As BAFTA-winning Long Lost Family returns to ITV, Davina McCall talks about why the show is such a hit and how she sometimes struggles to keep her emotions under control.
“There are a lot of reasons why the show is so popular,” says Davina, 46, who presents the series of family reunions with Nicky Campbell. “The stories and people are genuine and the cameras manage to capture it beautifully. You live and breathe it. We go on that journey with them.”
“I always try and keep a lid on my tears while I’m on camera, because it isn’t about me – my job is to support the people who come on the show,” Davina told the Express. “But away from the camera, I’m a wreck. I was in the studio recording the voice-overs the other day and I could feel myself welling up. By the time the red light came on to tell me to start, my voice was quivering so much I had to start again.”
Did she think from the outset the show would do so well?
“After the first show, Nicky and I thought it was extraordinary. Neither of us had ever worked on anything like it,” she says.
The fourth series promises more heartbreaking stories, including that of a woman trying to trace the son she was forced to give up for adoption more than 40 years ago. There’s also the search by a girl for her father – who tried to convince her mother to terminate her pregnancy before running out, never to be seen again.
“Anyone who comes to us is incredibly brave and we’re non-judgemental,” says Davina. “Life and relationships are complicated. The childhood I’ve had has taught me that.”
Davina was just three when her parents separated and her French-born mother went to live in Paris. Her father, Andrew, then decided it would be best if Davina was brought up by her grandparents near Guildford in Surrey. She admits family is now incredibly important to her and quality time with Matthew, her husband of 14 years, and their children Holly, Tilly and Chester, is her priority.
“My life is about balancing work and family. I love my job, but I also want to be a wife and mum,” says Davina. It’s often a tricky balance, especially when she has a particularly busy year, such as this one. As well as Long Lost Family, she’s presenting Channel 4 game show The Million Pound Drop and returns later this summer for another series of hit Sky1 reality series Got To Dance.
There’s one show Davina wants to be a part of, though.
“I would love to deliver a baby on One Born Every Minute,” she says.
“I want to experience new life coming into the world, first-hand.
“The lovely team at One Born have actually asked me several times, but it’s always clashed with other work. One day I’ll do it, though. It would be a dream.”
Long Lost Family, ITV, Monday, July 14, 9.00pm