Michael Ball: I know my TV show could fail but I'm willing to give it a go
~ Steve Hendry for Daily Record - 14/082010 ~
MICHAEL BALL has learned to face the music all his career.
As a grandstand star performer in West End shows including Les Miserables, Aspects of Love, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and, most recently Hairspray, the actor, singer and presenter has looked his audience in the eye and delivered time and time again.
Even so, the 48-year-old performer reckons his next role, fronting his own daytime TV series - The Michael Ball Show - could see his luck run out.
He says: "It's six weeks of five shows a week and yes, I'm under no illusions it may fall at on its face. These things often do. But we might find something there. If I enjoy it, if ITV like it and there's an audience, we might even come back for more.
"I'm old enough and wise enough to know the first show isn't going to be the best one we ever do. It will get there, however.
"The trouble with this is there's no training. You are kind of winging it. But you surround yourself with good people, hold your nerve and hope it will be fine."
Given his vast experience on stage, which includes winning a prestigious Olivier award for playing 28-stone agoraphobic mum Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, a role he played on stage for over a year, you would perhaps expect daytime TV to be a walk in the park for him. But he's not having that.
He says: "You're kidding me on. No. The difference with doing theatre or a musical is it's the same show every day so you learn how to pace it. You are not thinking on your feet so much because it is what it is.
"But when it's going to be different every day, you have to plan for it and do your research. There's a lot involved with all of that.
"And, to be honest, I don't really know what it's going to be like because I've never done it before.
"I might find it easy, I might find it absolutely knackering. That's part of the process of finding out. I'm going into this open-eyed. It's a bit of an experiment."
Having been there and done that in the past, he assumes nothing. He previously hosted his own show in 1993, introducing the likes of the Bee Gees, Elaine Paige, Take That and legends including the late Ray Charles and Tammy Wynette.
He says: "It was a half-hour music show, me singing then introducing a guest and I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I wish I had.
"There was no one really guiding me either, so I was kind of left to my own devices. It was disappointing for me. I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have."
As a result, he's determined not to make the same mistake again, which is why he's looking to eat, drink and be merry on camera.
While the show's remit is usual daytime fayre - it's billed as a topical mix of entertainment, discussion and showbiz glamour with the occasional musical treat thrown in from the man himself - part of the TV on offer will see him cooking live for a member of the public each day. It might seem leftfield but it's an idea which has come from Michael himself.
He says: "My plan is I will be talking to a member of the public every day and while I'm doing that I will cook them a meal with the help of a well-known chef.
"I think food helps people talk better. It's my idea, as you might have guessed. I want to learn to cook. I'm quite good in the kitchen but I don't really know what I'm doing. It's going to be frantic and I want to throw in wine-tasting too."
He's not making things easy for himself but that's the way he likes it. Michael, whose partner is former Ready Steady Go! presenter Cathy McGowan, only had a week off from touring with Hairspray before taking on the show but he just didn't want to miss the opportunity.
Tentative approaches were made to see if he would be interested in a daytime slot and, having dabbled - presenting shows like The National Lottery and Children in Need and guest-hosting This Morning - he was keen to get on board.
He likes a chat, does Michael. And, having presented a show on Radio Two, he's more than happy to play the straight man.
He says: "I am basically being myself and I am interested in people. It's good to talk.
"You want the best out of the people around you. That's what makes the best show. So you are trying to be relaxed and con dent and helpful to people to bring out the best in them.
"That is your job. It is not your job to shine, it is to make your guests shine. But it can't be contrived. I think you have to be spontaneous - you have to be prepared for anything, be it happy, sad, moving, whatever.
"My job is to be the anchor for all of that but it doesn't mean I can't muck about.
"There is always an element of performance. As a professional, if you are having a bad day, you don't take that on stage or on camera with you. That's not your job. Your job is to make people at home feel good and entertained."
He cites Jonathan Ross, Michael Parkinson, Kirsty Young and, daytime doyenne from a different age, Mavis Nicholson, as chat show hosts he admires but he will be trying to find his own style.
He will have a say in which guests come on the show but is realistic about any wish list he has.
An hour a day, five days a week, is a lot of screen time to fill.
He will be using his showbiz contacts to get household names on but he will also be looking to get on guests he admires. He says, jokingly: "I want some older performers, partly because that will be me one day - I'm building up karmic points.
"No, when I was starting off in the business, I would love to sit and listen to older, experienced performers talking about their adventures in the business.
"That's how you learn and they also have some great tales.
"There will be an element of talking to people who aren't in the business, who haven't got anything to plug, they are just interesting people with a story to tell. It shouldn't always be just about selling your latest book or whatever.
"The producers are never going to put somebody on if I say 'absolutely not' but, on the other hand, I am also relying on them to say this is quite interesting, to inform me of people I maybe don't know so much about.
"I can always say I would love to have this person on, maybe friends or performers or somebody I've spoken to on radio who I think is interesting. You have to be realistic. It's a big fill, five hours a week and you can't always be as choosy as you'd want to be."
His dream guest is something of a surprise, and someone far removed from the flamboyant stars of stage and screen he is used to working with - Camilla Parker Bowles.
He says: "I would love to interview her. I just think she would be a really interesting person to talk to. She has such a fascinating story. I've met her a couple of times and she is also really funny. She's one of the most recognisable people in the world.
"She wouldn't be selling anything, it wouldn't be a junket, it would just be something out of the ordinary.
"I think those can be the most interesting chats."
And, of course, if there are any slots to fill or awkward silences, he can always just have a sing song.
The show's secret weapon is Michael's voice, perhaps most famous for Aspects of Love, and he will be using it. He says: "I'll probably perform on the opening show but I will be singing once a week. I think it's going to be the Friday treat - well for me anyway.".