■ The TV presenter, 45, on his new ITV game show, Louis Tomlinson on The X Factor and how fame is affecting his cat
You’re hosting a new ITV game show, Small Fortune, but you don’t normally do these kinds of programmes, do you?
I actually wasn’t looking to do a game show but an old friend at ITV got in touch and said, ‘I know this isn’t your thing but this might be.’ He asked me to go to the run-through and it made me laugh! My whole take on this was, ‘You can’t take it too seriously.’ The jeopardy and tension looks after itself as the show goes on, especially when it’s the final game and you are playing for £150k. It just worked.
What’s it all about?
It consists of a series of physical games each set in a miniature world. You need to win three games to get to the final. I love the ones that are based on landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe and Marble Arch and ones like a circus tightrope with a unicycle! Each member of the team is allowed one free practice in every game. It has a touch of Crystal Maze to it in that you can lose players along the way.
Does anyone win £150k?
You’ll have to watch to find out! If you think about it, you have to have courage and hardiness to go, ‘OK, I will do one practice and take it on, win it and then play for £150k.’
Did you have any celebrities cameo on the show?
Yes, Richard Madeley, his daughter Chloe and her husband, James [Haskell, the England rugby star], came on. What was nuts is that Chloe and James got married the day before and then they filmed this. James genuinely couldn’t play some of the games as his hands were bigger than the game.
Have you ever won a small fortune?
I won £20 when I was eight. I treated mum and dad to dinner that night. I won it on a raffle and back then, you may as well have won five grand. We went to The George in Colchester, which we’d go to every Sunday as all the Irish went there — we went after Mass.
Are you super-competitive at home with board games?
My wife is a really good card player and always beats me but you get resigned to that. I love a pub quiz but I’m not competitive enough. I work hard enough so when you are playing a game you don’t have to be ruthless.
What else are you up to?
I’ve got the Baftas red carpet, which will be great, and then a third kids’ book… I love them.
Aw yes, your cat is in the books, isn’t it? The cat is a national hero
It’s going to her head. After the book, I am going to take a holiday and then it’s The X Factor.
Louis Tomlinson was a revelation as a judge…
Wasn’t he great? He is a really good A&R guy. I thought he would be good but I didn’t think he would be that good. Who his artists should be working with were spot on and he didn’t take himself too seriously but took the job very seriously.
Talking of working hard, you are one of the hardest-working TV presenters in the business. Has that helped you last?
I have a good work ethic and I think that sort of takes you a long way in telly. If you work hard and you are easy to work with then you will get work. It doesn’t take effort for me, as I like people and work. As long as you are yourself, then you hope the jobs will come.
So is there anything else you would love to do?
I did a show with the BBC last year called Reel Stories. It was with Kylie Minogue, looking back on her career. I am going to be doing some more of those. The one consequence of moving to the morning on the radio is I don’t get to interview people very often any more. I miss that but I am working on a podcast that is close to signing off.
How do you switch off? You’re a massive Arsenal fan so do you go to their games?
That doesn’t make it easier to switch off, let me tell you! To be honest, I have been at it a while now but you do find your moments and you find your work/life balance relatively easily. It’s more to do with scheduling. Towards the end of last year, I had a handful of days off over four months but as long as you enjoy work, then you can find the time to do little things. We spend a lot of time in Italy.
Do you exercise a lot?
I was out this morning. I did a session with the trainer. That’s part and parcel of the job. You have to keep fit and if the body is healthy and the mind quite active, then I go to bed tired. I always want to feel like I am in good shape and not sluggish, especially as you get older.
You sound really happy…
Yes. I am very happy and grateful, even though my cat is attacking me right now!
Small Fortune is on ITV on Saturdays at 7pm