The Britain’s Got More Talent presenter returns for the show’s 11th series and lifts the lid on the judges’ backstage antics – including the new, improved Simon Cowell…
He’s been hosting the spin-off ITV2 series Britain’s Got More Talent for 11 years, so who better than Stephen Mulhern, 40, to spill the beans on what really goes on behind the scenes on the hit show – the judges playing pranks on one another, Simon Cowell getting to grips with Face Swap, and how David Walliams is like a little kid…
Britain’s Got Talent is on its way back, along with your spin-off show. Do you think it’s just as popular and fresh as it was when it started 11 years ago?
Yes, I do, and actually, we’ve really stepped it up this year. Everybody seems to be on fire. It’s exciting to think that 11 years in we’re still having such a laugh. You see that banter on screen. It’s amazing.
What’s Simon like this year?
He’s on top form. In the past he’s always turned up late and this year, at the start of filming, he announced he was going to be on time. We were all like: ‘Yeah, yeah, alright.’ But he was actually on time every day! And Simon being on time has really benefitted the show.
Is he more laid-back as a boss?
Absolutely. He’s like a different person. We have a really good relationship and that’s why I think the judging panel will stay the same for a long time to come. They all get on.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on set so far this series?
I had to teach Simon about Face Swap. He didn’t know what it was and I had to teach him how to use it. I told Simon to try it out with him and David. But Simon was like a child! He couldn’t work it out. I had to sit there trying to explain it for about 20 minutes. It made me laugh. This is a man who wants for nothing, but he doesn’t know about Face Swap! Another time, all the judges held me down and all signed my face. It’s been a real laugh.
What kind of acts do you like the best?
I enjoy the acts that go in a direction you can never imagine. For instance, you’ll see this guy who can blow a whistle and his dog starts dancing. He also has a bell and if he rings it his dog starts dancing on his face!
Are there any acts where you go: ‘Oh God, not this again’?
What’s easier now is you can work out which acts are doing it for a giggle, and they’re the ones I don’t really have any time for. I genuinely believe that although Britain’s Got Talent is about having a laugh and celebrating eccentricity, it’s still about being kind and enjoying acts that will never be seen on ITV. I find it easy now to work out now if someone is wasting time.
Who’s your favourite judge?
They all give us different things. David really gets my vote in terms of what he delivers. But then there are certain moments where he turns into a child! If he says something naughty, he turns into a little kid. There’s stuff you don’t see on the main show.
What about the other judges?
Amanda Holden has been on the show the same length of time as me and we can have a really good laugh together. She’s the cheeky one and she’s also the one who can get away with the most when it comes to Simon, 100 per cent.
And a good example of what Alesha Dixon is like was when, for a joke, I dressed up like Bruno Mars. I had a very loud shirt on, bright blue trousers, and as the judges arrived, they looked at me as if to say: ‘What the hell are you wearing?!’ I told them I had a mate who thought I needed a makeover and that I should wear this outfit to get down with the kids. They all believed my story and they were horrified! They told me to go and get changed. But when Alesha arrived, she loved it! That made me laugh.
Is Britain’s Got More Talent your dream job?
Yes, it’s a job I think most presenters would die for. I absolutely love it, but it’s also the hardest show I do.
On the ITV1 show, they vaguely know what acts they want to appear, but I’ve always said from day one that I don’t want viewers to switch over and see the same acts. This is where the other spin-off shows have slightly fallen by the wayside. Our show stands on its own and you can get away with fun stuff.
What’s really nice is on Saturday Night Takeaway [on which he also features], Ant and Dec told me they wanted my personality on BGMT to come through on their show, which is why they came up with the game In For A Penny, In For A Grand! I love being able to have a laugh with members of the public.
What’s been your favourite ever act on BGMT?
David Watson. He was the guy who did impersonations, including David Blunkett. We were like: ‘Oh my God!’ But now he’s the longest-returning auditionee. Then there was a guy whose talent was to sit in a laundry bag and sing Three Blind Mice! That was funny.
I can also remember a time when the judges told a man that his was the worst dog act in the history of BGT. He replied: ‘Yeah right,’ walked off the stage and didn’t stop to talk to Ant and Dec. But, as he walked past me, he said: ‘What a bunch of wankers!’ That really made me laugh.
Are you best mates with Ant and Dec?
We’re good friends. We have a laugh. We all know each other really well and trust each other. There’s never a chance that one of us would try to outdo the other. It’s a really good relationship and it sounds a bit pathetic but it’s an honour to work with them both. They’re so professional and always want to get it right.
I do genuinely feel lucky to be part of such a massive show as Saturday Night Takeaway. I had a moment a couple of weeks ago actually, in rehearsals, where I sat back and evaluated stuff. You forget how big it is. It’s a monster of a show – it’s great.
Do you ever go out together after filming?
Yes, we do. We all have a toast if, hopefully, the show’s gone well. We have a couple of beers.
When you’re not working and you have time off, do you like to go out on the town or stay at home and chill?
I actually enjoy time at home, but I also love going to the theatre, playing the piano and spending time with my family, as I don’t always get a lot of time to be with them.
You turned 40 earlier this month – happy belated birthday! How do you feel about that?
Yes, I’ve just turned 40 – I spent my birthday with Ant and Dec at Disney World! It’s mad. I know an age is an age, but I feel like I’m turning into an adult now – and I don’t know if I like that…
Who’s your all-time favourite magician?
Paul Daniels. Sadly he passed away last year, but he was just brilliant. People didn’t realise how good he was. He wasn’t just a good magician, he was also a good performer.
And finally, what’s on the cards for you next?
After Britain’s Got More Talent has wrapped up, I’ve got Big Star’s Little Star. Then it’s Catchphrase, and after that I’m going on tour for six weeks to do live magic. I love performing for a live crowd.
Britain’s Got More Talent returns to ITV2 at 9.25pm on Saturday 15 April