Rylan Clark-Neal: 'I love my job. Not many people can actually say that ... I'm just grateful to be back in the studio'

Trolleys at the ready! Rylan Clark-Neal is back fronting Supermarket Sweep on ITV. He talks to Kerri-Ann Roper about getting by during lockdown and the 'new normal'

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Supermarket Sweep host Rylan Clark-Neal

Supermarket Sweep host Rylan Clark-Neal

PA

Supermarket Sweep host Rylan Clark-Neal

He's been labelled one of the hardest-working people in showbiz - and it's a title Rylan Clark-Neal more than lives up to. Take the last few weeks, for example. The former X Factor star and Big Brother presenter has just finished filming 25 episodes of Supermarket Sweep in eight days.

It's no easy task, but the 33-year-old hasn't ever been one to bat an eyelash at hard graft.

"There are times when I definitely have overworked myself," he says down the phone, days after filming on the second series of the rebooted popular show has wrapped.

"But, at the same time, I remember how lucky I am. I love my job, not many people can actually say they love their job.

"This won't last forever; it might not last forever. I could break both legs in the morning, I don't know. So, I'd rather just do it, just do the right things. Believe me, I say no to a lot as well."

Such is Clark-Neal's appeal that the series is "returning home" when it airs on weekdays in the autumn, following news it will move from ITV2 to ITV.

Originally hosted by the late Dale Winton, the series ran from 1993 until 2001 and was revived for a short period in 2007.

Now, the reboot features many of the original elements, including the inflatables in the fake supermarket, the catchphrases, the trolley dash and the "memorable jumpers" worn by the contestants.

Clark-Neal is the host once again, with Coronation Street star Jennie McAlpine on the Tannoy.

It is reported to be among the first productions to resume after filming ground to a halt across the board due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's been lovely being back, I'm just grateful I'm back in the studio and the team have been unbelievable, so I'm really happy with it," he says.

With social distancing and wearing masks now a mandatory part of life, what was like on set like?

He explains: "For us to be Covid-secure, there's been a lot of changes in how we work, how the day runs, how teams work. They've all got to be from the same household - if they're not, they've got to be tested and put in hotels.

"But, actually, for the viewer, there's no change whatsoever, which is unbelievable. I don't know how we've managed to do it, but we've done it within the parameters and the way we shoot it, it's not going to look like a lockdown show, there's no Zoom involved, no masks. So, it's going to look like the Sweep we know and love."

Presenting aside, Clark-Neal's priority on set was the contestants.

"I mean, look, my job as the host is to make contestants feel comfortable anyway. I'm always on their side, I'm never not on their side," he says. "But I think this year, more so than ever, it's just making them feel comfortable in those first couple of seconds that you meet them and, lucky enough, I did and they were comfortable, the contestants were great - all ages, now we're back on ITV, which is brilliant. It was a real pleasure; hard work, but a proper pleasure."

And, again, he seems completely nonplussed that he's just ticked off a long few days of work. Instead of sounding weary, he is, he says, grateful.

"Because, at any minute, something could change at any second of the day.

"There could have been a local lockdown, there could have been anything, so we just said, 'Right, three shows a day, eight days. Let's do it.' And then we've got a whole series and a whole celebrity series done, so we're over the moon."

With the cult 1990s' daytime show returning to screens last year, with Clark-Neal at the helm for the first time, there were surely presenting nerves ahead of his Sweep debut.

Having risen to fame as a contestant on The X Factor in 2012, he gained a legion of fans and went on to win Celebrity Big Brother in 2013.

With reality TV a fixture in his life, he went on to host Celebrity Big Brother's Bit On The Side and last year joined Zoe Ball to co-host the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing companion show, It Takes Two.

But now, as the second outing of Supermarket Sweep nears, with the main series on weekdays and six celebrity specials (featuring I'm A Celebrity winners Scarlett Moffatt and Jacqueline Jossa, Roman and Martin Kemp and more) later in the year, are there still traces of nerves?

"You never know, as a host, if something is going to work or not and the amount of shows that I think every host presents that only ever last one series is probably more than the ones that don't," he says, matter-of-factly.

"It was a shock to me, but it performed really well for ITV2 for the demographic they were after, which is obviously a lot younger, but now it's time to sort of bring it home. Now, it feels like it's grown up and we're ready to come back properly."

There's a short interruption as he converses with mum Linda in the background. The pair have appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Gogglebox together and he references her often on his BBC Radio 2 show and beyond, so when are they going to do their own TV series?

"Don't give her ideas, please," he says laughing.

Asked about lockdown, he says: "I don't really think it has ended yet, which is a bit strange. But I did exactly the same as everyone else for those first few weeks: I was house-bound, following the rules, doing what I needed to do.

"But there's no complaints from my end - I've got a garden, so I've got outdoor space. A lot of people have had it a lot worse."

Later, he reflects on lockdown again, adding: "I was forced to stop, as was everyone else, and I just think it's a reminder that everyone is on the same playing field and it doesn't matter what job you do, where you come from, where you live, everyone is the same at the end of the day."

Supermarket Sweep, ITV, Tuesday, 3pm

Belfast Telegraph