The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 final takes place tomorrow night and if you looked up the definition of underdog in the dictionary you’d likely see a picture of Mark Wright.
The TV and radio personality has had a rollercoaster ride in the competition but he’s easily the most improved over the course of the series. Credit has to go to his pro partner Karen Hauer who has turned him from Marky No Moves to a real dancer.
After the shock of making it through to the final had sunk in, we caught up with Karen to talk about being a finalist, discuss that judge-dividing Rumba, and to find out how proud of Mark she is.
Congratulations on making the final!
(laughs) There’s definitely somebody looking out for us. I’m seriously absolutely speechless but at the same time I can’t even explain how happy we are and how proud I am of Mark to have made it this far. We’ve basically completed every single dance and have gone through with the help of the public. It’s definitely been a battle for us to get to the final and we’ve fought to stay in the competition because it means so much to us.
The semi-final was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for you wasn’t it?
Absolutely! Going into that dance-off against Jake and Janette was the toughest dance-off we’ve ever had to do. Janette is one of my best friends, and Jake and Mark get along really well. They are such a strong couple and from their body of work they’ve been phenomenal from day one. It was just very, very emotional for everybody.
For us we had to stick to our guns and pick our Rumba. We took a huge gamble and we thought that if we were going to go out then we’d go out doing a dance we both loved and meant a lot to us. We thought we would go out on a good note but we got saved. We were saved by Len who wasn’t so keen on our Rumba but apparently something in him, or the way we danced it, inspired him and changed his mind. I feel so blessed and really, really humbled and absolutely happy to be amongst the finalists. The other three couples left are absolutely brilliant and have been from the start, then there’s Mark and I who have been chugging along and kept up with them, and here we are in the final.
Did you expect the split reaction you got for your Rumba?
Dancing a Rumba is one of the toughest things, especially for the male celebs, and I wanted to bring something new, something different and something fresh. I wanted to bring a positive light to the Rumba. Yes, I could have been an extra two technical steps in it that would have been more recognised but I had to really go with my gut instinct as a choreography and with the beautiful music I was given. Mark got into this dance emotionally and physically that I felt no matter what I did I had to do that dance justice and I wanted it to be beautiful. I felt that it was and I felt that Mark did an absolutely brilliant job showcasing it with his emotion and his beautiful lines.
Craig loved it, which I was absolutely over the moon with. I was a bit upset but at the same time I had to go with my heart, and go with what I as a professional dancer love to do and love to choreograph to. I took a gamble and thank God that gamble paid off.
If you’re not going to take a gamble in the semi-final, when are you going to take one?
Absolutely! I agree. I had to give them a show and a performance. If I had just given them technical steps it would have just been a Rumba and it wouldn’t have been a dance that people were still talking about or that the judges would have been split on. I wasn’t doing it for the controversy or anything like that, I delivered something that I was thought was special and just for Mark.
We loved your Rumba. It was sad to see you so upset after you’d performed it…
It really did hurt. We worked really hard and we’re constantly thinking of new things to come up with and ideas. Mark worked really harder and as dancers we’re always thinking of new things. It did really hurt but you know what, this career is not easy. I take my punches really well and I have a pretty thick skin. That day that Rumba had a real soft spot for me.
The final is only two days away. You may be dancing three dances and the details of your showdance and your favourite dance of the series have been revealed. For your favourite you’re going to do your Samba. What’s it been like slipping back into the Samba?
Oh it was great! We loved that dance. We feel like the three dances we’ll be doing are just a celebration of our journey and coming back to these dances is just incredible. I just want people to see Mark’s enjoyment and his improvement throughout these dances. I want them to see the sheer joy of being in the final because this is a celebration for us. No matter what happens we’re thrilled to be in the final. It’s great coming back to these dances because I can see the way that he’s analysing and going through every step with the knowledge that he knows now. He’s finishing his lines, he’s fixing his fingers and he’s listening to what the judges have said. He’s really taking on every detail and of course not forgetting the performance aspect and delivering a good show for everybody at home.
People are saying that Mark is the most improved and has gone on the biggest journey during the series. Would you agree with that?
He’s definitely had his ups-and-downs. Simon has been in the dance-off three times and Caroline has been in a dance-off. Frankie is the only one who hasn’t been in a dance-off. All three of them have been brilliant from the start and we admire them. Mark has really gone from being Superman to doing an American Smooth where his arms were stiff and robotic to slowly understanding and finding the knowledge of dance and getting that through his system. He’s slowly become a dancer and found that confidence in himself by battling through. We’ve ticked every box you can possibly think of; we’ve cried plenty, we’ve been in the dance-off and we’ve had to fight our way to the final. I think that was the most-intense dance-off and our most intense moment. We literally broke down at the end when we found out we were in the final. Mark is the definition of an underdog I have to say.
You even had Kevin crying as the result was announced…
Kevin was in tears once we started our Rumba. Once we got through everyone was crying and happy but obviously upset for Jake and Janette. At the same time it was just a celebration because the unexpected happened. We all deserved to be in the final but we never really thought about making it this far. It’s happened and we’re just so thrilled.
Does it make it that bit extra special that you have Kevin in the final with you as well?
Yes definitely. They’ve been favourites from the beginning which is great so it’s really nice to have their, and everybody’s, support. We haven’t had much time to talk about it because we’ve been really, really busy but we’re really happy to be in it together. A lot of people ask if we’re competitive against each other but we’ve both been on completely different journeys. The point of view of both of our celebrities is different but it’s still the same job and it’s still the same hard work. I’m really, really happy to be in there and be called a finalist with my fiancé. I think we’re the first couple ever to make it together to the final so that’s really nice.
On a personal note though it must be nice for you this series as this is the furthest you’ve reached in the competition…
Yeah! It’s the first time I’ve made the final. It’s an amazing achievement and I’m just really proud that I got a partner who is really brilliant in every aspect. He started from nothing and has pushed through wanting to learn and wanting to learn my craft. It’s a great achievement and it feels absolutely amazing to be a finalist. I still can’t even believe it. It’s the final tomorrow and I’m still going ‘oh my God we’re actually going to be in the final’.
Strictly Come Dancing 2014’s grand final starts at 6.30pm tomorrow on BBC One. Watch Karen and Mark’s Rumba from the semi-final below: