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TV Interview

Vanessa Feltz & Ben Ofoedu ('The Vanessa Show')

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Vanessa Feltz and Ben Ofoedu

© WENN

Vanessa Feltz is a very busy woman. Not content with her stint on Ultimate Big Brother in the summer, she's landed an early morning breakfast show on Radio 2 and will continue to host her BBC London programme. You'd think that would be enough to be getting on with, but now Vanessa's teamed up with her fiancé Ben Ofoedu (he of Phats % Small) for a brand new Channel 5 morning chatshow. The pair chatted to reporters about the programme, Vanessa's nightmares with A-list stars and expanding their family, so read on to find out what they had to say:

What are your hopes for the show?
Ben: "That it's a breath of fresh air I think, just something different. Sort of the way The Big Breakfast exploded onto our screens in the '90s. If we could achieve something like that, just something fresh and brand new and compelling. It just offers an alternative to what's out there."
Vanessa: "I think what we're hoping for is it will feel a bit more real because we are a real couple. I know it's strange, even we think it's a bit weird ourselves! But it's four years we've been engaged. We're still saving for the wedding - we spent the money on a gastric band! Luckily, we're saving money on food now."
Ben: "By the end of the next year we'll be alright hopefully. If the show does well. Please watch!"
Vanessa: "We're hoping it will be less scripted. We won't be saying, 'Good morning' and 'Welcome to' and 'Coming up after the break' blah blah. Just that it will be a bit more real because we are a bit more real. Usually we have a big argument in the car on the way there."
Ben: "We won't argue on screen. Maybe just a little bit."
Vanessa: "We won't plan it, but it's quite inevitable it's going to happen I would think. The ideal would be to cut through the bulls**t a bit and instead of a load of old flannel, instead of a mere exchange of pleasantries, I would hope it would be a bit more real. So that not every expert will be accorded absolute respect even if they are talking absolute hogwash. I'm hoping for a little wit in it instead of this pofaced, incredibly serious equal deference for someone talking about a new pair of tights or a designer tap for your bidet. We're not going to book in the usual roster of reliable experts so you have the same person every Monday and every Tuesday and every Thursday. We're hoping for it to be a bit more fluid."

Do you think it's going to be a challenge for your relationship, working together?
Vanessa: "Terrible. It's hanging on by a thread as it is!"
Ben: "It's nice, because Vanessa's going to be so busy it's nice that there will be set days where we have to be together."

Vanessa, how are you going to juggle all your projects?
Vanessa:: "F**k knows."
Ben: "We don't mention tiredness in our house."
Vanessa: "All I know is at the moment I can't sleep thinking about how tired I'm going to be. I lie there every night absolutely rigid with fear about how knackering it's going to be. I think it will be alright. I'm not still breastfeeding, the children are grown-ups, so I'm hoping when I'm tired I'll go to sleep. But I thought I might as well give it a whirl."

Do you ever think, 'What have I signed up for?' Did you sign up for everything and then suddenly think, 'Hang on...'
Vanessa: "I think I thought, 'I'm alive'. You're a long time dead - it's a long time to sleep when no-one wants you to do anything. It's a fantastic job, let's face it. I'm not down a mine and I'm not in a factory. It's a lot of fun. It's the best kind of job you can do if you like doing it and you're good at it. I'm genuinely thrilled to pieces to get the chance. Would I rather it was late afternoon? Of course! But it's not, so I'm just going to give it the best shot I possibly can and sleep in between."

What's your tip for being awake so early in the morning?
Vanessa: "I think I have to be less on! A director once said to me, 'You're the only person in this business I've ever had to rush in and say Vanessa, Vanessa, can you project a little less'. I think the Radio 2 people are very anxious that it's 5 o'clock in the morning and I don't go, 'HELLO!' which is what I'm normally inclined towards doing. I'm well aware that either people are awake because they've had a really long night working and they're knackered and they're about to go to sleep or they're reluctantly facing the day having just forced themselves to wake up and the last thing they need is me full-on. So I'm going to try to be a bit less on, and I think a couple of days waking up at that time and I'll genuinely be less on."

How do you feel about Ben getting a lie-in?
Vanessa: "Absolutely sickened. I really am horrified at this idea. I keep trying to say to him in accordance with ancient rules of chivalry don't you think it would be appropriate to rise before his fair maiden and draw me a bath and put candles round it. He shouldn't just be snoring away. When my first husband left me, one of my deepest regrets was whispering and tiptoeing around in the darkness and not waking him up. If I had my time again, I'd go, 'Oi!' If I'm suffering I think he should join in."
Ben: "I'm a bit like that. If someone's pregnant, I'd be pregnant with them. When you get up to do the BBC London show and you look through the papers, I'm up, I make you a cup of tea. And I'm a musician so I'm on stage sometimes at 2am, and that's not really anything for me. So I'm not really an early riser but I do do it."

How do you feel about taking on This Morning?
Vanessa: "I don't think we're taking it on. I don't think we'd dream of doing battle with a great big juggernaut like that. We're just a small penny farthing at the moment, but who knows? I think it is possible to thoroughly enjoy This Morning and occasionally dip out, see what else is going on."
Ben: "We'll be East 17 to their Take That."
Vanessa: "Who'll be Brian Harvey then?"
Ben "I want to be Brian."
Vanessa: "No, I want to be Brian! I don't want to be one of the other East 17s no-one's ever heard of."
Ben: "You can be John."

