I WAS lucky enough to go and see West Yorkshire’s biggest and most spectacular pantomime stars – Alhambra Theatre favourite Billy Pearce along with actress and television presenter Lisa Riley, John Challis (Only Fools and Horses) and Jake Canuso (Benidorm) – in this year’s show.
Billy tells me: “I aim to be here in Bradford for at least 25 years plus, I have found my natural home and the shows get bigger and better every year.” The panto is booking until January 24 2016. Downton Abbey actress Michelle Dockery who played Lady Mary in the drama, tells me that she knows she will never have such a high-profile role again. “It’s obvious and such a thrill that you get a chance to see your career go this way. I am not sure why people like Lady Mary, but they seem to for some reason,” she giggled.
Amanda Abbington has revealed that Brighton-based BBC One cop show Cuffs won’t be returning for a second series. The actress tells me: “We were all shocked that it won’t be coming back, it appears it was liked by the fans, but the BBC have decided against a second stint.”
British ventriloquist Paul Zerdin says life has got crazy since he won America’s Got Talent and the $1 million prize in September. “I did enter really just for the exposure, I thought it would help with my career in the US, but to win the show was well beyond my wildest dreams. What a chance I took too,” he said.
After Jamelia’s exit from Strictly Come Dancing and claims that Peter Andre’s standing ovation was filmed again for the dance-off, rumours of a fix have been circulating, but Len Goodman has put a stop to them. He tells me: “I think it’s a lot of sour grapes to be honest, and of course it keeps their names in the papers. They are not fixed, and we have no idea what or who is going to win ... that is the truth.”
Legendary children’s TV presenter Derek Griffiths is to join the cast of Coronation Street, playing a pensioner. He tells me: “I loved it and hope it may be a role that pops up now and again. I have watched the show all my life, so to get that call to appear, was heaven, it’s not quite all sunk in yet.”
Former EastEnders star John Partridge, who has appeared in theatre productions including Cats and Miss Saigon, has reportedly signed up for Celebrity Big Brother. John tells me: “I think it’s basically an entertainment show, and so many other people have done it so why not me too?”
Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton Du Beke is worried that at the age of 50 he may be forced to retire and make way for younger dancers on the show. A source tells me: “Ideally he would love to join the judging panel at some stage, and everyone thought he could have taken over from Sir Bruce, but he was left stunned when it went to Claudia Winkleman instead.”
Former S Club 7 singer Hannah Spearritt is set for a new role as a regular character, Mercedes Christie, in the long-running BBC One medical drama Casualty. She tells me: “We did reunite for a tour and one-off promotion, but acting is what I have now in mind for my career. You can’t be a pop star forever, jumping around the stage, can you?”
The X Factor live final drew its lowest-ever ratings after figures slumped to a disappointing 5.95million viewers. Insiders at ITV will be viewing this with worry, as the new contract for the next batch of shows is under review. Despite all the changes that Simon Cowell made, the show is seen by many to be past its best, and ITV may even “rest” the show.
Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular 2015 was filmed at the start of December, and it’s all down to costs, I can reveal. Insiders on the show tell me: “We film extra interviews with our most popular guests, and then edit them into a special. It’s cost-effective and Alan’s fans get to see people they enjoy.”
EastEnders actor Danny Dyer, who plays Mick Carter in the soap, tells me that he plans to stay with the show for the foreseeable future. “I do enjoy the show and there is a lot of scope with Mick, plus I am hopeful the BBC may look into other options with me as an actor ... I would be very happy with that,” he said.
Veteran actress Hayley Mills currently starring in pantomime at Richmond in West London tells me that she still misses appearing in the hit drama ‘Wild At Heart’. “It was such fun and a great place to film,” she said. “I do hope we get to do one of those reunion shows with all the cast at some time in the future, it would be a highlight for me.”
Lenny Henry has decided to set up his own production company to secure more work after a move into acting on stage and screen. He reveals: “I like the idea of being in control and this gives me that option, so we will see how it goes.”