holly & Phil on tricky guests, nights out and family fun
2018 is a big year for Holly Willoughby. She’s about to head to the jungle to host I’m A Celebrity with Declan Donnelly, and This Morning is celebrating its 30th anniversary. We talk exclusively to her and co-host Phillip Schofield about tricky guests, pulling pranks – and their unbreakable bond…
They go together as naturally as fish and chips or a horse and carriage. Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby’s easy chemistry on ITV’s This Morning has, over the past nine years, made them one of the most popular duos on TV. And off-screen they’re just as close, hanging out with each other’s families and even meeting up on holiday. Holly, 37, is married to producer Dan Baldwin, and they have three children: Harry, nine, Belle, seven, and Chester, three, while Phil, 56, is married to Stephanie Lowe and they have daughters, Molly, 25, and Ruby, 22.
And with This Morning celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, the pair will also be part of a prime-time documentary, This Morning – 30 Unforgettable Years. Here, they talk to us about the ins and outs of their on- and off-screen relationship, and why they believe This Morning has become one of the longest-running daytime shows in British history.
What are your earliest memories of watching This Morning?
P: I watched the launch day. I was at BBC Television Centre for Going Live! [Phil presented the show until 1993] and we all stopped the meeting to watch it. It was really exciting, a two-hour live TV show, and we wanted to see what it was like.
H: I would have been seven years old at that time, so I would have been at school, not watching daytime telly. The only time I got to see the show was if I was off sick. I do remember those days under a duvet, sitting with This Morning on, and my soup or whatever, feeling poorly. Not at any moment then did I think that 30 years later, I might be hosting it. It’s bizarre. >>
Why do you think it was a success straight away?
P: They quickly understood the audience. Throughout the years, whoever was presenting it, it always remained current and still had a massive heart.
H: Obviously the original presenters Richard and Judy were married, but it was a family in a broader sense: they had Dr Chris, the family GP, they had [agony aunt] Denise [Robertson]. It was a real family affair, not a manufactured show.
You started presenting at different times: Phil with Fern Britton in 2002 and Holly in 2009. Do you both remember your first days?
H: I remember being utterly terrified! I was a huge fan of the show by then. Watching This Morning is just what you do, whether you’re avidly watching an item that’s really grabbed you, or it’s on in the background as you’re pootling around. And I just remember thinking, “How am I going to do this?” because I didn’t want to muck it up. I felt a lot of pressure.
P: I was eased in a bit because I’d been a guest a number of times, and then
I was an occasional stand-in host a few days, before I started presenting on Fridays with Fern. It happened gradually. Did Phil look after you on your first day, Holly? H: No, he bloody didn’t! I was sort of holding onto him for dear life and just before we went live he went, “I’m off”, and he ran away!
P: I knew she’d be fine.
H: You have to learn pretty quickly, but I did have the master teaching me, so I knew I was in safe hands. You’d already presented ITV’s Dancing on Ice together for three years, of course.
P: Yes – and we got on straight away. I remember the first prank I pulled on Holly. She came to work in a brand new car.
H: A black Beetle! It was convertible, with a cream leather interior, it was the most beautiful car. It was my baby. P: So if you get gaffer tape, and you pick the edge and you peel it, a silver strip comes off. And if you put that onto the side of a black Beetle, it looks like the most horrific scratch. We all stood around her new car and went, “Oh my God! Holly, what’s happened?” And you fell for it, Holly? H: Completely! And I’ve gone on to believe everything that comes out of his mouth. Because he’s continued to prank me for the past 12 years. You could always prank him back?
H: It’s impossible. He will never fall for anything. And he’s cool as a cucumber. A man once brought on an alligator and it thrashed and Phil jumped. I stood up and got off the sofa when it happened, and his shoulders just went up a bit. That’s the only time in the history of This Morning that I’ve ever seen him even slightly flinch. Have you ever had an argument? H: No, it’s really odd, isn’t it? I do think for the amount of time that we spend with each other, at some point we should have done. P: If we disagree on something, which is rare, we very quickly see the other person’s point of view. And we don’t have egos between the pair of us – there’s none of that nonsense. What are your favourite things about each other?
H: I like that Phil tidies up my stuff, he organises my life. And I like the fact he’s always looking out for me. If somebody dismisses a question that I’ve asked, he’ll go, “I’ll pick up on what Holly just said.” P: I like that we have the same sense of humour, which happens at the same speed. We’re uncannily able to say the same thing at the same time. I’ll never get used to the early mornings, but I genuinely look forward to walking in and seeing Holly every day.
