Dermot O’Leary reveals his all-time highlights, the exciting new category for 2019 and the short-listed shows he's loved as he prepares to host the National TV Awards for a tenth time…

It’s one of the biggest and glitziest nights in the TV calendar and as stars of the small-screen prepare to walk the red carpet at London’s O2 and battle it out at the National TV Awards, one person who’s already very excited is host Dermot O’ Leary.

“I love the drama and surprises”, says an animated Dermot who’s every bit as friendly and down-to-earth as he is on screen when TV Times turns up to meet him in a local pub near his North London home on a crisp and sunny winter’s morning, “I’m so busy hosting that I only remember flashes, it takes me about two days to work out who’s actually won what!”

Dermot O'Leary National TV Awards 2019

Host Dermot is always ready for shocks and surprises

Here Dermot O’Leary, 45, tells TV Times why he’s delighted with this year’s new category at the National Television Awards, what his highlights have been from his decade of presenting the event and the times when things haven’t gone quite to plan….

TV Times: Tell us about the new category this year…

Dermot O’Leary: “We’ve got best New Drama which is very exciting. I always look forward to the drama categories because they’re what I watch the most of at home. I absolutely loved Bodyguard and Killing Eve last year which are both short-listed. I thought they were both extraordinary. My wife Dee and I were very smug because we got into Killing Eve early and I was swanning around Radio 2 telling everyone they should watch it before it was on peoples’ radars.”

TVT: Gogglebox is up against Bake Off for best Factual Entertainment. Are you a fan?

Dermot: “The wonderful thing about Gogglebox is it’s like catch-up TV. When I ask mates if they’ve seen something on telly they say, ‘Yeah, I saw it on Gogglebox’ like it’s the same thing! I absolutely loved the Stand Up For Cancer Gogglebox special last year. Danny Dyer was on fire, everything that comes out of that man’s mouth is gold!”

TVT: His daughter Dani and her Love Island boyfriend Jack Fincham are doing the backstage presenting this year. How do you think they’ll do?

Dermot: “They’ll be great. We’ll make sure we look after them. I remember when Scarlett Moffatt did it and my script supervisor started counting down and I said, “Whoa whoa whoa! She’s never done live TV before, hang on a minute!’ As long as we treat them with kid gloves they’ll be fine.’”

TVT: The ceremony always opens with a bang. Which has been your favourite opening routine to be involved in?

Dermot: “I loved singing with Tom Jones. He’s so lovely and it’s great because he’s just a walking filing cabinet of anecdotes. He told me about Elvis leaving a jewel-encrusted gun on top of his toilet when they sharing a hotel. Tom was in the shower, Elvis came in, used the toilet then wandered off forgetting he’d left the gun in there. How crazy is that!”

TVT: What stand out moments have there been for you over the past 10 years?

Dermot: “It’s those times when you can sit back and go, ‘Wow, this is actually quite special.’ Dustin Hoffman giving Billy Connolly his lifetime achievement award was extraordinary. Dustin turned up beforehand and said, ‘l’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ We explained he was there to give Billy the award and he said, ‘Can I sit in the auditorium and watch?’ and we said, ‘No! Because that will give the game away!’”

TVT: What hairy moments have there been over the years?

Dermot: “Last year we had the protestor that came on stage when Bruce Forsyth’s wife was presenting the new Bruce Forsyth Entertainment award but he was the worst protestor in the world. He came on while we were running the clips which meant viewers at home didn’t even see him.”

TVT: That must have been very alarming?

Dermot: “My first thought was ‘Where’s our security?’ because he came in with a backpack. Then my instinct was to just get him off that stage as quickly as possible. I managed to stop him getting to the microphone and I just thought, ‘He shouldn’t be here. Wilnelia Forsyth is here! And she’s doing a nice piece about her husband!’”

TVT: Any other tense times from your decade of hosting?

