willoughby when she returned from maternity leave earlier this year. "I took her out for a tequila lunch and now she doesn't like the taste of tequila," says the wine enthusiast, who is sitting in ITV's studio, fresh from his daily stint on the popular breakfast show's sofa. "So I've actually broken Holly, but we'll fix her. She'll be fine."
Although Willoughby, who rejoined Schofield in September, hits the tiles less frequently now she's a mum-of-three, the friends are hoping to gather together for their annual final hurrah of the year.
For the last five years, the presenting duo have toasted the upcoming festivities after the Text Santa charity telethon, which they both work on. But Schofield won't be lining up the shots of tequila just yet ...
"It's not necessarily all about getting hammered, we just love being together," he protests. "It's good fun getting a bunch of mates together. Text Santa always brings us together."
Since starting in 2011, the ITV fundraising bonanza has done more than just signal the end of the working year for the presenters.
Every winter, the charity draws on its roster of famous faces to use their profiles to raise money for a raft of deserving causes, with the proceeds from this year's appeal split between Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish UK and Save The Children.
Memorable feats have seen George Clooney sending Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess into a tizzy, when he kissed her during a special episode, former I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! contestants forming a choir, and Schofield battling nerves as he climbed up The Shard in London, which until a few years ago was Europe's tallest building.
Game for a challenge, Schofield also gobbled a fish eye for a special I'm A Celebrity ... task, and spent the whole day broadcasting to the nation on ITV3, as well as ITV1 and 2, as part of a presenting marathon assignment.
This year, neither the channel nor Schofield are showing any signs of slowing down.
But rather than last year's omnipresent challenge, this year's mission - which has been dubbed #Pipknit and will air on Tuesday, December 1, before the telethon bonanza on Friday, December 18 - is much more covert.
"The idea this year is that we've gone much more subtle," says the 53-year-old presenter, who lives in Oxfordshire with his wife Stephanie.
"In the true style of Where's Wally?, between 6am and 10pm, I'm going to appear in every ITV show in some shape or form. But I'm not speaking in any of the shows, it's not a big role, I'm just subtly somewhere within that show.
"It's been great fun and everyone's been amazing allowing us to do it," adds the father-of-two.
Ever the professional, Schofield, who started his career at the BBC as a radio bookings clerk before becoming a children's presenter, can't spill the beans on exactly what he'll be doing during #Pipknit, but he does give some tantalising hints.
"I think I've played quite an important part in The Jeremy Kyle Show; very subtle, very small," he says with a cheeky smile. "And behind the scenes on Jeremy Kyle, there was a fight. I fought Jeremy Kyle. We faced off."
Elsewhere, the long-time soap fan had the chance to fulfil some other dreams too.
"I might be somewhere in Emmerdale," he explains.
"Judge Rinder is a show I never imagined I'd be part of. Harry Hill ... that was an interesting one to do. I've been out on a tractor, I've done all sorts of stuff, it has been wild."
To shake things up further, the presenter will be wearing a different Christmas jumper in every show, and he's encouraging viewers to tweet sightings of him to @ITVTextSanta, using the hashtag #PipKnit.
Those who manage to tweet within 10 minutes of each appearance will be entered into a draw for the chance to win a trip to London to watch Text Santa's live TV show.
"Quite soon, it'll be the launch of Text Santa, which centres around members of the ITV family who might have forgotten something," the presenter adds.
"So Ant might have forgotten Dec, Paddy McGuinness might have forgotten the girls on Take Me Out, I might have forgotten an item of clothing - and I might have recorded two versions," he teases. "One for before the watershed and one for after the watershed."
Whatever happens, he is keen to keep the cash coming in for the three causes.
"Everything I do points to the main show, and it means, hopefully, we'll make it as much fun as possible," says Schofield.
"Appearing in ITV's iconic shows throughout one day is a fantastic opportunity to promote Text Santa's Christmas Jumper Day and raise donations for very deserving charities."
#PipKnit is on ITV from 6am to 10pm on Tuesday, December 1. ITV Text Santa and Christmas Jumper Day is on Friday, December 18. To donate, visit www.itv.com/textsanta/donate