Belfast Telegraph

'I felt so bad for Olly Murs... he didn't deserve all the criticism, it's live TV and he did the job really well'

It might be the New Year, but there are plenty of old favourites on TV this week, with new series of The Voice and Celebrity Big Brother. Presenter Emma Willis tells Keeley Bolger why the hit shows keep surprising her

Having worked in live TV since the early-Noughties, Emma Willis was sympathetic to X Factor presenter Olly Murs' recent on-air gaffe, where he revealed a contestant was leaving the show before the official result was announced.

Angry fans took to Twitter to call for Murs' sacking, but Willis - who is best known for her work on rival hit singing contest, The Voice - is all too aware of the potential for glitches in live broadcasting.

Indeed, when the 39-year-old first took over hosting duties on Big Brother, after it was sold to Channel 5 back in 2013, she almost told viewers to head to the Channel 4 website at one point, drawing gasps from the crowd, but she soon recovered and took the slip in her stride.

"I felt so bad for him (Murs) because of all the criticism he got for it. He didn't deserve it. It's live television, it's a huge show and he's not a presenter, that's not his job, but he did it and he did it fantastically well," reasons Willis.

"He's got a million people talking in his ears, he's got a million people watching him in the audience, there's a million people watching back home and things happen."

Willis, meanwhile, has been a live TV stalwart for over a decade.

Born in Birmingham, the brunette originally worked as a model after being spotted by an agency in her late teens, and worked on campaigns for the likes of Gap, Chanel and Samsung.

Keen to give presenting a punt, she honed her craft at MTV, before taking up hosting duties on ITV2's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! NOW!, as well as on This Morning and Loose Women.

It's only relatively recently though that she's really hit the mainstream, landing work on BBC One Saturday night show Prized Apart, as well as Big Brother and The Voice.

Like her presenting style, Willis - who married Busted's Matt Willis in 2008 - is warm, easy-going and smiley off camera, so much so that you could be forgiven for thinking her job is a doddle for her (minus the odd near miss on Big Brother, that is).

She insists that's not the case - but, a decade in, and despite being busy juggling parenthood and a hectic filming schedule (the couple has two children - six-year-old Isabelle and four-year-old son Ace Billy - and are expecting their third baby in early May), she says there's still much about her work that interests her.

Not least in The Voice, the highest-rated singing TV show of 2015, which she co-hosts with former JLS singer Marvin Humes.

She says the new additions to the judges' panel - Paloma Faith and Boy George - are already making their mark alongside veterans and Ricky Wilson.

"Boy George and Paloma love to talk," says the presenter, who is dressed in flattering cream and black dress.

"The other two struggle to get a word in edgeways. They get on so well and I think that's really apparent in the first episode. It's really good fun. Ricky's super-competitive and always has been every single year, but Boy George wants it bad," she continues. "There's a lot of competition between Ricky and Will, because they've been going for the longest together."

And despite this being her third stint on the series, she says the contestants still have the power to amaze her.

"There have been quite a few acts we've been sitting there watching and your jaw just hits the floor. It's either really surprising that sound has come out of that person, or the fact they're that good, your whole body goes, 'Oh my goodness, something special has happened'," she says.

"It's so intense when we film and such long days, that it's not until you sit down and watch it back that you're reminded how fantastic they are."

Doubtless there will be little time for Willis to settle down to watch the episodes back though, as she's currently hosting Celebrity Big Brother as well, alongside former X Factor contestant and Celebrity Big Brother winner Rylan Clark.

The two are close off-screen, with Willis going to Clark's recent Big Brother-themed wedding to former policeman and Big Brother contestant Dan Neal.

"It was amazing," she reveals.

"I expected it to be very bling and Essex and razzle-dazzle and shiny, but it was absolutely beautiful and really lovely. It was a calm, quaint affair. Everyone had a gorgeous time, they did it brilliantly."

Clark and Neal have already spent time in the house - how does Willis think she and hubby Matt would fare if they were to go in together?

"We'd be fine as a couple, but I think we'd be boring TV," she says with a laugh.

"We'd be terrified, so we'd just sit in a corner going, 'Oh my God, what are we doing?'"

The Voice returns to BBC One on Saturday. Celebrity Big Brother continues on Channel 5 daily

From model to Prince’s Trust ambassador...

■ Emma’s modelling career saw her work for magazines such as Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue as well as luxury designer brand Chanel

■ From 2012-2013, she enjoyed a guest anchor slot on Loose Women as well as guest presenter roles. Emma also stood in for Paul O’Grady on an episode of The Paul O’Grady Show during this time

■ She began presenting the fourteenth series of Big Brother in 2013

■ Also in 2013, Emma replaced Holly Willoughby on BBC1 talent show The Voice

■ Outside of her TV roles, she supports Aston Villa Football Club and is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust

■ Last summer, Emma and co-presenter Reggie Yates hosted a Saturday night game show on BBC, Prized Apart — but the show was axed after the first series due to poor ratings

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