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Brendan Cole interview

Brendan Cole is one of the most popular dancers on Strictly Come Dancing and has been with the show for an incredible nine series to date.

Whilst the show in on hiatus, Brendan is preparing to take his own show Live & Unjudged on the road starting on January 17th.

Ahead of the tour we gave Brendan a call to find out more about the show, talk about his experience on Strictly last year and find out what else he’ll be doing in 2012.

How are you today?

All is very good. We’ve got four days before the tour goes live again. I’m just trying to get everything geared up so I’m ready to go. It’s a kind of relaxing but busy day.

This is the fourth run for the show…

We’ve been doing it for two years and this is the fourth run. The last time we went out was this time last year. It’s nice to get back on the road again because it’s a great thing to do. It’s very nice to go out and see the people that obviously love watching on Strictly and to see them firsthand and see the real you I suppose rather than the telly you. It’s a lovely feeling out there.

The show is called ‘Live & Unjudged’. Why did you name it that?

My wife came up with the idea actually. It’s a play on words and there are no judges. We do tend to take the mickey out of the judges quite a lot on the show. It’s a nice way of saying it’s just us and  Ithink it’s got a nice catch to it.

What can people expect when they come to see you?

I hope everything. I like to think of it as very different to the other dance shows out there. Hopefully never a dull moment. When I go and see a show I get quite bored if things don’t change often enough and it’s the same sort of thing throughout. I really wanted to make it quite different to the other shows where the audience felt they were very much part of a show rather than just being entertained.

We include them in some of the stuff we do. We get the audience up during one of the dances to let them have a go at it in their seats. Once they start it’s quite something to have anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 people on their feet doing a dance alongside you to the 14-piece band. It’s just phenomenal and you can’t shut them up after that.

Obviously it’s a dance show so you see the stuff you’d see on Strictly like the Ballroom numbers and the Latin numbers and we chop and chance throughout to keep it exciting and keep it fresh. Ultimately it’s a show very much focused on the audience being part of the show rather than just watching.

What kind of audience do you have? You mentioned before you have lots of Strictly fans. Is it mostly women?

It actually varies quite a lot. I was expecting mostly women but a lot of women come and they want to go with their fella. It depends really. Some places it is a lot of women but other places there’s a lot of men as well. That was one of my main things – I didn’t want to make it just for the women, I wanted to make it very diverse for everybody. A lot of people like Strictly, not just women so we have a lot of chatting and the 14-piece band so if people don’t want to watch every single dance they’ve got a phenomenal band to watch. I’ve tried to keep it very general and lots of people of different ages can watch the show from kids through to young adults and mature adults. Even up to grandmas and granddads. I wanted to have something for everybody so with the music choices we’ve been hopefully very smart in making it a little bit of the old stuff, a little bit of the new stuff and everything in between so there is something everybody can enjoy.

Tell us more about the 14-piece band you’re taking with you…

It’s magnificent. Most of the time the band in a show is down in the pit they’re not really on the stage or a big part of it; they’re in the background. I really wanted them to be a part of it. A lot of what we do on Strictly and with dance is dancing to a live band and it changes the whole atmosphere. By putting them on the stage they’re very much there to be seen and heard and they’re just magnificent. It’s been the same gang since we started with the tour. The show’s developed a lot since we first started and we know each other a lot better now. We love travelling together and we have a riot. We very much include the band in the stuff we’re doing. It’s hopefully a very exciting thing to watch rather than just a nice show.

Have you asked any of your Strictly colleagues for any feedback on it?

A few of them have been actually. It’s always very difficult because everyone is doing other things at the same time. Anton and Erin have got their own show and the Strictly tour is on at the same time. Anton and Erin popped along last time we were out and James and Ola, Natalie…quite a few of them came the first year. It’s so nice to have them in the audience and it’s good to be able to support each other. We’re a very tight knit unit us Strictly lot.

Let’s talk a bit about this year’s Strictly. Obviously you were partnered with Lulu but you danced with other contestants as the show went on. How was it for you this past series?

