Ruth Langsford: 'Eamonn's a good mover... we've a jaunt around the kitchen now that he has two new hips'
Fifteen new stars will battle it out on Strictly Come Dancing back on BBC1 this Saturday. They talk to Laura Harding about the rigorous rehearsals and how they will pay tribute to the show’s late former presenter, Sir Bruce Forsyth.
The dancefloor is polished, the band has warmed up and the sparkly glitter ball trophy is just waiting to be lifted. It can mean only one thing: 15 new celebrities are poised to take part in Strictly Come Dancing.
The ballroom spectacular is returning to BBC1 with a raft of pop stars, TV presenters and athletes prepared to waltz, salsa, and paso doble on live television.
Among the hopefuls praying they don’t have two left feet are The Saturdays singer Mollie King, Paralympics champion Jonnie Peacock, This Morning star, and wife of Belfast presenter Eamonn Holmes, Ruth Langsford and Sunday Brunch’s Simon Rimmer.
They will be joined by EastEnders actor Davood Ghadami, comedian Susan Calman, JLS singer Aston Merrygold, TV personality Debbie McGee, former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, comedian Brian Conley, Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins, Holby City’s Chizzy Akudolu and Joe McFadden, writer the Rev Richard Coles and soap star Gemma Atkinson.
King, who is following in the footsteps of bandmate Frankie Bridge, who was runner-up to Caroline Flack in 2014, says she has been getting words of advice from her friend.
“She is such a good dancer. She said to enjoy every moment and it will go so quickly so just lap it up,” she explains.
King will be hoping to continue the long tradition of pop stars doing well on the show, with Busted’s Harry Judd and The Wanted’s Jay McGuinness among previous winners.
“I think because we have been on stage before we do have the advantage that we have performed, but I’ve never been to stage school, never had dance classes so I’m like ‘oh my gosh’,” she says.
“I don’t know what to expect. This is a whole new world of pointing my toes. I think I really need to throw myself into rehearsals.
“We’ve had two days of dance training so far and I think for everyone it was a bit of a shock to the system.
“I feel like I need to go home and practice every single minute of the day now. There is so much to learn, it’s unbelievable. But we have to throw ourselves in there and get on with it.”
Langsford also feels somewhat under-prepared. “I don’t know if other people have done dancing lessons, but I certainly haven’t,” she says.
“We have to do a group dance and it’s quite hard. It’s quite fast, there are a lot of steps and there is a lot of five, six, seven, eight. I haven’t done anything like that before, so I quite often find I’m going the wrong way.”
However, she’s looking on the bright side. “I’m sure it will come and I just want to enjoy it and have fun,” Ruth says.
She might even try out her moves on her husband and This Morning co-star Eamonn Holmes, who had a double hip operation last year.
“He’s quite a good little mover, Eamonn. And he’s got his two new hips now, so we sometimes have a little jaunt around the kitchen,” she says.
“He’s very proud of me and he’s very excited for me because he knows how long I’ve wanted to do this. This is the kind of thing where, even if this wasn’t televised and I was just doing this in my village hall, I’d love it.”
While King has been taking tips from an accomplished dancer, the Rev Coles has been looking to a different source — last year’s fan favourite and former shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
The ex-politician was the break-out star of the series and won legions of fans with his outrageous costumes and comedy routines.
He has advised the writer and former pop star that too much practice might not be the best course of action.
Rev Coles says: “He gave me a very helpful briefing. He said don’t practice because it’s all about the journey. If you have a very steep hill to climb, and indeed I do, that might be a quite an amusing story for people to watch.”
Like Balls, he is also planning on embracing the obligatory spray tan for the show. “They are going to have to dip me in spray tan, I am going to swim in spray tan,” he says. “I think that if you’re going to do it, then do it and get the maximum out of it.”
Conley will also be embracing the fake tan, so long as his necklines aren’t too plunging.
“I haven’t got a six pack, I’ve got a beer barre,” he jokes.. “If I’m wearing something I’m alright as long as I can put Spanx under it. I should be wearing a sports bra, I’ve got to be honest.
“I’m happy to wear whatever they wish as long as it isn’t too revealing. But I have been sewing sequins on my jacket since Christmas, so I’m up for this.
“With regards to tan I’m going Essex orange, which is one step down from David Jason.
“I’m up for it. I’m happy to be sprayed. You have to go in one of those booths in paper pants.”
TV chef Rimmer concurs. “I’ve had my fitting and I’m dead excited — the outfits are the best bit,” he says. “I am going all the way. All my body hair is going and I’m having burnt umber spray tan. I’ll be unrecognisable.”
But beneath all the tan and sequins, there will also be a tinge of sadness after Sir Bruce Forsyth, who presented the show for almost a decade, died on August 18, just weeks before the beginning of the series.
Langsford says: “The day I heard Sir Bruce had passed away, it slightly took the sheen off my excitement about doing Strictly, but he would have loved this.
“I don’t think he would want any of us to not be enjoying this.
“This was his baby and you could see that that shone out of him.
“He was such a fabulous dancer, so I think this year he will be very much in our thoughts and all of us will really be doing it for him, as well as for ourselves.”
King adds: “I think it means that, as the cast of 2017, we really want to make him proud and we just want to dance our socks off and give it everything.
“He has been such a huge part of Strictly, so for us we just want to really give it our all and make him proud.”
- Strictly Come Dancing, Saturday, BBC1, 7pm