Dermot O’Leary reveals his X Factor backstage secrets and why the show needs Louis Walsh

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Sep 18, 2017 in Rat News | Subscribe

Dermot O’Leary might just be one of the nicest men we’ve ever met. He says himself that one of his best traits is his curiosity, and he’s not kidding. The 44 year old, who is back to his Saturday night hosting duties on X Factor, turns the questioning back on us about 76 times during our chat. And not because he’s trying to avoid any tricky lines of enquiry, but because he is interested in knowing all about other folk.

We feel sure he’s just being polite when we discuss the last times we’ve met, or asks where we’re from (precise location, not just general vicinity), or even wants to see pictures of our children, and talk about what our husbands do and where we currently live, and whether we are cat people or dog people. But he’s not, he actually really does want to know.

The classic Cat v Dog debate is relevant mostly because the TV presenter and Radio 2 DJ thinks he clearly doesn’t have enough to do already and is just about to publish his first children’s fiction book, based on the exploits of his blind cat Toto and his late feline buddy Silver, who, sob, died just last month.

Dermot, 44, who is married to TV producer Dee Koppang, talks how he copes with presenting such a massive TV show, X Factor coming to an end and why we all need to have Louis Walsh in our lives…

How you finding The X Factor this year? It’s business as usual with no changes, eh?

It’s really nice, there’s a solidity to it, definitely. It properly feels like a family. This judging panel are comfortable together and no one takes offence at anything so they can play with each other a lot, they’re not going to walk away thinking, ‘Oh Simon’s given me a hard time’. They’ve all got their defined roles.

Dermot O’Leary, Sharon Osbourne, Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger
(Image: ITV)

Simon Cowell is so much mellower these days, though…

He’s very constructive in his criticism now. He’s like, ‘I’m a man in my 50s, I can’t be telling you what to do, you’ve got to work it out for yourself.’

And we are enjoying Louis’s opinions as ever…

We need Louis. We love Louis. You cannot make the show without Louis. He’s got so descriptive this year. He’ll say, ‘You stood on the X. You’re 16. You’re a kid with black hair’. You have to give a better critique than that, Louis. But Simon will say something, then the others will say something and then there’s sort of nothing for him to say. But in many ways, he IS the X Factor because you can’t quite put your finger on why, but you need him there, and you miss him when he’s not.

And he comes into his own when Simon isn’t around…

On the days when Simon wasn’t at the auditions, we decided to make Louis the kingpin and put him in the middle with the two girls either side of him. He looked like a glamorous Irish mafia boss. He’s far more empowered when Simon isn’t there. Pretty much everyone got a yes that day.

Louis Wash tells Only The Young that they are through to the live shows on 'The X Factor - Judges House'

One of his famous Dermot hugs
(Image: WENN)

How do you cope with hosting a live show in front of millions?

Red wine… No, it’s just all about preparation. I still get nervous though – you are going live to millions of people on a Saturday night, it’s the biggest arena, so if I didn’t, I shouldn’t be doing the show. Thirty seconds before we go live is the best bit, it’s so exciting back there. You feel like a heavyweight going in to a boxing match.

What do you do to get ready for the show?

I dance in my pants in my dressing room. To Irish music.

Where are the best auditions?

Liverpool is the best city we go to. Manchester gets people from all over the North, Birmingham all over the Midlands, London all over the South, but it tends to be very local in Liverpool. When they’re asked where they’re from, they’ll tell you the exact street they live on in Birkenhead, and thousands of people will stand up and scream and go, ‘That’s my street’.

How much longer can X Factor keep going?

I’m signed for a few more years. It’s not finishing any time soon. I hope not, unless you know something I don’t. I think there’s still an appetite for it and I love that I work on a show that people still talk about. I do have moments of humility though – I went to the Dunkirk premiere and I had my picture taken with this lovely old gentleman with a million and one RAF medals on his chest because his granddaughter wanted me to. And he said, ‘Who are you, my love?’. I was like, ‘It really doesn’t matter who I am. Trust me, the pleasure is all mine.’

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever been recognised?

I got in a cab in Majorca and this guy with a thick Spanish accent said, ‘You’re the guy on the X Factor’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ Then he said, ‘No you’re not, I don’t believe you’. I’m like, ‘Come on dude, I was quite happy just sitting quietly in the back’.