Vanessa, you're back in the daytime schedule. Is that where you feel you belong?
Vanessa: "No, God no! I think I should be starring in a mainstream Hollywood movie. Angelina Jolie, move aside! Daytime telly? Pah. No, of course. It seems to be the place in which people are not surprised to find me. They might be surprised after all this time!"

Do you have a dream lineup of celebrity guests?
Vanessa: "Barack and Michelle Obama, we think they'd be good."
Ben: "David Cameron would be nice, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. No, any guests. We'd like the show to go from Boris Johnson to Liam Gallagher or Peter Andre. We want it to be a wide scope and we think that we will be able to achieve that. So you never know who you're going to find on the couch."
Vanessa: "You never know who's going to be the most interesting person - it's not always the highest profile. Sometimes it really is a Gillian McKeith. If you said [before I'm A Celebrity...], 'You're going to kick off the new show with Gillian McKeith', we'd have said, 'God no, the poo doctor? No thanks'. But now it's a good booking because she's so totally wacko and barmy and barking in every way that she's fascinating, don't you think? It's not always the obvious dude."

Will you be playing good cop bad cop?
Vanessa: "Which do you think is which? He's not going to blag the good cop role every damn day. I'm going to be really sweet to everyone to make him be bad cop."
Ben: "I've got no problem with playing that role."
Vanessa: "The best part of my year was when we did this show called Restaurant In Your Living Room. I had to go onto Loose Women to talk about it. I hadn't seen it yet and they chose a clip. To my absolute delight it was a clip of Ben swearing his socks off, standing at the kitchen door shouting, 'Where the f**k is Esther Rantzen's f**king salmon?' Everyone thinks he's so adorable and charming all the time. We slaughtered Antony Costa though, I'm glad to say."

Is there anyone you've had a bad experience interviewing?
Ben: "You didn't much like Halle Berry, did you?"
Vanessa: "Oh Halle Berry, yeah, she wasn't nice. Really unco-operative. I felt like saying, 'Listen, it's your f**king film. If you don't want to talk about it let's not talk about it'. But she's unlikely to be knocking at our door. Tell Halle we don't want her! I was on the bed with Madonna on The Big Breakfast and she's difficult. When I went in she was in this very hostile mood and she was surrounded by her people, her henchpeople. They all seemed to be sitting round the floor eating salad, it was really quite strange. She looked up at me and she looked so p*ssed off and I thought, 'F**k it, I'm a person too'. She kept me waiting about nine hours to interview her as well. I said to her, 'You look really, really miserable', and she snapped back something like, 'Wouldn't you be if you had to keep talking about the same thing all the time?' I said, 'OK, let's do philosophy, poetry, politics, shopping - I can talk about anything you like, it doesn't have to be your film'. She said, 'OK, shopping', so we did and it was quite good. So she was quite difficult but you can usually get round people a little bit. My ideal is to talk to them about something they haven't already spoken about and not just have the old spiel but get something a bit more interesting about something else. One of the ways we're going to get people to talk about something they don't normally talk about is that Ben is going to bound in with..."
Ben: "Ben's Big Question."
Vanessa: He's just going to come jumping in and no-one's going to know when and suddenly lay on some question about some random, unrelated, totally different question that everyone will have a view on but it won't be the story they were telling us, and just see how they deal with it."
Ben: "I'm always thinking about random things, my mind's always elsewhere, so it'll be quite easy to do that and it'll be quite natural."

Vanessa, you're getting to an age where some women start to struggle to get seen on TV - how do you feel to be getting so much work?
Vanessa: "Amazed. I'm acutely aware that women of my age, older and a bit younger as well, say you become less visible. I'm totally aware of it. I feel shocked and quite bewildered by it all but thrilled."
Ben: "I think reality TV brought so many different things but people just want realness. From an outside point of view, the way Vanessa wears her heart on her sleeve, she doesn't really dress up her facial expressions, she's not scared to say what she thinks. I think people think they're getting the genuine article and they don't feel that it's put on and staged and rehearsed."
Vanessa: "I wonder if it's because people know I've made so many mistakes and it's been so public. It's been a real life but when the spotlight's on it it looks more dramatically ill-conceived, badly thought-out and f**ked up than it would otherwise. I know when people ring my show, whatever's happened to them they say, 'You'll understand this'. I think people know that I've been through quite a few things that they've also been through. I think the public weight issue is something a lot of people can identify with. I'm a bit more in touch with life's ups and downs. My husband walked out on me, that wasn't great. My mum died - she was only 57 - of cancer, that was a bit difficult. I brought two girls up on my own. The whole thing hasn't been much of a picnic. Plus a massive public career implosion, which wasn't great either. Did I ever think I'd be back on the television with my own show? No, I didn't. But truthfully, I certainly didn't spend all day sobbing about it or even a tiny part of any day sobbing about it. You've got to move on. Maybe I'm here because I've stuck around. I don't know, but I'm really glad."

Your daughters are growing up and one got engaged recently - are you looking forward to becoming a grandmother in the future?
Vanessa: "Oh my God, yes! I'd love it. Even more I'd like..."
Ben: "A little baby."
Vanessa: "I don't know if my old ovaries will oblige at this stage so we might have to buy one from somewhere! No, adopt. We are considering looking into the possibility of adopting. I've made so many mistakes in my life but the worst with no shadow of a doubt was to only have two children. That was a terrible error of judgement made for all the suitable middle-class reasons, and they were all wrong. But grandchildren, bring it on."

The Vanessa Show begins on Monday at 11am on Five.

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