In recent years, professional dancers have dazzled on their Strictly Come Dancing debut. As the live shows begin, TV Times magazine meets the three new pros – Joanne Clifton (pictured), Tristan MacManus and Trent Whiddon.
So Joanne, how does it feel to be joining your brother Kevin on the show?
“I’m mega excited and I just feel so happy. I’ve lived in Italy for the past 14 years, but I came over to see Kevin and Karen on the show last year and I was just blown away. Strictly is completely different from the competition world and everybody loves it, it’s such a great atmosphere.”
What’s your relationship like with your brother?
“I think Kevin has missed looking after me – he’s giving me advice, telling me to concentrate in rehearsals, all the things big brothers do. Sometimes I feel like reminding him that I am 30 years old, but it’s so nice because we haven’t been together all these years.”
Your mum and dad must be thrilled?
“Blooming heck! Two years ago they had Karen on the show, then it was madness when Kevin joined. I don’t know what will happen now the three of us are doing it – my mum will be doing backflips in the audience! They ring me every night for an hour and a half. They don’t bother to call Kevin because he was always the rebel and they know he won’t answer, so I get it all!”
How competitive are you with your brother?
“Well of course I love him loads, but there will be sibling rivalry and I will beat him!”
Will you be making your celebrity partner, Scott, work hard?
“Well I did learn at an almost military, strict dance school with a Russian coach, and we were brought up as more like athletes, so I know all those methods. We’ll have fun but I want to do well too.”
How will you react if the judges criticise your routines?
“Well I respect them and I won’t start arguments, but I do speak Italian, so I might sneakily answer back to Bruno!”
You’re clearly thrilled to be paired with Scott, but we hear you’re a fan of another Strictly celeb too?
“Honestly every time I come to England I watch Bargain Hunt, so I love Tim Wonnacott! It’s brilliant to be on the show with him.”
And Tristan – Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli have judged you before on Dancing with the Stars – are you in their good books?
“Everything’s cool, we certainly haven’t had any arguments. I’ve never won over there though, so perhaps they’ve got a hidden agenda! You have to take everything they say with a pinch of salt and my toughest critic will probably be myself anyway. I won’t be looking to fall out with the judges, but I am Irish!”
Are you excited to be back on this side of the Atlantic?
“It’s so nice being closer to home! As soon as I joined DWTS it stopped being televised here so my family couldn’t watch it. They’re all really excited I’m joining Strictly.”
How strict will you be with your celebrity partner, Jenny?
“I won’t be going easy on her, but I want to make training as enjoyable as possible. At the end of the day we’re all adults and you have to remember that people are learning for the first time. As long as I have her full attention we’ll be fine.”
Are you prepared for all the extra exposure Strictly brings with it?
“I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m a pretty low key guy – I do my job and then I spend the rest of my time with my family. I might have to brush my hair a little bit more if people are going to be saying hello in the street though!”
Welcome Trent! We hear you’ve had to uproot your life to take part in Strictly?
“I only got the call a few weeks ago so it was a big surprise. My wife and I only moved to Los Angeles in February and then all of a sudden we had to sell up, get rid of the car and head over to London. It’s been really hectic but the opportunity was so great, it was an easy decision to say yes.”
You usually dance with your wife, fellow professional dancer Gordana Grandosek – how does it feel to be performing with somebody new?
“Dancing with Gordana is really special and this is the first thing we’ve done separately for a while, so it is a little strange. She’s very supportive of me though and she told me I had to do the show.”
What are you most looking forward to about the Strictly experience?
“Dancing at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool is going to be super fun. I haven’t been there since I competed in the final of the Junior Championships when I was 15. It’s a very special place for dancers and I have really great memories, so it will be awesome to be back.”
Have old timers Anton du Beke and Brendan Cole given you any tips?
“There’s some good banter going around! If I really needed advice I’m sure they would give it to me, but at the moment it’s like being the new kid at school – they’re just trying to lead me astray!”