How are you finding the current series with Mollie?
“It’s been really good so far, we’ve done four shows. The first two weeks were when the groups were split in two, so six celebs on week one and five celebs on week two. Week three was all the couples together, so the 11 couples. Yeah, the series has been going really well so far. Everybody is having fun, it’s a really nice group.
“It’s quite fun with Mollie. She’s only 25, so it’s always fun to see what the trends are. It’s quite fun, she’s always ten or fifteen minutes early for the ice and warming up on her own. She’s working really hard. She’s always willing to try new stuff, so it’s been great so far.”
What pressures do you face as a professional on Dancing On Ice?
“Obviously it’s my seventh year, so I feel like it’s natural for me now and I know what my role is as a professional. I know how to challenge and motivate the celebrity, but also to make sure they’re always safe. I think it’s a big part of our jobs. After seven series you get used to it and you know what the production expects from us.
“For example, the judges give a challenge to all the couples, so next week it’s to perform one spin with a minimum of three revolutions, preferably on one foot. Every week they try to add a little challenge like that, which makes it quite interesting. It’s putting the celebrities out of their comfort zone.”
Holly and Phil are big parts of the show, how involved do they get with the contestants?
“Yeah, they get involved during the dress rehearsals. On Sunday we do a full dress run of the show with Holly and Phil, which is their chance to get to talk to the couples. They always try to be reassuring and positive with everyone. The dress run is quite interesting because there isn’t as much pressure as there is on the night. It’s quite good to see how the celebrity reacts on the dress run. Holly and Phil are always professional and have a nice word to say about people.”
Would you like to see them taking part in the show? Who do you think would do better?
“Yeah, that would be fun to see them on the other side. It depends who they’re paired with. I’ve never seen them dance, so that’s a good question. It would be interesting to see a challenge between Holly and Phil – maybe a little solo to see who’s the best.”
Would you like to be partnered with Holly?
“Yes, I would try! Of course.”
Who do you think your biggest competition is on the show?
“Probably the top three, so Nile [Wilson], who is young, fit, flexible, he’s got the strength as a gymnast, and he’s quite competitive. Then we’ve got The Vivienne, who is really good. Carley [Stenson] and Mark [Hanretty] because she’s used to performing and moving to music. Those three are the biggest competition.
“I think Siva [Kaneswaran] has improved a lot from his first show until Sunday. He’s really improved on his position and lines. You can really tell he’s making an effort to look good, so he might be the dark horse.”
Do you think Nile has an advantage as a gymnast?
“Being a gymnast he has a slight advantage because he probably knows better how to hold his body and is probably aware of his body. At the end of the day, you get judged on the lines, your technique and performance in gymnastics. He knows how to compete and he’s probably good under pressure. In that sense, he might have a slight advantage.”
The show has become more diverse over the years, would you be interested in taking part in a same-sex partnership?
“I wouldn’t be against it, definitely not. It would be a challenge, so why not? I think it’s good to include everyone. At the end of the day, it’s an entertainment show then why not? It’s quite entertaining for the public to see different couples. We’ve had people with disabilities as well, and I think it’s interesting to see a big diversity of people in the cast. I think it’s good, very positive.”
You were recently taken to hospital after injuring your chin – has it made you more cautious during rehearsals?
“This story has been made a lot more dramatic than it was. Basically, it was a rehearsal on Thursday night and we were rehearsing a routine on Fame. At the end of the routine, the boys do the worm on the ice. We did it about 15 times and just at one point, whether I was a bit tired or the ice was scratchy, my hands slipped a bit and I banged my chin on the ice. It was from a very low height, but I cut my chin a little bit. It was just a little cut, but the butterfly stitches wouldn’t stick on my beard. That’s why they told me to go to A&E, so it didn’t leave a big scar. That was the only reason why, otherwise I would have stayed on the ice and carried on. I went to A&E and stayed there for ten minutes, had it glued then went straight back on the ice after. It wasn’t anything serious.”
How adventurous is Mollie when it comes to trying new things on the ice?
“The first two weeks we had about six weeks to learn the routine, practice and perfect it. It was a bit easier, but after that, you only get five days to choreograph the new routine, learn the new steps, train and then perform it. It gets quite challenging after that, but I think she likes trying new things. She’s very fearless and she trusts me, so she likes trying new lifts. For her, she prefers new lifts rather than new steps.
“It’s good because you spend so much time with them, whether that’s on the ice or in the studio. It’s always better if you get on really well. I’ve been lucky so far, all of my partners have been fun. As a team you should get on well.”
Christoper Dean mentioned that Mollie had lost confidence during her routine last weekend – would you agree?
“She was quite nervous before the routine, if I’m totally honest. She still works with Corrie at the same time, so we have to balance her work with her time on the ice. Last week, she had the day off on Thursday and I think she found it quite difficult with the day off in the middle of the week, and to still make sure she had everything ready for the weekend. We go to London and train there from Friday, Saturday then the live show on Sunday. I think that was the big challenge for her last week. It was also a very fast routine, so that’s probably why she was a little bit more nervous. I think she was maybe overthinking the steps and that’s what Chris meant when he said about her skating on her own. She looks a little bit more nervous than when she skates with me, which is very often the case with the celebs. They always feel comfortable with their partner and the challenge of skating on their own sometimes can be a bit scary for them. But, funnily enough, she wants to skate more on her own now. She’s taking all the notes on board every week and she wants to do a bit more skating on her own. We’ll see what happens!”
