What would you say to people that have enjoyed watching Blue Planet II on the TV who are thinking of going to the Live in Concert?
If you watch Blue Planet II, I don’t think there’s a person who watched it that didn’t fall in love with it. It was more than a TV show, it was a moment, and it’s a moment that’s gone down in television history already. So, if you watched it, you loved it, then you cannot miss this live tour because it’s a fully immersive experience. You’ll be able to see those iconic moments – surfing dolphins on a huge screen with an 80 piece live orchestra playing that incredible soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. It’s not to be missed, you’d just be bonkers if you didn’t come!
Are there any parts of the event that you’re personally looking forward to?
I can’t wait to be part of it! The penny hasn’t quite dropped that I’m hosting it because I will be standing there in front of 12,000 people at The O2 and all the various arenas that we’re going to, and holding the show together… which will be interesting! I just can’t wait to be part of it; it’s such an honour to be asked to do this show. I’ve done the Strictly tour, which was an incredible thing to be part of, but to be part of the Blue Planet brand, which is so well loved and is some of the greatest tele on earth.
What inspired you to join Blue Planet II Live in Concert?
It was a no-brainer for me. I love everything the NHU produce, obviously growing up, David Attenborough was a huge part of my life as he is with everybody, and Blue Planet II is just an overwhelming television programme that just stayed with me, so to be asked to host the tour is, yeah, such an honour.
Blue Planet II has highlighted the damage plastic does to the marine life. Have you made any changes to using single-use products, such as plastic straws? Do you have any tips for people wanting to make changes to their own lives where plastics are concerned?
I think Blue Planet, it just shows the power of television, and it really did change the attitude of the nation I think towards single-use plastic and made us aware about the damage we are doing to our beautiful planet and our oceans. What am I doing? I’m doing as much as I can at the moment. So there’s lots that people can do, and you’re quite right, the first thing people can do is stop using plastic straws, because we’re adults… we don’t need straws, we can drink from a glass! * laughing *
Carrier bags – I think that’s really sunk into people’s brains. Little things that you can do, just have a canvas sack with you when you go to the supermarket. There’s lots you can do and there’s lots I’m discovering as well.
Our planets, and especially our oceans, are often misunderstood due to how vast they are. How do you think the event will ignite more people’s curiosity?
I think it’s very easy to live in our little concrete bubbles that we do and programmes like Blue Planet and all those natural history programmes open our eyes to the world – that’s television at it’s best. That’s why I love working in television because it’s a medium that can really impact people and show them what’s happening elsewhere outside of their living rooms. Two thirds of our planet’s surface is ocean and we know so little about it. The alien kingdom isn’t over there in the stars somewhere, it’s right here, and this programme has taken us deeper than we’ve ever been and shown us all those bizarre creatures that have been there for way longer than we have; the one that sticks in my mind is the Bobbit Worm, do you remember the Bobbit Worm? The weird alien creature that’s about a metre long, and I think the fact was, which really stuck with me, it’s been on Earth for 400 million years! So, it kind of puts us into perspective really, doesn’t it? We’ll be long gone but the Bobbit Worm will still be going!
The best part about attending Blue Planet II Live in Concert is…
It will change your life!
You’ve done many fascinating documentaries in the past, is this event similar to what you’ve done previously or will it be a new experience for you?
I have made lots of documentaries, I’m very lucky that I get to do a variety of programmes that cross all sorts of different topics – from Bollywood, to the partition of India, to big history programmes, to Countryfile of course, but this is very different. To do a live tour and host it in front of thousands of people, the closest I’ve come is I did the Strictly tour. After I danced on Strictly, I danced on the tour and then the following year, I had the honour of hosting the tour. That’s the closest I’ve come to it but even then I don’t think this compares to that, I just think this is an entity within itself.
During the filming of Blue Planet II, film crews embarked on over 125 expeditions, travelled to 39 countries and spent over 6000 hours of deep sea diving. Could you see yourself taking part in a similar expedition?