Dermot O'Leary and Dee Koppang

Dermot and his wife Dee
(Image: Splash)

What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve had a cup-three-quarters-full life so I feel it’s unfair for me to have a bucket list. I’m living my bucket list. Although I really enjoyed doing the Nightly Show so if that could come back, that would be great. We’ll see.

Ah yes, the show that everyone who presented it aside from you, got a
of stick for…

It was a hard show to launch. I’m sure if I’d launched it [like David Walliams] I’d have had exactly the same flack. But I served my apprenticeship on that style of show with Big Brother’s Little Brother for seven years, so it didn’t faze me particularly. The one thing I know how to do is be on the TV every day.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a chef, a jockey and an actor. I gave up on acting when I couldn’t do anything more than twice on a take.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Flipping burgers at Wembley Stadium. It was a low moment when I was told I couldn’t roll the sleeves up on my polyester sweat shirt on the hottest day on the year because of company policy. I was trying not to put my own sweat in to the meat. But you’ve got to have shit jobs.

Dermot on The Nightly Show
(Image: Rex Features)

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

My boss at Big Brother said ‘Turn up on time and don’t be a dick’. It’s a good mantra for life.

What would you tell your younger self?

A lot of friends the same age as me are going through divorces and all sorts and you take a step back and realise you can’t control other people or their opinions of you. You just have to be the best person you can possibly be. Be mindful. Live in the moment. And look up, never look down. You see interesting things when you look up.

Have you got any hidden talents?

I can do 200 skips a minute. I’m not 100% match fit at the moment, but I did 187 I think it was yesterday. My best is 211. It’s more of an exercsie thing than a Britain’s Got Talent kind of thing though. I don’t think I’ll be getting any golden buzzers for it.

You sound pretty healthy, when was the last time you had a blow out?

Last week. It was brutal. Me and my buddies host a supper club and we did one on a boat. We got on the boat at 7 and left at 2.45am. Not sure I’ve still got it. I felt so rough, I can’t do hangovers any more, it’s not worth it. I drink more often but less these days. But every now and again you’ve got to blow off some steam.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

It’s not really a guilty pleasure – that’s like taking joy in fox hunting or something – but I love a Murder She Wrote on a Saturday morning. And Long Lost Families. If that comes on it’s a race to turn it over or it becomes a drinking night very quickly. Once I was too far away from the remote and it turned from a healthy evening of me making a salad to me crying in to my dinner and wine, going ‘Oh why did he go to Sydney,

What’s the best freebie you’ve been given?
I don’t go out of my way to ask for things. But every now and again Guinness turn up at my house.

Do you have any phobias?

I used to not like rats but I’m coming round to them now. I’ve met a few pet rats and they’re pretty happy and cuddly. My cat Silver brought one home once but I shut the door on him. So he looked at me, put it on the floor and ate it in front of me. You could hear the crunching of bones.

What are you best and worst personality traits?

I like to think I’m a good friend, and I’m curious about other people. But I can be quite snappy with time, I can get stressed when I don’t have much time.

What would your wife say is your most annoying habit?
She likes silence while she works, but I can listen to five things at once from doing live TV. So I can actually multi task? Hang on, I wouldn’t say that…

Dermot and his cat Toto
(Image: radioleary/Instagram)

What’s your kid’s book all about?

It’s about our cat Toto. We rescued her from Italy and realised quite early doors that she is actually blind, but she sees breaks in light and has incredible reflexes. So I thought she could be a member of a unique band of ninjas from around the world. I called it, ‘Toto the Incredible Blind Italian Ninja Cat Of Old Camden Town and The Great Snake Escape’. At the first meeting with the publisher, they were like, ‘Yeah, we need to talk about the title.’

What does Toto get up to?

I decided she had been trained in Italy by an old ship’s cat who’d trained in Japan, and she turns up in London with her brother Silver, wanting a quiet life. Then they’re thrust into this strange situation where the snakes escape from London Zoo and they have to go and track them down with the help of this Stephen Fry-esque character, who is rat aristrocracy but thinks he’s a cat.

Is Toto going to be famous now?

Could you imagine? No, I want him to live a life of anonymity…

TOTO THE NINJA CAT AND THE GREAT SNAKE ESCAPE by Dermot O’Leary (illustrated by Nick East) is out 21st September, paperback, £6.99 from Hodder Children’s Books

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