Before I begin, can I just say that I am NOT stalking men who bravely appear naked on national telly – nor do I condone such a terrible, terrible thing! Now if it just happens that some of the men I interview have got their bits out live in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers, who am I to complain?!
On that note, meet Matt Johnson!
Matt is a presenter on ITV’s This Morning so I didn’t have to be asked twice to tackle those planes, trains and automobiles and head over for another visit. As always, the This Morning team were warm and welcoming. I even managed to sneak in a chat with the lovely Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes, who were presenting the show that day. It’s truly like Waltons Mountain over there (not that I’m old enough to remember The Waltons but I’ve heard talk… ahem!) with smiling faces and the scent of happy in the air.
So after watching the show from the sidelines, Matt brought me somewhere quiet (settle down, ladies!!) so we could have our chat. The former ITV Wales presenter lights up our screens every Friday when he presents The Hub on This Morning. So how did he manage to nab such a sought after job?
“God, it’s just been such a dream come true,” he said. “Last year I was working for The Wales Show and I sent off my show-reel to This Morning. I’ve always watched the show and dreamed of being part of it. To be honest, I’d have taken a job there in any capacity – even a runner. But as it happens, they were auditioning for presenters for The Hub at the time so it was perfect timing. They took me on and I started last September. It’s completely changed my life.”
Matt’s enthusiasm and obvious love for his job is truly infectious. I asked him to explain a little more about how the hub works. “Oh The Hub is right up my street,” he said, relaxing back into his chair. “There’s nothing I like better than interaction with people. During the show, there are lots topics discussed – some serious and some light-hearted. The viewers like to have their opinions on everything so we encourage them to contact us via twitter, facebook and email. I work with a team of people to gather up a selection of the comments and the presenters, whether it’s Eamonn and Ruth or Philip and Holly, come to me at various points during the show to discuss them.”
I got the impression that Matt is still pinching himself when he thinks of how lucky he is to be part of such a huge show so I asked him about it. His eyes light up at this. “It’s really bizarre,” he said. “It’s true; I really do have to pinch myself every now and again. I mean, This Morning – it’s one of the biggest shows on telly – and of course it’s the best! And now I’m one of the team. It just doesn’t seem real. I work Fridays so that’s when Eamonn and Ruth present the show. They’re fabulous and have been so great to me from the start. And of course Philip and Holly are amazing too. We’re all like one big happy family. I come up in the lift in the morning and I can smell toast – I love it! I feel so comfortable here.”
Em… yes… so comfortable that he had the confidence to go naked for a whole show! As many of you probably know, the very sexy Gino D’Acampo did his cookery segment naked on the day after they won a National Television Award. But did you know that Matt quickly followed suit, wearing only his laptop? Explain young man! “Well I think it was more stupidity than confidence,” he said, but not without that cheeky grin he’s becoming known for. “It all started off when Gino said he’d cook naked if This Morning won a National Television Award. His announcement caused such a stir that when he asked me to do the same, of course I agreed. I’ll blame it on my ‘new boy’ status and being afraid to say no to the long-standing members of the team!” Okay, ladies, you might want to take a look here!
So This Morning won their NTA – that must have been amazing – but did it make Matt tremble with fear at the thought of what lay ahead? “Oooh yes,” he said, laughing at the memory. “It was completely fantastic to win the award. The sheer scale of the NTA night had me really awestruck. Just being there and walking past the likes of Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole was amazing. But after the event, I began to panic as realisation set in that I’d be sitting here naked one day with just a laptop to cover my modesty!”
As you know, Gino went through many… eh… let’s just say ‘knitted accessories’ in an attempt to cover up but did Matt do the same? “Nope,” he insisted, proudly. “Completely naked, I was! I held on to that laptop for dear life!” I didn’t ask for evidence!
On the week beginning 16th May, This Morning is launching ‘Your This Morning Week’ where the award winning programme will be brought even closer to the viewers. I asked Matt to tell me a little about this exciting move. “It’s going to be a fabulous week,” he said. “It’s a real innovation for daytime tv. There’ll be interactive news reviews and exclusive live interviews with celebrity guests and even live Cook Ins where viewers will be able to cook from the comfort of their homes alongside resident chefs via Skype. And get this; on Tuesday, the viewers will even have the chance to view the show from any angle with a new 360 degree camera that they can control. How cool is that?”
It sounds amazing! This Morning will also be launching a new Food iPhone/iPad app on – a first for ITV daytime – that will feature exclusive recipes and tips from chef regulars Phil Vickery and Gizzi Erskine. With all that going on, it’s no wonder This Morning was nominated for a BAFTA Television Craft Award in the Digital Creativity category and further nominated in the Media category of the New Media Age Effectiveness Awards 2011.
Before moving on to other things, I had to ask Matt about his recent attempts at Guinness World Records on This Morning. What was that all about? He puffed out his chest at this, clearly proud of his achievements! “Well we thought it would be a giggle to get me into the Guinness Book of Records,” he laughed. “I actually managed to break two records. The first was for eating the most jelly, blindfolded with hands tied behind my back. Weirdly, it was the first time I’d tried it!” Em… we believe you, Matt! “And the second one was even harder,” he said. “I had to eat as much mashed potatoes as I could in thirty seconds with a teaspoon! The two awards are displayed in my house – they’re my proudest possessions, along with my Blue Peter badge and my boxing trophies!”