* laughing * Oh my god, yeah! In my heart, alright, not even in my heart, I wear it quite openly on my sleeve – I am an adventurer, so any opportunity to go on an adventure. But that is dedication, isn’t it? 4 years of your life to make a TV show, I mean, I don’t know if I have that much patience, but if the product you’re producing is of the quality of Blue Planet, then it’s worth the investment, isn’t it? It would be amazing to be a part of a programme like that.
What were your thoughts when you first watched Blue Planet on the TV? Did you get as hooked as the rest of the nation?
Absolutely. I think I was part of the movement, I think the nation was just drawn to it. It was the talking point and they do what they did with the first one, they just opened our eyes to an alien world. It was the talking point for everybody the next day at work, wasn’t it? “Did you see that scene? Did you see that?” It’s so much bigger than a TV show, it tells you something about humanity, it tells you something about our planet. It’s something that is embedded, it’s not like watching an entertainment show that is fun and entertaining, watching Blue Planet II hasn’t left me. Those scenes are with us forever.
Talking of scenes, have you got a particular favourite scene from the series that stands out and sticks in your memory?
Apart from the Bobbit Worm! * laughing * The Bobbit Worm really does stick in my memory as it really was so weird. Oh goodness me, what else? Who doesn’t love seeing dolphins? Spinning dolphins, or even surfing dolphins. The fact that dolphins surf the waves and they don’t really know why they do it, they think they do it for fun, and that is just beautiful.
Being involved with Countryfile, are you made more aware of environmental issues and have you had much experience of seeing the effects of the issues first hand?
I think working on Countryfile and the important role that Countryfile has to play is that it connects rural Britain to urban Britain. It’s a rural affair show, but half of the audience are living in urban areas. I live in a city, and I love living in London, I think it’s just important to connect the dots to know where your food comes from, to know that you wanting to pay not very much for your milk has an impact in what is happening in our rural communities. In that sense, absolutely Countryfile does draw our attention to the impact we have on the environment.
Have you been on tour before around arenas?
Yes, Strictly. So I danced on it, then I hosted it one year, so back on the road again! In my head obviously I’m a rock star that’s been on tour around the world and back so in my mind, many times! * laughing *
What was the difference between being a participant on an arena show to then the following year to being the host, which is a lot closer to what you’re going to be doing this time?
Yeah, completely different. Well, this is my job, so when I danced on the show, I was dancing and still part of the Strictly tour, but when you’re hosting, this is the day job – I’m in presenter mode. It’s like being the conductor of an orchestra in many ways, you kind of have to keep the attention of the audience, you have to take them on the journey with you and make sure that they are all experiencing something, the same thing. I want people to have a really joyful, all encompassing, magical experience, and of course the orchestra and the visuals are going to provide that, but my little delicate job of connecting the dots, will hopefully add to the whole experience.
Does an arena audience differ from studio audiences that you’ve perhaps had in the past?
Oh yeah, well there are thousands of them! * laughing * Oh my god, yeah, totally different. It’s weird because live TV is terrifying and I think this will be also terrifying, but it’s good nerves. I’ll be prepared hopefully before I step out there.
If you’re saying it’s good nerves, are you looking forward to being in front of thousands every night?
Can’t wait! I really can’t wait. Rather than being in front of thousands, just being part of the experience of the Blue Planet II tour. To be part of that gang, and that team is going to be something I’ll never forget.
Have you got any pre-show rituals that you do before TV that you’ll continue doing whilst you’re backstage before you go on for the arena tour?
I don’t know – I always wanted to be sick before going on Strictly but I don’t think I’ll be doing that! Preparation is key, just making sure I’m ready to go out there. I do have a little mini Ganesh actually. I’m not religious but I love religious Hindu iconography and he is the elephant god, and he’s the remover of obstacles. I bought him when I went backpacking round India and he’s really cool, so he might come on tour with me.
Are you excited to be heading to Newcastle on the tour?
Who doesn’t love the Geordies? I cannot wait! It’s beautiful, the last time I was there I was doing the Strictly tour and I went for this amazing run along the river first thing in the morning as the sun was rising an I can’t wait to do the same – obviously, because I’m not going to be too exhausted, am I? * laughing * They’ve got a great cinema there as well, there’s a really beautiful art-house cinema in the centre of town that I went to as well, so I’m looking forward to that.