You’re playing Dandini, a notorious scene stealer. Do you think you share any traits?
No, you can ask anyone I work with and I’m the last person to want more lines. That’s why I think me and June Sarpong [who co-presented T4 with Vernon] worked so well: we were so laid back, like ‘you do it’ ‘no, I’m not doing it you do it’. We were the complete opposite of scene stealing. James Bisp, who is playing the Prince, is someone I’ve actually worked with before. He's dashingly handsome and he's the perfect match for Cinderella, Verity Thompson.
I heard that you got involved in the casting.
Well, I went to one of the casting mornings just to see what happens. We were swamped with talent; if it was up to me we would have 20 Cinderellas and 40 Fairy Godmothers but unfortunately that’s not how it works. I think the Arts is such a brutal industry; going to castings and getting knocked back. There are loads of gigs you’re just not right for, and I guess that is what it is.
I really enjoyed being nosy and seeing what people do, and how they perform. There was lots of hand gestures; you can tell the kids that have come fresh out of drama school because they accentuate their hand movements, and everything. I was saying to my daughter it’s amazing how many performances I saw that were exactly the same, though. The, we had one lady – one of our ugly sisters, a Scouse girl – come in and the moment she opened her mouth I was in fits of laughter. Her accent, the way she carried herself, she looked the part – she wasn't ugly but you could tell she had the stature to be an ugly sister; she was so funny. So, we have an ugly sister from Liverpool and an ugly sister from Essex and I think the two of them together will be absolutely hilarious.
I’m thinking different dads…
That’s the gag – don't ruin it! The baroness turns around and says ‘I was busy in my youth’ or something like that.
Is this your first acting role.
You’re the first person who's said this, but I guess it is an acting role, isn't it? Yeah, I’m really excited. Our cast are so experienced and they've done West End shows so we've built a team that can really carry a show because the guy whose face is on the poster has never done it before…I guess he's kind of hoping that the safety net is going to be so good that people won't realise. Like anything at this scale you've got to throw yourself into it and I’m really excited because I've never done it before and I think life is all about new experiences.
It’s kind of stepping into unchartered waters which I really like because I do the TV, I do the radio, corporate hosting and sport and entertainment; this, that and the other. I always want to try something new. I like a challenge and we're a panto family. We watch it every year we absolutely love it. To be a part of it – especially one as local as this – is a real treat.
You have settled and made your family life in Buckinghamshire. What good northern traditions do you and Tess uphold?
Cup of tea in the morning, cup of tea when you get in from work. Our chippy is always busy.
Do they do chips and gravy?
No, because our local chippy does great fish and gravy would ruin the batter. Chips with gravy is great but chips, fish and gravy to me is a no-no because your batter should always be crispy.
What about family Christmas traditions?
All of them. I got told off last Christmas for making our garden look like one of the forecourts of a garden centre: I put everything up. Inflatables in the front and back you know? It did look quite crazy. I got a telling off for that, but I want everyone to know it’s Christmas. I think this year Christmas has to be a special one for everyone considering the times that we are in at the moment. We have to invest ourselves in the good times. Christmas is friends and family.
In that spirit, which is the best gift you have ever received?
The best gift I ever got was my lucky horseshoe ring. I brought the original from Graceland and it was like tin or copper – it was really cheap. I always had it on my desk on top of this figurine of Tom Brady who's the best quarterback ever (I’m a big American football fan). So, my ring went missing and I’m like, has anyone seen my lucky Elvis ring? It had vanished and I was gutted I had lost it. Then for our tenth wedding anniversary Tess gave me this box and what she had done is taken that ring to Hatton Garden and had it made in platinum with real diamonds. She said, yeah, it’s been in the jewellers for eight months being copied. I never used to wear it, because it’s quite special, but I thought I would wear it for I’m A Celebrity, just to remind me of the gang and how lucky I am. After, I couldn't get it off, so it’s a sign.
And the best you’ve ever given?
I’m quite good at giving gifts. Tess likes this guy called Deepak Chopra, who's a wellbeing guru, so I brought a trip away for both of us as a Christmas present. We went to Austin Texas – have you ever been there? Put it on your wish list. It’s like Ibiza and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, all the good bits on steroids. It’s unbelievable. Texas is known for its Christianity and its conservative views, but Austin is an anomaly; it’s wild. We had a great time there and then I arranged an opportunity for her to sit with Deepak, one-on-one, which is cool. So that’s probably one of the best.
You are very much in demand at the moment. Amongst other things, I see you are also presenting Dance Anthems of the 90's for BBC Radio 2. What would 2022 Vernon say to 90s Vernon?
Crack on son. Keep going, don’t worry about it. Get yourself into as much trouble as possible – not that I ever did.
I think that’s a different time. There were no mobile phones, we only recorded something if someone had a Snappy Snap camera which you sent off to Truprint. It was a decade that was blissfully ignorant but fully aware of what was happening. We were driven in the 90s; the change of politics and this willingness to be free and enjoy the moment. Now I think we try to capture so many moments which you never watch back. I’ve been to a couple of festivals with my daughter and all these kids have their phones up in the air. I’m like, you’re never going to watch it back. People record to show off and put it on their social media but back in the 90s we lived the moment, for what it actually was and we captured it between our ears.
So true. Final question, who would you like to see going in the Jungle this year?
That’s a good question. Do you know what, the Loose Women do things individually but I’d like to see them go in as a collective, supporting each other – can you imagine? When I’ve done shows the Loose Women studio has always been a hive of activity; the noise that comes from their makeup room is brilliant. They all get on so well, the banter is outrageous. I just think a stripped-down version of Loose Women with bugs and gunk and hats with corks dangling down. It would be insane.
Can you imagine? And imagine the conversations. I think it would probably take until the third day when hunger kicks in. Anything beyond then and you'd get the Loose Women going – not necessarily each other – but at Ant and Dec. It would be brilliant.
Vernon Kay will be starring as Dandini in Cinderella at The Wycombe Swan between 9-31 December
For tickets and further information,