Flockstars – catchy title! What’s this new show about about?
“You can’t say ‘Flockstars’ without having a giggle! When it first came to me I thought ‘Is this for real?’ When I read through it and realised they wanted me to train with a sheepdog to herd sheep outside in a field on a farm in the open air, I thought, ‘What’s not to love about it?’”
How does it work?
“It’s a bit of a celebrity One Man and His Dog. The premise is we’re each partnered with a mentor shepherd and a trained sheepdog. We’re taken though the process of working with this dog to herd geese, sheep and ducks around an obstacle course. We were initially trained on lovely fields of grass, but the competition takes place in a sandy arena, which was very different…”
Were there any funny moments or mishaps in the training process?
“There were loads of mishaps because we were dealing with animals and sometimes the weather wasn’t very nice! But it was really good fun. I adore dogs so it was a joy. After having done four months of musical theatre the fresh air was bliss. I laughed for the six weeks! As well as hilarious bits there are some really nailbiting bits as well. None of us realised how exciting it would be to watch.”
Tell us about working with your mentor, Ed, and Border Collie, Bill…
“Bill’s a beautiful and experienced veteran sheepdog at nine years old. Because Bill knows exactly what he’s doing sometimes he’d give me a look as if to say ‘Do you really want me to do that? I think I know better!’ He was also so used to Ed’s voice, because he’d trained him since he was a tiny puppy, it was hard for me to get him to listen to me. In the end I had to lower by voice and be a bit rough and gruff! Sometimes Ed had to hide behind hedges and bushes because if Bill saw him he expected a command from him, not me!”
Did you resort to bribery at any point?
“No! I really wanted to get him out of the kennel and have a play with him, but Bill’s a real working dog, not a pet. We had a lovely relationship. He loved a stroke, but wasn’t needy. These dogs are so clever, it’s amazing to watch them do their stuff.”
How is the competition judged?
“It was all done in an arena, not out in the fields. You have to take you dog through a series of bridges, arches and then pen the sheep into a pen. It is all timed against each other and against the clock. And there are penalties if you don’t do certain things.”
Was it a competitive environment?
“I’m quite a naturally competitive person. If I’m gong to do something I want to do my best… but this was quite good for me because it was out of my control! When I did MasterChef, if I mucked up a dish I knew it was my fault. But when you’re working with animals anything can happen. The others were competitive to varying degrees yet everyone was really supportive. They knew how hard it was and how things could quite easily go wrong!
“Because it seemed so bizarre I kept turning to Lesley Joseph and asking her ‘What are we doing here?’ But we had a really good time. The show’s presenter Gabby Logan got really involved and entered into the fun spirit of it all.”
Flockstars begins on Thursday, July 30 on ITV. Running over eight weeks, other competitors taking part include Tony Blackburn, Strictly dancer Brendan Cole, Birds of Feather star Lesley Joseph, A Place in the Sun presenter, Amanda Lamb, Kelle Bryan from girl band, Eternal, N-Dubz’ Fazer (real name Richard Dawson) and 10-time Paralympics’ gold medallist, equestrian legend Lee Pearson.