The Gift is a new BBC1 (Tuesday, February 10) series about people who are looking for a second chance…
What sort of people are you talking to?
Matt: ”People who have tried and failed to find someone. We are often their last hope.”
Some of them must be quite sensitive?
Matt: “They’ve had to come to terms with whatever it is in order to reach the stage of life they’re at and then you ask them things that they haven’t thought about and it becomes very real for them again.”
So, it’s very emotional?
Matt: ”They open up their souls to you and you feel very responsible for that and you have to be very gentle with it.”
Are you their last ray of hope?
Matt: “Everyone thinks that these days it’s easy to find someone because of social media, but it’s not.”
Mel: “It’s been a lot of graft, I’m not going to lie to you. Because The Gift doesn’t deal with the neat, tie-me-up-with-a-bow kind of stories. They are grittier, messier, more ‘real’ – not all have a completely happy resolution.”
This must have put pressure on you?
Mel: ”You are following people and events which can be more difficult, more elusive and therefore harder to pin down. This has required patience and time – the show took a long time to put together and hopefully that will show in the end result.’
Did you get emotionally drawn in?
Mel: “It was very hard not to get utterly and wholeheartedly drawn into the stories on The Gift. Each is fascinating, dramatic and often highly charged. I had to remember what my job was. I had to try to remain impartial, listen with an empathetic, but non-judgmental ear and above all, try not to cry too much.”
Matt: “It’s like counselling. You’re sitting there and asking these people to go back to a time that was incredibly difficult for them. There’s also another life story here – the story of whoever they are trying to find. You try to bring them together if you can – sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t. Every single day I’d go home in bits!’
Has The Gift made you re-evaluate your own lives?
Matt: ”My parents brought me up to say my mind and to recognise those people who are key in your life, but it certainly made me think that it’s something I’ll be instilling in my children. I don’t have any particular regrets – except not buying a house in London when I moved down for Blue Peter!”
Mel: “I’m really proud of The Gift. The people who have contributed their stories are brave, honest and really compelling. There are stories we can all relate to – a first love that went wrong, a person who bullied us at school, a kind person we took for granted.
“There are stories set against dramatic backdrops – Kenya, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, America. It’s a unique series I think. Out of the micro-detail of life – small simple acts and words like ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ – come these vast, powerful, often life-changing stories.”