I loved coming back and dancing with Holly and Anita. It was such a nice feeling to end the show on a high. The start wasn’t exactly the strongest start I’d ever had on a Strictly series but to be able to come back and partner Holly when Artem was injured; it was a nice feeling to help out the boys that couldn’t do it and dance with as lovely people as Holly and Anita were.

As a viewer it was funny to see you painted as a knight in shining armour rushing in to save the day week-on-week. Was it nice to show the more comedy side of your personality?

Yeah it was, it really was. I think it was a nice thing for Strictly because you don’t get that chance very often. That’s what I kind of am in my show…my humour and the way my thinking works is what they did with the knight in shining armour thing. I was worried it was going to go on for one week too many and people would get sick of it but it seems like it was just right. I enjoyed the role I had to play you know, running in and saving the day. It was a bit of fun.

You’ve been on every series of Strictly so far. Are you planning to continue with the show this year?

I would like to think so yes. I’ve done 9 years so far and at the time it’s extremely exhausting. It runs for 5 months of the year and we start in the middle of August and run right through until December. It is one of the hardest jobs you can do because it’s morning until night both mentally and physically exhausting. At the time you think ‘I don’t think I can do this again’ but the show finishes and you think ‘I can’t wait to do this again’. One day they’ll change the furniture and I won’t be on it but for now I’d like to think they still require me and I’d love to do the show.

As you said Strictly is very demanding and there’s lot of things outside of the live show you have to do whereas your show although there’s the rehearsals it’s just the one show per night. Do you prefer one over the other?

They are both two very, very different things and I can honestly say I’d hate to have to choose which one is the more important. With Strictly I’m a small part in a very big production and with my live tour it is my production. Every thing that happens has my fingerprints on it. I’m very proud of my show. It’s not something that somebody else has put together; it’s what I’ve put together. I’ve been instrumental in taking care of everything and it’s important to me that it is me rather than somebody else. I’m very proud of it and it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done professionally but at the same time Strictly is a pretty big thing aswell and it’s a large part of my life that I can’t imagine not being a part of.

Focusing back now on your show. What do you hope that people take away from it?

I’d like to think that people take away a bit more of a sense of who I am. My brother is involved in the show, he’s one of the dancers, and the fact that he’s on stage with me means people can see the more family side of me. My brother and I take the mickey out of each other for half the show. I’d like to think that people will see me as an entertainer rather than just one of the dancers on Strictly.

It’s a nice thing to think that they can see not only your creative side but your chatty side, your humorous side and all the things that come within your own show. Most of all people are paying their very hard-earned money to come and be entertained by me and my company. I like to hope that people will leave saying ‘what a fantastic night, I’ve had a thoroughly brilliant time’. That’s the feedback we’ve had so far from men and women.

In fact the first year we went out a chap came up to me and said ‘mate, I got dragged along here by my wife and was really not looking forward to it but I’ve had one of the best nights out I’ve had in ages’. To have that kind of feedback from both men and women means you’re doing something right.

Our last question for you is what do you have coming up once the tour is finished in mid-February?

It seems like it’s going to be quite a busy year. I’d like to think that I’m going to make a  new show for next year – that’s my main aim for 2013. I’ve got the Brendan Cole Dance Academy which is a new little venture which is taking dance into schools. It’s getting kids active and being involved with something that’s not necessarily media based. Most of my life is based around the television and entertainment side of things but this is a little more low key. It’s giving kids an opportunity to do what I’ve done I suppose. That’s a big project for this year and going into next year. There’s bit and bobs of television stuff, ideas floating round, which come could come to fruition if things go well this year which I’m excited about. Strictly starts middle of the year so there’s not a lot of time off to do anything else so it’s just going to be another busy year.

Sounds like it…

(laughs) Yeah it’s nice to be busy at a time when a lot of people are out of work and my businesses seem to be growing and people still want to see me which is nice (laughs).

Brendan’s tour Live & Unjudged will be touring the UK from 17th February. All the dates can be seen over onBrendan’s Official Website

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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