Looking better than ever, with her own C4 show about to start, Fern Britton tells TV Times magazinewhy she’s finally happy in her own skin…
How are you feeling about your new show?
“Excited, they’re even putting my picture on the sides of buses, can you imagine? If you’d have told me six months ago that I’d be having my first novel published and be about to go into a run of my very own TV show, I’d have eaten several hats. I can’t believe it. It’s so unreal, so amazing and I’m kind of anaesthetised because I’m a bit scared and nervous. I have to keep pinching myself and thinking, ‘It’s happening, enjoy it, appreciate it, remember it because it won’t always be like this'”.
Has it been hectic?
“Yes, I’m being shuttled from interview to photo shoot – it’s never been like this in my 31 years in TV! And yes, I might fall on my bum and I’m ready for that – no, I might, that’s the reality of life and I’m a pragmatist – but until then I’m enjoying myself very, very much.”
And if it is just your one name in the title it must mean you have really made it?
“That’s very sweet of you to say so, but it’s also quite frightening. When I was little I used to think, ‘Why did my mother choose a ridiculous name like Fern?’ But it seems to have served me well.”
How would you describe the show?
“I like to describe it as nimble. It’s going to be anything, on any day, and by that I mean one day it might have celebrity guests and fun, nonsense things like dogs who look like their owners dating! And another it will be serious, meaty subjects such as parents who have lost children, wonderful people who have served in Afghanistan or travelled to help out after the tsunami in Japan.
“I’m interested in human endeavour, in the strengths people find in themselves when pushed into extraordinary situations. And I’m lucky that people seem to open up to me and share intimacies; they don’t hold back and put their trust in me, which I take care of. I hope they’ll be a lot of that.”
How did you feel about being described as ‘the British answer to Oprah’ by C4’s head of daytime Helen Warner?
“That’s such a compliment, but I try not to emulate anyone as it is dangerous. If you don’t forge your own path you get lost in the mix.”
Was it a hard to come back after enjoying life with your family?
“It was a tough decision because after 10 years on This Morning I wasn’t sure I wanted another long commitment. But [husband] Phil said, ‘Wake up! What woman of your age is being given a show with their own name on it?’ I asked my kids over supper what they thought and they just went, ‘Go for it!’ Winnie asked if I’d still be able to walk her to school and when I said yes she said, ‘Do it’ – so that was that!”
Had you missed the excitement of working on a daily TV show?
“No! I really hadn’t… until I walked into the studio to film the pilot and the buzz was so great that I thought, ‘Hmm, I like this.’ I’m lucky to have a real life at home and this TV life which feeds something in me. I love the variety of jobs that I can take now I’m not under anyone’s control.”
So what is your novel, New Beginnings, about?
“It is about the sometimes bitchy, backstabbing world of TV. But there are no sex scenes in it – I don’t want to embarrass my children or say too much about my own sex life!”
So life is pretty good at the moment?
“I’ve finally got the balance right. I now have ‘Me-time’ and love it when the house is quiet when the kids have gone to school. I’ve never had that before. Phil and I get to have breakfast together, or go back to bed! I’m helping the twins learn to drive and after years of kissing their sleepy heads and going to work at 6.30am, the novelty of being a stay-at-home mum will never wear off.”
And you are still keeping fit?
“Yes, I was probably in better shape when I was 25, but I could certainly stand by my 25-year-old self and give her a good run for her money. I tested my daughters the other day and asked them if I should have a facelift. They said no luckily. What message would that give? I don’t look young or old, I’ve got the right face for my age. Yes, I’ve got wrinkles and saggy bits but you know what? I accept it. I’m content. I don’t worry any more. When you’re young you worry what people think about what you’re wearing, saying or doing, but the pleasure of age is that you just think: people must accept me.”
*Fern starts on C4 at 5pm on Monday, March 28