■ The daytime TV judge, 41, on his new show, his famous friends and why he isn’t good at being single
How excited are you about your new show, The Rob Rinder Verdict?
Super excited. For a long time satirical current affairs shows have done the same kind of thing but ours asks interesting questions with a wry comic eye — a bit like what Clive James used to do. It’s very easy to criticise the political right, Boris and that sort of thing, but for a TV show to be as open-minded and inclusive on both sides as ours is kind of unusual.
Are you careful not to voice your own opinions?
I’m not going to be biased. If somebody in front of me is an idiot, I’ll comment on what they say. And The Rob Rinder Verdict won’t be predicated on any tribal loyalty I have. There are some really extraordinary films we’ve done too, the kind of stuff where you’ll think, ‘Did I see that?’ We’ll show some really surreal experiences that are definitely going to challenge viewers.
Which of the subjects you discuss do you think will be the most controversial?
Euthanasia, for one. We’re also going to be asking questions about things such as living off-grid, masculinity and straight pride. We’ll be getting a broad range of people in the public eye to talk about them.
On your show Good Year, Bad Year you asked former chancellor George Osborne when Brexit was going to happen…
Didn’t he say, ‘F*** knows’? I’m an honorary godfather to his daughter. He’s an interesting person. He’s a bit like Ed Balls, who was one of the most vilified politicians in government but then he did Strictly Come Dancing and we found out he’s lovable, mildly camp and a good egg. People have many opinions about George and I understand why but when people meet him they are always a bit surprised by what a kind, funny, engaged person he is.
How did you meet Osborne?
Years ago my ex-husband worked with one of his advisers and we became friends. Ed I knew a little bit before Strictly but he was such a delight. We used to go and have spray tans together. I always say life turns on a dime. I used to do law in The Hague, the Netherlands — fast forward to Strictly and I was wearing lederhosen when Boris Becker walked past and said to me, ‘I like your outfit, I was wearing the same thing three weeks ago.’ It’s delightful and reassuring to know life has the capacity to improve.
It sounds like you’re very well connected.
Yes, I think it’s just luck. I went to Manchester University in the 1990s at a time when it was a magical place. It was a cultural renaissance and various theatre directors of the Young and Old Vic, Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch and Mathew Horne of Gavin And Stacey were there. And then, because a lot of friends from the Bar went into politics, I now have lots of friends in politics as well as in entertainment.
What did Strictly do for you?
I learned to dance for free. Unlike so much else on social media and TV, it galvanises everybody to want everyone to do well.
Are you enjoying the single life?
I’ve set up five heterosexual couples — five marriages, in fact — including actor Brooke Kinsella with my flatmate from university. I can do it for other people but not for myself. I met actor Andrew Scott at the Baftas and I look back and, honestly, you know that phrase, ‘I carried a watermelon’ from the film Dirty Dancing when Baby got flustered when she met Johnny? That’s what I do.
You’re a role model for men…
There are many who are infinitely better than me. It doesn’t get old to say that the biggest killer of men under the age of 40 is suicide. But that’s the horrid news. The good news is we can get better at talking about it.
You found out some incredible things on Who Do You Think You Are?
Yes, and we are making another programme about the Holocaust for the 75th anniversary. I took my mum to Treblinka, Poland, which was profoundly emotional. The gift of meeting the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors is so important, not just because of the testimony but to be in the presence of people who have experienced and touched the face of tyranny.
Are you happy with the career balance you have at the moment?
Yes. I love making Judge Rinder so hopefully that will continue, and this new show — let’s see. It has a different voice. It’s been a while since we’ve had the kind of thing Clive James was doing on TV — satirical, sardonic questioning and inclusive.
■ The Rob Rinder Verdict starts tomorrow at 10pm on C4