Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell were nervous about working together, but they soon bonded over their troubled pasts, enjoying a cry and love of bouncy castles
Davina McCall,46, presenter
I was mildly terrified of Nicky. When the production company said: “We’d like you to present Long Lost Family with him because he was adopted,” I was like: “Oh my God! Are you kidding me? The man can crucify you with one word. He’s so intelligent and scary!”
The day of our first meeting I read a newspaper cover to cover to try to be up to date with my current affairs so if he did throw me a question on Afghanistan I’d know what to say. But there was not one mention of the day’s news. He was the loveliest man, emotionally intelligent and not bullish at all. I thought: “Isn’t that funny? He has to be like that on his programme.”
He sent me his book, Blue-Eyed Son, about his adoption. It made me cry and I understood him a lot better. We both know quite a lot about each other’s family and what stories will affect us on the show. He’s a father, so any stories about a dad get him. And because of his own adoption story, any mum seeking her son and watching a reunion is going to affect him. A couple of years ago I called him and said: “Maureen’s story struck such a chord with me.” He knew exactly why: she had come to the realisation that her mother wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but that she was unable to parent her, and I went through exactly that with my mum.
Nicky sends me lovely texts when he’s been away on an amazing story. We only really meet at the reunions on the show. Obviously he gets emotional, as do I, and we often have a moment to have a little cry.
As well as being fiercely intelligent, Nicky is a family man. He’s got four daughters and I think that’s made him sensitive, in a really lovely way. I’m sure this isn’t doing his reputation as a journalistic tiger any good…
Nicky Campbell, 53, presenter
The first time I met Davina I was so nervous I sat there with my arms crossed. One of the ITV executives who was with us said to me: “Nicholas! Uncross your arms.” She’s such a TV legend; you just have to say her first name and everybody knows who she is.
Sometimes in television you meet people who are one thing in front of the camera and another thing off it. But Davina is completely genuine; there’s nothing phoney about her. We immediately clicked.
Davina and I are similar in that we’re not showbizzy people. We have busy family lives. We occasionally see each other outside of work. She had a party last year, and my wife and I went along with our girls. There was a bouncy castle; my kids didn’t want to go on it, but I love a bouncy castle.
Everyone’s got some issues in their family history. Davina and I both understand estrangement and attachment and are quite open about it. But what works about us presenting together is that it’s not about us.
Davina’s very astute with situations – she’s got emotional antennae. If she hadn’t been a presenter she could have worked as someone helping people. She is really good with handling sensitive information. On the show she forms such an amazing bond with people, and they love her. What I respect most about her is that she cares. She doesn’t do the filming and then go home and forget about it. The thing about this programme is that it stays with us.
I’ve learned from working with Davina that it is OK to be yourself, otherwise it just doesn’t work. We deal with the most raw and intensely intimate situations. You have got to be real.
Long Last Family returns to ITV on 14 July at 9pm.