What would you change about each other?
P: I’d make her neater. I swear to God. She’ll leave her phone, her purse, everything in the studio, we get half way down the corridor and she realises. H: I’d like him to be a bit more gullible occasionally, so I can at least get my own back, have the odd moment of glory where I make you have a slight squeal or jump, or make you cry with fear.
P: You want to make me cry? That’s a bit harsh!
H: Well, you want to make me swear. You’re always trying to make me jump, so I say a rude word on TV.
What kind of a friend does that?
You go out with each other’s families, don’t you?
H: My kids love Phil. It’s really nice. We like going on holiday to the same place,
so we meet up when we’re there.
P: Holly has the most delightful children. She’s an amazing mum, and Dan is an amazing dad, and the children all love getting together.
You famously like to have a few drinks. When was the last time you were drunk together?
P: It’s not been for a while, actually! It’s been the most crazy busy few months for both of us, so there hasn’t been an opportunity. We’re so overdue one.
H: The last time we had a few G&Ts together in the sunshine, but we had an early night – it was very civilised.
Who are your dream guests?
P: Judi Dench is mine, but she just doesn’t do chat shows. She sent me a picture once when I was in the [CBBC] Broom Cupboard and it says “To Phillip from your most ardent admirer”, which was lovely. She did come on Going Live! once and she was brilliant, but she was very nervous, so I understand why she wouldn’t want to put herself through that. H: I think I’d have to choose Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle because they’re normal people who married princes. I mean, that’s the fairy tale. I want to ask them how they did it!
P: I want to sit beside you when you interview them. I’d keep quiet because I know you’d be so enormously excited.
Who has been your trickiest guest?
P: During my time with Fern we had an actor – who shall remain nameless – he’d been out the night before and came in a little worse for wear. He was doing okay, but then I said, “You’ve got this amazing drama coming up with some great cameo guests, who have you got?” And he went, “Yes, we’ve got, er, er…” and he fell asleep! He was asleep for about four seconds. H: That’s brilliant. I think some of our most misbehaved guests have been the animals, actually. We’ve had many an animal on This Morning that has treated our set like it’s a toilet.
P: Yes. We had Marcus the psychic pig on during the World Cup – my God, what an angry pig that was. It was just an angry, cantankerous old pig, begrudgingly picking the teams.
H: He got his own back though, didn’t he?
P: He did the most enormous dump on the floor just before we went live.
As parents, what do you love most about working on This Morning?
H: It’s a brilliant show to do when you’ve got young children; the hours are perfect. I get home to do the school run in the evening, I get summer holidays. So for me, selfishly, that’s pretty unique and I am very blessed that I can do that. P: Also, it does come with this quite high-ranking kudos. I’m constantly amazed at who we meet, whether it’s someone who has made a movie, or a former president, or whatever. It gives you kudos with your family and eventually the daughter might say, “Didn’t you get a little video message for me?”
Who have they been most impressed by recently?
P: We’re all into Love Island, so anything to do with Love island gets that reaction at home.
H: I had a picture with Harry Kane recently. I’m always getting little video messages for the kids.
Do you want to work more or less as your kids get older?
H: I take that decision on a day-by-day basis. I feel like my balance at the moment is just right so I’m quite happy. I want to stay just like this. Are there any bucket list ambitions either of you have? H: I mean, This Morning was the bucket list, telly-wise! But one day, once my children are older, there will be personal things. I used to do lots of travelling and music stuff when I was younger, and
I just don’t any more. So eventually I look forward to kind of exploring those things that I liked again, but not right now.
P: It’s tough to come up with a bucket list because we’ve already done so many amazing things, but there are always fun new opportunities. We both did a little cameo in Coronation Street this year. What a buzz!
If you ever decided not to present This Morning any more, who do you think your natural successors would be?
H: That’s a really hard question. Whoever it is will have to look after it and treat it with the respect that it deserves because it’s an amazing show, and it’s one that I feel very proud to have on my CV.
P: From a presenter’s point of view, there’s nothing like it. That’s why so many want to do it.
This Morning celebrates its 30th year from 1 October, 10.30am on ITV. This Morning – 30 Unforgettable Years will air 2 October, 7.30pm on ITV. w&h