Dermot: “Generally speaking the most hairy moments, have been when people we were expecting to see in the audience aren’t there. We always do a kind of ‘Look who’s here’ round up with a couple gags thrown in about well-known faces. A couple of years we’ve looked down and gone ‘Oh dear, they’re not here!’ People always turn up late to the O2 and it’s a proper herding cats night. Every year I say ‘Get some boats, chuck a camera crew on and get everyone coming down the Thames!’”

TVT: Who are you looking forward to meeting and do you get star-struck?

Dermot: “Jodie Comer, I can’t wait to meet her although I imagine the entire O2 wants to meet Jodie Comer. Yes, I do get a bit star struck because I love actors, then you chat to them and realise they’re just tortured geniuses and are as tortured as you are! I bumped into Richard Madden (star of Bodyguard) once when I was out running. He moved out of the way when he heard someone coming up behind him and I turned to say thank you and then we just looked at eachother in that weird kind of homoerotic way.”

Killing Eve Saturday 15th September

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

TVT: What’s the atmosphere like in the O2?

Dermot: “It’s always tough hosting in those kind of arenas they’re big old beasts but as long as people in the room are having a good time, hopefully the people at home will enjoy it too. What I love is, it’s the first award show of the season, everyone’s up for it and for a lot of people it’s the end of dry January.”

TVT: How messy will the after show party get?

Dermot: “As soon as I’m off that stage the adrenaline stops, I’m hot, I’m exhausted but you’ve got to power on. I eat whatever I can get my hands on and then it’s straight into the party. I’ve usually got mates about so I’ll have a bit of a chat and a couple of glasses of champagne. I can only manage a couple, that’s enough for me!”

THE BIG BATTLES

Dermot gives us his verdicts on some of the biggest battles in store….

BATTLE OF THE JODIES

Jodie Comer, who starred as deadly assassin Villanelle in the hit drama Killing Eve, and Doctor Who’s newest Time Lord, Jodie Whittaker, will go head to head for Best Drama Performance. “This is a tough one for me”, says Dermot, “I thought Jodie Comer was extraordinary in Killing Eve but I’m good mates with Jodie Whittaker and I adore her, she’s so funny!”

SOAP WARS

Emmerdale have won it two years in a row but can they make it a hat- trick and beat off the stiff competition from Corrie, EastEnders and Hollyoaks? Dermot says, “Emmerdale have had another great year so I wouldn’t be surprised if they win it again, but it’s always so unpredictable which is how it exactly as it should be, you can never tell.”

HOLLY TO TRIUMPH?

Holly Willoughby stood in for Ant McPartlin and co-hosted I’m A Celebrity with Dec this year but she’s up against the duo for best TV presenter. Dermot says, “I’d love this to be Holly’s year. She really deserves it. She is always so good on This Morning and she did a great job on I’m A Celebrity.” Can Holly stop the boys winning for a whopping 18th year? Fellow nominees are Phillip Schofield, Bradley Walsh and Graham Norton.

DAZZLING DRAMA

Bodyguard, starring Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden will be slugging it out against Killing Eve in a brand new category for 2019, Best New Drama. Also short-listed are A Discovery of Witches, Girlfriends and The Cry. “It’s hard to look beyond Bodyguard and Killing Eve” says Dermot. “Bodyguard had the whole kitchen sink thrown at it and Killing Eve was so counter-intuitive and dark. I loved them both.”

LOVE ISLAND V MRS BROWN

The Majorcan-based antics of Love Island got the whole nation talking and will be going head to head for The Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award with All Round To Mrs Brown’s as well as I’m A Celebrity and The Graham Norton Show. ‘Last year was the first I properly watched Love Island because Dee was watching it’, says Dermot, “It was far less provocative and shocking than I was expecting, it’s Big Brother for a new generation.”

You can vote free online at www.nationaltvawards.com or by phone 0905 647 2019. Calls cost 25p per minute. The vote closes at noon on Jan 22