‘We All Want A SM:TV Reunion’: Cat Deeley On Lunch With Ant And Dec And Her New Children’s Book

The beloved presenter is making some big new steps.


by Hattie Crisell |
Published on

When I sit down to interview Cat Deeley over Zoom, I brace myself for the possibility that the hilarious, slightly eccentric Midlands girl I remember from SM Live – the Saturday morning kids’ show she presented from 1998 to 2002 with Ant and Dec – may have transformed into a serious LA star. After all, she’s been based over there for 14 years.

She eventually appears looking beautiful behind a white desk, with doors opening onto a garden behind her – so far, so LA. But when I confess that I’ve hidden the mess of my living room out of camera view, she shrieks, ‘Exactly the same as me!’ in a decidedly West Bromwich accent. ‘I’ve got shit everywhere else – but this bit looks very Gwyneth Paltrow zen, doesn’t it? It’s all smoke and mirrors!’

Cat is the rare success story of a British presenter making it in the States: now 43 years old, she has to date hosted 17 seasons of the competition show So You Think You Can Dance. This year it’s been cancelled due to the pandemic, and the good news is that we’re going to be seeing more of her in the UK. She’s chatting to me from Primrose Hill, London, where she relocated with her family – husband Patrick Kielty, four-year-old Milo and two-year-old James – back in January. ‘We're going to be based here, and then if I need to go back and work over there, I can,’ she explains.

Cat Deeley
©Cat Deeley

Their decision was largely about being closer to family, but there was also a more serious factor – the risk of gun violence in the US. ‘You go round looking at schools, and you’re not just saying, “Well, what are the facilities? And what do you do about bullying?”’ she explains. ‘You also have to consider, “Well, if a live shooter comes onto your property, what do you do?” I get that there are bad things that happen everywhere, but… it just makes sense to be here.’

So she found herself in the UK for lockdown, which she says she enjoyed. ‘Because I can’t be in a studio, I have guilt-free time to spend with the kids, which I would never normally get. I taught Milo how to read.’ She’s also excited to be publishing her first children’s picture book, The Joy In You, in collaboration with the illustrator Rosie Butcher.

'I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I’d actually like to write more if I can,' she says. 'After I had the boys, it was just the right time to do it.' It's really a love letter to her kids, she adds. 'When it gets to the bedtime-story stage of the evening, you’re so tired and frazzled you can hardly even string a sentence together, so I wanted a book that said everything I wanted to say when I can’t find the words.’

As for future projects, she confirms that an SM Live reunion show is definitely in the works. When I tell her I loved it as a teenager, she insists I couldn’t possibly have seen it in 1998: ‘That was when we were absolutely rubbish and no one was watching, so you definitely weren’t watching then! And we were still crap in 1999. Let’s give it to 2000 at the very earliest.’


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She’s still friendly with Ant and Dec, who she met for lunch recently. ‘We were talking about the reunion – and it will happen because we all want it to. It’s just how on earth we can make it happen right now, with everything that’s going on. But we were talking about how much we loved it, because it was an amazing point in our lives – we’d found what we wanted to do, and we had a laugh doing it. We’d just bought our flats, we had disposable income but no responsibilities, and we were on the telly and people loved it.’

The sketch-show format, she says, took them a long time to figure out. SM was the companion programme to CD , a live pop show that followed it in the schedule, which was the real reason she took the job. ‘I was coming from MTV – they were looking for a music chick, and so that’s why I wanted to do the show. I didn’t really want to do stupid sketches. I was like “No, I’m the cool one.” Like hell I was!’

Once they found their feet, she says, the silliness of SM was contagious. They would invite on huge stars and persuade them to do ridiculous things. ‘Mariah Carey played my matron of honour – Jackie Chan played a showgirl. They would all come on and just be absolute nutters. So it only goes to show, no matter who you are or where you’re from, sometimes everybody wants to feel seven years old. And I've not been taking myself seriously ever since.’

That’s the secret of her success, I suspect. When she first arrived at So You Think You Can Dance, she recalls, the producers didn’t know what to make of her. ‘They were like, “Who’s this nutsy girl?” But they didn’t try to change anything or tell me off. It was just like, “Let her just go and do it – she’ll break them down eventually.”’

The Joy in You is published by Random House Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Available online and in bookshops from 15 September 2020, RRP £12.99.

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