Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell on the behind-the-scenes ethos of Long Lost Family ahead of a new series crammed with reunion firsts!
There aren’t many work situations where it’s acceptable for everyone involved to well up. But chatting to presenters Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell about the return of their feel-good ITV hit Long Lost Family is surely an exception to that rule.
TV Times is at ITV’s London HQ in East London on a sunny day in May. After a warm welcome from Davina, 51, and Nicky, 58, we settle down for a chat about the new seven-part series, and why LLF is a leader when it comes to supporting participants…
Here Davina and Nicky tell us more about the new series of Long Lost Family
It may be the ninth series but is the show is still covering new ground?
Davina: “Yes, in episode one Christine Rose, who’s 67, comes to us looking for her younger sisters, Catherine and Carol. She has a distant memory of them all being separated from their mum, who was screaming with sadness, when she was four-years old. It was covered in the papers that the children were found trying to eat raw potatoes. It’s very moving. We’ve never had a story before where the mother literally couldn’t cope and the children were taken away due to neglect. As the biggest sister Christine feels the weight of sibling responsibility and needs answers. She gets a lot more than that!”
Nicky: “The emotional power of their meeting! Later Christine, Carol and Catherine find out they’ve more siblings and their mother spoke about them all the time.”
Are there any other firsts for the series?
Davina: “We have our oldest ever searcher in episode two! Margaret, 82, has prayed every single night for the baby she gave up as a teenager. We find her daughter in Australia and you can imagine her surprise at being found!”
Nicky: “As well as the oldest searcher, we also have our oldest person found too – 87-years-old! That happens in episode four and DNA was involved in that one. It’s a big thing in adoption to think maybe you’ve left it too late. People come to us when they’ve tried everything else.”
Davina: “Singer KT Tunstall is in episode three. She had a need to find her dad and had tried absolutely everything. Most people probably wouldn’t choose to come on a TV programme and bare their souls about something that’s plagued them their whole life. But they know they’re in safe hands with Long Lost Family.”
It’s such an emotional process. We hear there’s lots of support available for those taking part, with the show’s social worker still in contact with people who appeared in the very first series…
Nicky: “The aftercare is gold standard. It has to be. Nothing goes out without their approval. When I tracked down my birth mother at 29-years-old, I did it all on my own with no support. I wish I’d had Long Lost Family behind me.”
Davina: “Yes, in every area it’s off the charts. Before anybody goes anywhere near their front door there’s an enormous process to make sure they’re comfortable with it. We give people tonnes of space and time to think. Our social workers could send a letter telling someone that a sibling or child is looking for them, and it may take them years before they call us. We’d never cold call and ask them to see us.”
Next year will be LLF’s 10th anniversary. What’s its enduring appeal?
Davina: “A huge thing for both of us is that it’s not a programme where you cross your legs with awkwardness or want to look away because it’s overstepped the mark. It’s a comfortable, emotional, beautifully handled watch where you can enjoy seeing someone’s joy unfold. Love, loss, family, belonging – it’s something we all yearn for.”
Nicky: “The reveals where lives are changed in a moment is some of the most incredible television I’ve ever seen – and I include the moon landings in that!”
Long Lost Family returns to ITV on Monday 10th June at 9pm.