This last year has been a real whirlwind for Matt. Not only has he secured the This Morning job, but he’s just recently landed a presenting job with Kate Walsh on a new Channel 5 show. I wondered how that came about. “It was really amazing how it happened, actually,” he said. “Would you believe I never even did a screen test for them? I just got a call from my agent to say they wanted to see me so I went in and they offered me the job! I couldn’t believe it. It was a chance for me to be on telly every day – what a fabulous opportunity. I’m aware that I’m still young and learning the craft so I couldn’t have asked for a better way to do it. And my co-host, Kate, is really lovely. We get on brilliantly. We’re quite similar in that we never take for granted the privileged situation we’re in. We’re not two egos trying to outdo each other – we’re just thankful to be there and get on with it.”
So with two London jobs to juggle, I was guessing Matt has said goodbye to Wales. “Yes, I’m living in London now,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to come and live here so it’s a dream come true. I’ll never get tired of seeing Big Ben every day or looking out at the bustling London Streets. I feel as though I’m on permanent holiday here – I’ve discovered the pub is a great place to do research!”
So the whispers on the grapevine are that Matt is single (gasp!). Now before you all start throwing yourselves at him, I asked him if the royal wedding had given him any ideas of finding his princess. “Not at all,” he said. “Weddings scare me half to death. But what about Pippa…” His eyes glazed over and I feared I’d lost him to thoughts of a perfect white dress and what lay beneath. But in a genius move, I stuffed a Bailey’s chocolate truffle in his mouth and he came back to life. “Wasn’t the royal wedding amazing though,” he said. “I felt privileged to be a little part of it as I did some stuff for ITV online. But didn’t Pippa look amazing? If I was ever getting married and I saw my wife walk up the aisle looking like that, I’d be well chuffed!”
I could see that a swift change of subject was needed (or another chocolate) so I pulled his thoughts back to his work. I asked him who he’s enjoyed meeting the most in the last year. “Honest to God, I’ve just had the most bizarre year,” he said, full of enthusiasm. “I met my idol, Slash, from Guns ‘n’ Roses and my comedy idol, Ricky Gervais. I even got to interview them both. I loved meeting Adele too – she’s just amazing in every way. I still find it hard to believe that it’s become an every day thing for me to meet such fabulous celebrities. For instance, Blue were on the sofa of OK! TV with us yesterday and today Eamonn and Ruth are here… I just love it!”
And is there anyone he’d love to meet that he hasn’t yet met? “It’s strange but it’s only in the last couple of years I’ve thought about that because I can see now it’s a possibility,” he said. “I just love stand-up comedy and would love to meet Lee Evans. He’s just a legend. And another one is Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m really a massive fan of people who are funny.”
So aside from going to the pub for ‘research’, what does Matt like to do in his spare time? “Well I used to play rugby but I don’t do much exercise any more,” he said. “I still love the sport but mostly watching it on telly with a beer in my hand. I’m a massive film fan too. Oh yes, and I’ve signed up to do a triathlon in July – how cool is that? I haven’t started training yet though and I can’t swim.” Gasp! What? “Haha, only joking about the swimming,” he laughed. “But it’s true that I haven’t started training. Ah it will be a laugh.” Em… whatever you say, Matt!
So I’d heard that music is also a big part of Matt’s life so I wanted to know a little bit more. “Don’t laugh,” he said, “but I used to be in a tv drama in Wales where I played a member of a boy band. It was great fun but I’d really love to be a musician in real life. I’d love to be a blues guitarist or the next Axl Rose – but that’s never going to happen.”
I pointed out that only a few short years ago, he wouldn’t have thought all this telly thing would happen. “That’s so true,” he said. “Maybe one day when I’m an actual celebrity, there’ll be a celebrity music show where I can go on and wow everybody and get a record deal and be a Welsh Buble and all will be well with the world!”
Matt has become a fantastic tweeter and joins in with plenty of debate and fun with his tweets. I asked him if he enjoyed it or is it something he feels he has to do because of his job. “Oh I absolutely love it,” he said. “I live on my own (altogether now – ahhhhhh!) so I go on for a bit of a natter and when I’m watching programmes like X-Factor, I get involved with all the chat about it. I love hearing what my followers have to say too. After the show today, there’ll be lots of comments on my twitter feed and I love catching up with them all. Twitter is a great way of not ever feeling alone.” You can follow Matt on Twitter here.
Matt’s Nan is very proud of him for a number of things. He’s won the title of Sexiest Male in Wales in 2010, he’s climbed Ayres Rock wearing only a g-string and has jumped from an aeroplane at 10,000 feet barefoot and blindfolded. Well, he did tell me I could make some things up! But one of those things is true – I’ll leave it to your imagination!
In his own words, the last year has been unbelievable and amazing for Matt. So what are his ambitions for the years to come? “Well, I’ve been eyeing up Phil and Eamonn’s job, to be honest,” he laughed. “I’d run at it at a hundred miles an hour if I was ever asked! But don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I’d be able to jump easily into their shoes. Far from it! I respect these guys so much. They do an amazing job. But it would be such a huge compliment if the bosses ever asked me to cover – I’d be so well up for it.”
The buzzing from Matt’s phone reminded us at this point that he had to be somewhere so unfortunately our interview had come to an end. Matt Johnson is charming, funny and a joy to chat to. There’s no doubt he’s headed for great things and although he harbours a dream of singing on X-Factor, I predict we may be seeing him present it one day. He’s one to watch!