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'I don't take anything for granted, I'm grateful for everything'

EastEnders' Danny Dyer will make his debut as a game show host with new BBC One series The Wall. Laura Harding joins him on set in Poland

Danny Dyer on the set of The Wall
Danny Dyer on the set of The Wall

By Laura Harding

Danny Dyer is pacing round a well-lit sound stage about 25 minutes from Warsaw airport in Poland. He looks trim in a blue suit and is swigging from a can of energy drink with a piece of tape wrapped round it to obscure the brand name.

Every so often, he says something to a crew member, or a middle-aged married couple from the north of England, who have flown out to take part in his new show.

This is a break during the EastEnders star's first outing as a game show host - a new BBC One programme called The Wall, in which contestants must combine strategy, knowledge and luck in a bid for a life-changing cash prize.

The couple have previously told Dyer they want to use the money to fund their young son's dreams of becoming a pilot and he seems to be genuinely invested in them doing well.

"It's a surreal experience," he admits as he sits in his armchair in his dressing room a bit later, after filming is over. "When I filmed the pilot, I was on the verge of tears because it's a really emotional show."

But, as impassioned as he is now, the 42-year-old was not always so keen.

"I'll be honest, I didn't want to do it at first, and that's just me being straight. The opportunity came up and I thought, 'Do I want to be a game show host? Not really.' I mean, I'm quite busy at EastEnders.

"They sent me it, I watched it, the American version, which is always very earnest. There's a lot of money at stake and it was a bit like, 'I don't know if I can pull this off,' Americans are so different to us. And then I thought, 'Do you know what? Go and do the pilot and just see if you enjoy it.' And I really did enjoy it. I did."

He adds: "Did I ever think that I would be hosting my own game show? No. I think that I'm at a period in my life when you've got to try stuff and so I just thought, 'Let's have a go, let's see where this leads'."

I venture if this enthusiasm for trying new things is a by-product of getting older.

"I'm not that old," he retorts with a laugh. "I just think my life at the moment ... I don't take anything for granted, but I'm very grateful for a lot of things I've got in my life.

"And this is a BBC primetime show, it comes on after Strictly. To be asked to do that, you've got to go, 'Okay, I'm very blessed'.

"I think they want something different; they don't want the - no disrespect to anyone - the robotic game show host vibe. And so I'm blagging it and I'm very raw and I said, 'I can only be me, because everyone else is taken'. And I suppose that's what they wanted."

Indeed, this is true - Dyer's hosting is just a reflection of his personality. He hugs me just as warmly as he does the contestants, he swears like a sailor when the cameras are rolling and when they aren't, and his dialogue is peppered with his signature vernacular, which sometimes makes it sound like his EastEnders character, Mick Carter, is hosting the show.

When the couple mention they want to take their son to Disneyland, he tells them it's "a good gaff".

"I'm not acting," he stresses. "So, once I read the stuff and explain the game, all I've got to rely on is me, really. And so I can only feed off the contestants and whatever they're going through, I'll be with them all the way."

Dyer is juggling the hosting gig with his full-time role in EastEnders, as the landlord of the Queen Vic, but is enjoying having another string to his bow.

"I fly out here, I do six episodes in five days, and then I'm straight back Monday morning in the Vic, cracking on. It's weird, isn't it? In the same year, I would have done a West End play, a Harold Pinter play (The Dumb Waiter), I'm in the biggest soap on telly and I'm a game show host."

It was his daughter, former Love Island winner Dani (23), who encouraged him to take the job.

He says: "When I was sort of deliberating whether I should do it, they sent me the episode I'd done and I sent it to her and said, 'Dan, I don't know what to do' and she said, 'Dad, you've got to do it. You're brilliant at it and I'd be so disappointed if you don't'."

He's hopeful there are other challenges in his future, too. His breakout role was as Moff in the cult 1999 film Human Traffic, followed by parts in Mean Machine and The Football Factory and he would like to return to the big screen at some point.

Apparently, the script is all there for Human Traffic 2, but there are other issues at play.

"There's just a lot of politics in making movies now. But I'll never write off making a film - that's where I made my craft. I will definitely go back there one day."

The Wall, BBC One, Saturday, 8.35pm

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