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Gethin Jones: ‘People still ask about my Attitude shoot!’

By Sam Rigby

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Gethin Jones returns to our screens next week with The 21st Question, a new ITV teatime quiz show that revolves around what you know and how well you play your hand. One player can take home all the money, but only if they’re on the “Power Spot” when Gethin asks, yes that’s right, the 21st question. Intrigued, I gave the 36-year-old Welshman a call to find out more about the show, whether he’ll be serving Anne Robinson realness as the host, and the chances of him consider getting his clothes off for Attitude again.

There are so many game shows on TV – what sets The 21st Question apart from all the rest?
“There are a lot of good game shows around, and especially in the teatime slot. The 21st Question has got different elements, and lots of little intricacies that keep you interested from start to finish. I played the game about 60 or 70 times before we even got into the studio. I wanted to know it inside out, and what was weird is that it never played out the same way twice. There are so many different ways it can go. It fascinates me, because when we go on set you don’t know what is going to happen. You could run out of players or one could win £40,000. The only way you can do that is by being on the ‘Power Spot’ when I ask the 21st question. It would be such a huge moment. It would be like the first time someone won £1 million on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

What’s the atmosphere been like on set?
“You get to know the contestants really well. On the set each day it became a thing that we did this dance, and when someone gets voted off they play this horrible music, but we were all giving each other the Vs. Obviously, that’s not shown on TV! There’s really good banter between the groups throughout the week. Everyone wants the other people to do well, but they want to win themselves. It’s good, because you get the comedy and the emotion. I always know what the contestants want the money for. One guy wanted a ring for his Mrs. to get engaged, and one woman wanted to go to see her daughter in Australia but she couldn’t afford it.”

It makes it so much more personal I suppose.
“Man alive! I was like ‘I really want you to go and see your daughter’. It’s tough.”

So, you’ve not taken inspiration from Ann Robinson on The Weakest Link then?
“Well, it depends what the contestants are like. One chap was quite ageist to an elderly lady so we picked on him quite a bit. Television is all about finding the right show for you, and in the past sometimes it’s worked and other times it maybe hasn’t worked so well. That might have been my fault or maybe the format didn’t work so well, but this was nice, because it was such a laugh yet also quite serious. I know someone from ITV said it’s the best quiz show they’ve seen in years. We’ve got a nice blend. I think you see a bit more of my personality, which maybe hasn’t always come across on some of the other things I’ve done.”

gethinattitudeBack in 2009 you appeared on the cover of Attitude, of course.
“I was! I’m so glad we’re talking about this. Are we talking about this? I’m so glad.”

What was the reaction like after you appeared on the cover? Did you find that you got a lot more attention?
“It was fantastic. I’d done three and half years on Blue Peter, and for the last two years of that, you’d been asking me to do the cover. I was a little bit reluctant, because I was very proud of what I’d done on Blue Peter, and I appreciated what the show was and who it was going out to. I thought ‘I’m not sure whether Attitude is the right thing to do right now’, but when I left [Blue Peter] they called again and asked, and I was like ‘you know what – why not?’. I’m not scared of being naked, because if you look at the old Blue Peter annuals, I’ve got even fewer clothes on, which is probably the reason you asked me to do the shoot in the first bloody place.”

Did you enjoy the actual shoot when you it came to it?
“I’ll tell you what it, it was the first proper magazine shoot I’d done, and it was amazing. I was really impressed with the styling, the setup, and the professionalism of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d actually read the magazine a bit before, as I always do, and I really liked it. The reaction to the shoot was unbelievable. Even now, it’s phenomenal the amount of people who will mention Attitude to me.”

You mentioned that you’ve got no problem with taking your clothes off – would you ever come back and do the Naked Issue? You only took your shirt off the first time round, remember…
“Come on, small steps. It’s a first date, our first phone call! You’re already asking me to take all my clothes off. It’s like a date I went on recently – she was northern just like you. No. I’ve seen a few naked shoots and I’m not sure. I thought I was showing enough flesh. There was one shot that I was really surprised with, which was just my chest – a double page spread of my chest. I didn’t know you were going use it, and it came out and I was like ‘My god!’ But it was tastefully done.”

Do you think that you’re in as good shape now as you were back then? Obviously, five years have passed now.
“Yeah, I probably think I’m in slightly better shape actually. Back then I remember being incredibly busy running round the place which makes it difficult to focus on your diet and do the training. I change what I do as well; I don’t just stick to the same routine of exercise now. I do a lot of surfing; a bit of yoga. The stuff I do in the gym is less weights-based, it’s more cardio, like anaerobic stuff. It depends what I’m doing at the time. I’m supposed to be doing a 30-mile run with the marines at the end of the month to celebrate their anniversary. So I’m trying to get a few miles in the legs at the moment.”

Obviously, you competed on Strictly Come Dancing back in 2007 too. You got to the final, didn’t you?
“It was a weird one, because Kelly [Brook] dropped out, it ended up being the semi-final. Usually the last three are in the final, but because Kelly dropped out then the semi-final was the last three, and then the final was Matt [Di Angelo] and Alesha [Dixon], if that makes sense?”

gethinstrictlyWe’ll call it the final.
“Well you’re very kind. If anyone asks, I’ll just say you misquoted me.”

You were one of the names that was put forward as a potential replacement for Bruce this year…
“Yes, apparently the bookies mentioned my name.”

Were you approached about it? Or was that the bookies thinking ‘Oh he was a past contestant, we’ll put him on the list’.
“No, they didn’t approach me this time. About a year after I did the show I did get a couple of calls. I had this amazing phone call where they said, ‘What are you doing on Saturday?’. It was from the booker at Strictly. My mind was racing, ‘cause I was like ‘What could it be?’. Then they called me back on Friday and said ‘Look, Bruce was feeling under the weather, and they were going to ask you to do Tess’s job, and Tess was going to do the main studio instead of Bruce’. I was like ‘No way!’. And they went ‘Yeah sorry, he’s fine’. And I said: ‘Not a problem, thanks for thinking of me.’ Three weeks later, the same thing happened again. It happened a few times. I’ve done quite a bit with ITV since then… you know. Obviously I love Strictly, so it would have been a no-brainer if they had asked me this time, but what they’ve done this year, it makes complete sense. The show did so well last year. It’s like sport – you don’t change a winning team, do you?”

There are so many names being bandied about for who will compete on the show, but who would you most like to see dancing this year?
“Well funnily enough, a friend of mine is doing it.”

“I’m sworn to secrecy.”

That’s intriguing.
“It is! It is. It’s a new friend actually. We met at an event – I’ve got to be careful what I say here. This person knew I’d done Strictly and at the end this person was like ‘I have to tell you! What’s it like?’. I said, ‘you’re going to have the best experience of your life. You’re gonna love it. It’s gonna be so hard, you’re gonna want to cry at points, but the end result is phenomenal’. At that point this person literally burst out in tears. They’re very much looking forward to it.”

One of the names that has been rumoured is our recent current cover star Thom Evans…
“Oh right?”

How do you think he’d do on the show? He seems like quite a good fit.
“I find it interesting when people say who is a good fit and who’s not. I think some people surprise you, don’t they? For me, I was musical, but I could not perform a dance to save my life. I had to learn how to use my body, my fingers – that sounds dodgy, doesn’t it. So you look at someone like Thom and you think, yeah, definitely fit enough, but he’s a big fella and that doesn’t always help.”

The 21st Question begins on Monday (August 4) at 5pm on ITV.