He also challenged Mollie to do the headbanger this week – is she going to?
“We’ll have to see how it goes. We’re going to take it very slowly, there’s a few different stages to learning the headbanger. For the first one we start with the floating spin, so the girl’s on the ice and we very gently spin her around until she takes off very slowly, without doing any bouncing. Then when the girl gets more confident and used to holding the position, then we start to add small bounces. Then when we’re really sure the girl knows what she’s doing, then we can add a bit more height in the bounces. I will find out tomorrow, but we’re going to try our best to do it on Sunday – fingers crossed!
“There’s not a pressure to perform it, but I know every year they like to have at least one or many couples doing it. I remember when I did the series with my wife, Samia, we did it in week three or four. We’re not pressured, but we’re challenged. We’re never really pressured into something that could potentially be dangerous, unless we feel like we can do it. Mollie wanted to do the headbanger from week two, so I think she’s quite happy with the challenge. There’s no pressure and she really wants to do it. It’s interesting that Chris asked us to do it first, so it should be fun.”
How has Mollie found juggling the show and working on Corrie?
“It was more difficult before Christmas because she was quite busy, but she hasn’t been as busy for the last three weeks, which has been better for her. I know Corrie always tries to help and rearrange the schedule when one of the cast is on Dancing On Ice. There was only one day last week where we were struggling to find any ice time with her schedule on Coronation Street, so we had to turn it into a day off. We usually get a day off at the beginning of the week, but last week it had to be on Thursday. That’s why she found it a little bit harder. Today is our day off, so we’re going to have right up until Sunday, so we don’t get a break in between. I think Mollie prefers that. She prefers having no days off until the show.”
What are your thoughts on the current judging panel?
“I think the judges are brilliant! Obviously with Ashley and Oti being dancers, they’ve been on reality shows. Oti was a pro on Strictly, so she knows how it works for the celebs and the pros. I think it’s great and obviously with Chris and Jayne, they know everything about ice skating and couples. I think it’s a perfect panel for the judges.”
Do you ever think the judges are too critical, especially during the early stages of the competition?
“Not anymore since Jason Gardiner has left! I think it’s always very positive criticism with the judges. There’s no nastiness, so they want you to improve, without making you feel like you have done something wrong. It’s always constructive and they want us to improve. It’s never personal, so I think those judges are really good.”
What was the reaction from the cast following Ekin-Su’s departure?
“It is always hard when someone leaves the competition because we know how hard everybody works. We spend lots of hours on the ice learning the routine and building partnerships. It’s always very sad when someone leaves, but I guess it’s the game every week that someone has to leave. We’re used to it. You always feel sad for the couple that gets voted out.
“She was friends with everyone. Her boyfriend was there on the night, which was good that he was there. She was quite upset after the show. You never want to be in that position in the skate off and losing it. It’s always quite upsetting, so I think it was good for her that her boyfriend was there on the night.”
Have you prepared Mollie for taking part in the skate off?
“Yeah! Last Sunday she was worried she was going to be in the skate off. Mollie was really nervous, so I had to reassure her that it doesn’t matter whether we were in the skate off or not, just do your best and then see what happens. It’s our job to reassure them and make sure they’re confident on the ice.”
You’ve been on the show for years now, how has it changed?
“Now there’s a lot more social media involved with the show that wasn’t there in my first year, which was 12 years ago. It’s more interactive with the public, so you can get in touch with the pros and the celebs. I think that’s been a good thing over the years. You get positive and also negative comments. If I’m totally honest, there’s a lot more positive comments than negative. I think when people are fans of the show, You have to ignore the nasty comments. When someone is trying to attack you personally, you just have to ignore it and get on with your day. I know it’s hard to do when someone comments on the way you look, the way you skate or the way you work, but I just try to ignore them.
“Mollie is good at dealing with the comments and the public. I don’t think she’s bothered about negative comments. She’s quite chilled in that sense.”
How do you balance home life and skating whilst competing on the show?
“Me and my wife have found a balance. When I’m in London, she’s holding the fort, looking after the kids and the house. She’s been brilliant for that. That was mainly after Christmas because that’s when I spend more time in London. I’ve been lucky enough to be paired with someone in Manchester this year, so pre-Christmas I spent most of my days at home. It’s always a bit more tricky once the show starts. We both know it’s only for another five weeks, then after that it’s finished. We have a really good balance at the moment.”
Do you think it helps that Samia has competed on the show?
“She’s very supportive and knows how it works. She was also working at Corrie at the time, so she knows how much time it can take. She’s been supportive with that, she’s been great.”
You’ve competed alongside Corrie stars in recent years – who else from the cast would you like to see on the ice?
“In terms of the Corrie cast, we’re good friends with Alison King. She would be a good one and she lives round the corner from us. I’m sure she’d be up for the challenge.
“I’ve had loads of actresses over the years, so maybe someone sporty, like a gymnast or an athlete. That would be quite interesting I think.”