The Britain’s Got Talent judge, comedian and author, 49, on backing Ashley Banjo, Simon Cowell’s return and wanting to see James Bond on the toilet.
With everything that has gone on this year are you expecting tonight’s BGT final to be the most emotional ever?
Yes, talking to the acts they, like everyone else, have had a rough six months. I really felt for them in the semi-finals. Normally if you are seen on a massive show like BGT you get a lot more bookings and are able to ride that wave but they haven’t had the opportunity to work at all. I think winning the final will mean more to the acts than ever before.
Did the virtual audience take a bit of getting used to?
I thought it was a great idea. It means there is an audience and the giant screen looks great. Plus the audience can applaud and laugh. We even had one lady flashing her breasts! Making TV shows has become about being as creative as possible to work with the restrictions. This series of BGT had been better than anyone could have imagined under these very strange circumstances.
What was it like watching Ashley Banjo’s performance with Diversity for the first time?
I didn’t know anything about the performance before I saw it, but I thought it was incredibly powerful and moving. It was one of the greatest moments of TV ever. I don’t understand the controversy because the message isn’t controversial, but if it caused debate then that is a good thing. To be able to use your imagination and talent like that to make the whole country sit up and think is a very special thing. I 100% support Ashley on this and told him immediately after the performance that he is a great artist. Not only is Ashley a magnificent dancer but he is a supremely talented choreographer and creative force. I was in total awe.
Ashley is very good with his analysis. You feel like you learn something each time he speaks.
Yeah, I’ll exclude myself from this, but I think the mark of a good talent show judge is being able to say something negative. I know I rarely do but Ashley wasn’t scared to critique the acts. He didn’t just tell everyone that they’re wonderful, which is of course what I do. I felt he spoke the truth every time he opened his mouth. I thought, ‘You’re right. I wish I’d said that!’ Although the viewers probably prefer me to be silly rather than become too serious.
Have you been teasing Simon Cowell that he needn’t rush back with Ashley filling his shoes?
Filling his slot. Well, if you’ve suffered a serious injury and had an operation you have to listen to the doctors. If they tell you that you need to rest, then you need to rest. If you’ve just had a back operation should you get on an 11 hour flight from LA to London? It would be crazy. So I’m glad Simon’s taking some time off and recovering properly. The worst thing would be if he had rushed back to work and then been plagued by more back problems. Simon needs to come back only when he’s ready. I have really missed him terribly because we’ve had such a long friendship and we love winding each other up. We are so competitive with each other it is actually embarrassing but we always make each other laugh.
Amanda Holden thinks Simon will make some some sort of Wizard of Oz appearance in the final.
Simon will want the BGT final to be all about him. It will be like Jesus’ resurrection. He’ll appear in a flash of light or a more likely a puff of smoke!
Have you sent him any get well presents?
I have sent Simon signed copies of all my children’s books because he’s not read a single one of them but with Simon when you’re out of sight you’re out of mind. The problem is he doesn’t have a phone so he’s impossible to get hold of.
How many books have you managed to write in lockdown? Has it been hard?
No, it’s been easier because the thing you need when you’re writing is as much time as possible. I wrote a book of short stories, a picture book and most of my new novel ‘Code Name Bananas’ which is a World War II adventure story about rescuing a gorilla from London zoo. Half the time during lockdown I was writing books, and the other half I was with my son home schooling, which I loved as I got to spend all day with him.
Apart from Roald Dahl what other children’s authors do you admire?
I really love Dame Jacqueline Wilson who wrote the Tracy Beaker books. I think she’s an unbelievable talent. She’s just written a book I read called Love Frankie which is a love story between two girls. What I love about Jacqueline is that she often deals with difficult issues in her books. Tracy Beaker is a girl who has been taken into care. I found reading Tracy Beaker heart-breaking at times.
You’re a massive Bond fan. If you wrote a Bond script what would it be like?
If I wrote a Bond film I would try to do something they have never done before. Something with time and place where Bond only has 24 hours to do something or he is trapped. I’d also want to show Bond doing something you’ve never seen him do. I’d love to show Bond on the toilet. In nearly 60 years and 25 films he has never once needed the loo. Being asked to write the next James Bond screenplay would be my absolute dream job but I have never been asked. Now I’ve I said I want to portray him on the toilet I imagine I never will!
Where would you say is your happiest place?
Wherever I am with my son. That’s when I’m happiest. That’s what I love more than anything else just being with my him. It doesn’t matter what we are doing or where we are just as long as we are together as we are always making each other laugh.
If you could only do one job for the rest of your life what would it be?
Tormenting Simon Cowell.
The Britain’s Got Talent final is on ITV on Saturday, October 10.
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