Strictly Come Dancing is going to be Stricter Than Ever this year.
Not because Craig Revel Horwood is going to be even harsher with his scores (that would be impossible), but because of the health measures in place to keep the show on air amid the pandemic.
The series will be shorter than usual, with 12 celebrity contestants instead of 15.
We’ve been hearing from the class of Strictly 2020 and learned the following things:
1. Bill Bailey’s diary was quite empty this winter
The Strictly 2020 line-up is, let’s be honest, the best one there’s been in several years.
Which, as comedian Bill Bailey points out, is largely because there isn’t much else for celebrities to do.
“Right now, in a normal year, I’d be about to start three or four months touring all round Australia and New Zealand, and then I’d be in America, then Europe, I’d be away for seven or eight months of the year,” he explains. “All of that has stopped.
“So part of the reason I was able to do the show this year was because the tour was just not happening. Everything has been postponed indefinitely, so really I’ve got a lot of time to focus on this.”
2. Clara Amfo’s mum may need to lie down
Anyone who follows the Radio 1 DJ on social media will have revelled in the screengrabs she often shares of WhatsApp conversations with her mum.
Usually, the legendary Mrs Amfo can be seen reminding her daughter to eat plenty of vegetables and not wear anything too revealing on TV. So goodness knows how she’s going to cope with Strictly.
“She’s already shared some opinions about how I should present myself,” Clara laughs. “She says, ‘You don’t have to wear something too short, it can be down to your ankles, okay?’
“And I try to explain, ‘Mum, look, there are going to be some dances that require me not wearing a lot of clothes, just for the movement’, and she’s like, ‘Just make sure it’s sensible’.”
3. HRVY has the support of his former teachers
The 21-year-old, who is too cool for vowels, says: “I didn’t realise how many of my friends love Strictly. Loads of people I didn’t expect have been sending me messages that are really positive and nice.
“I saw the other day on Facebook, there was a comments section full of my old school teachers,” the singer adds, “and they were all talking about me [doing Strictly] and battling over which teacher I liked the most.”
HRVY had to self-isolate earlier this month after testing positive for Covid-19, but is still expected to take part in the series.
His time spent in quarantine meant he missed this year’s photo shoot, which is why he’s the only contestant who hasn’t been pictured in costume in front of a sparkly background.
4. Maisie Smith is great company in a lift
“Honestly, I can dance to anything,” says the EastEnders star.
“You can even play lift music and I’ll bop to it. Any music, I’ll dance to it, in any situation.”
The actress has a little dance experience with BBC entertainment shows, having performed a routine as part of Children In Need last year alongside her castmates.
But, she says: “That was five days, back in [November 2019], I don’t think that compares with what’s about to come!”
5. One particular Girl was Aloud to give Jason Bell some tips
The NFL star has a child with Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, who is no stranger to energetic dance routines.
As a result, Jason has been trying to glean as much wisdom as he can.
“Yes, we’ve talked about it, and really it’s a timing thing - I said to her, ‘Do I have enough time during the week to get the routines down?’ You know, she’s done it her whole life,” he says.
“And she said, ‘Yeah, but you’ve got to lock in and be focused, but I’ll give you some tips and tricks’, so I’ve got a couple.”
6. Ranvir Singh had a rather specific request for the wardrobe team
Good Morning Britain’s political editor isn’t too worried about the feathers and sequins she’ll have to wear - but rather what’s underneath them.
“I put on a stone during lockdown,” Ranvir laughs, “so the poor wardrobe people, I said, ‘Listen, I don’t mind what you do on the outside, what I care about is the strength of the support underwear, it has to be the best you’ve got, just suck it all in.
“Honestly, I’ll have fat earlobes and fat ankles because I’ve pushed it all out.”
7. Jamie Laing really doesn’t want to get injured (again)
The Made In Chelsea star had to pull out last year before the series began due to a foot injury. His last-minute replacement, Kelvin Fletcher, went on to win the series with Oti Mabuse.
“I feel like he has really put the pressure on for me to do well this year. But also I feel like everyone should thank me, because I gave Strictly Kelvin Fletcher,” Jamie laughs.
He is determined not to let anything stand in his way this year. “I’ve done a lot of physio, I’ve worked hard on it, so hopefully it’ll be fine,” he says.
“If I get injured again I think it would just be embarrassing. Last year people felt sorry for me, this year people would just be like, ‘What a wimp’.”
8. Caroline Quentin plans to act her way through any dodgy dancing
The Blue Murder and Men Behaving Badly star is putting her acting skills to good use in the ballroom.
“I’m really hoping that having showed off for a living, in all sorts of different formats, that when I get into the more dramatic dances, I won’t be too embarrassed to just go for it,” she explains.
“I’m going to try and use all that stuff to cover up for any nasty footwork that goes on, or any bad arms.”
9. Max George won’t be able to use a body double this time
The Wanted singer hasn’t got much dance experience - but he was put through his paces during an appearance on a hit US TV show.
“I did do a little bit on Glee,” he explains. “We had one day of rehearsal and then we’d film, but we’d have 30 or 40 takes.
“And I actually had a body double for certain things, [for moves] that were just out of my range.”
His former bandmate Jay McGuinness previously won Strictly, but Max’s experience on Glee makes him think he might not be quite as successful.
“I remember there was a lift that I just couldn’t get, and one of the dancers I was working with, I nearly dropped her and had to catch her by the face, which wasn’t cool. So after that, they just brought this guy and they were like, ‘We’ll do that bit’.”
10. Nicola Adams is bringing her fighting spirit to the dancefloor
The former Olympic boxer will be the first ever Strictly contestant to be paired with a same-sex partner - although it hasn’t yet been revealed who that will be.
“I don’t mind who I’m paired with, it’s going to be good fun,” she says. “But whoever it is, they have to be as competitive as me, because I’m going to be working hard every day.”
Nicola admits her sporting background has made her more determined to make it to the final week.
“I’m super competitive, I want to be in the final, so I’ll be working as hard as I can to make that happen. But if not, I’ll definitely be giving 110% in everything I do, so I don’t mind if I fall short.”
11. Jacqui Smith got some advice from the former shadow chancellor
“Ed Balls called me when it was announced I was going to be on the show, and gave me some brilliant advice,” says the former home secretary.
“Nobody can ever compete with Ed’s Gangnam Style. But what he said to me was embrace it, really go for it, and try hard, and I promise that that’s what I’m going to do.”
12. JJ Chalmers isn’t letting his injuries hold him back
The TV presenter’s career as a Royal Marine Commando was cut short after he suffered life-changing injuries following an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion in Afghanistan.
The blast crushed an eye socket, burst his eardrums, destroyed his right elbow, blew off two fingers on his left hand and left holes in his legs - but he hasn’t let that stop him becoming a popular TV host (and Strictly contestant).
“My success was built in a moment in my life where I felt, ‘I’m not going to let myself create barriers - there are enough barriers in life, and now I have physical limitations, but I’m not going to put any more in my own way’,” he says.
“I’m not here to be a spokesperson for disability, but if somebody can look at me and go, ‘Bloomin’ heck, he’s done that and he’s got rubbish hands’, then all the better.”
Strictly Come Dancing starts on BBC One at 19:50 BST on Saturday.