"Some of the cowboys had never met a gay person, so me, Bobby Norris and Louie Spence rocking up was probably a nightmare for them!"
Since hosting Celebs on the Farm in August, Stephen Bailey's career has continued on a much-deserved upward trajectory. After a hit Edinburgh show which he's been touring ever since, Stephen ended 2018 with a cameo in Corrie and kickstarted 2019 by camping with Bobby Davro, Cheryl Baker Joe Swash, Michelle Collins and Tim Vincent!
Now he's back on our screens hosting Celebs on the Ranch for 5Star, which sees Louie Spence, Jenny Powell, Siva Kaneswaran, Tanya Bardsley, Eyal Booker, Georgia Steel, Bobby Norris, Courtney Green, Mark Francis Vandelli and Victoria Baker-Harber travel to a remote part of Arizona to learn the skills of cowboys on a ‘dude ranch.’
Over ten days they will attempt tasks such as roping, herding, camping, shooting and tacking-up while grooming and attending to their own horse which they will also partner in some challenges.
I caught up with Stephen Bailey to talk about and what sets this show apart, his dream celebrity farmer/cowboy and why he's definitely not returning to the Edinburgh Fringe.
Since we last spoke nine months ago, your career seems to have really taken off...
It's been really good actually and I've enjoyed everything I've done although I was saying to my friend this afternoon, I was very naive because I thought that all you had to do was do something, prove that you're good and then everything else becomes easier. Now, good God it's just as hard but in a different way!
Well before it was either "You don't have enough experience" or "You're trash" and now it's like "You're too Channel 5." "You're too gay" "You're not gay enough" "You're too edgy" "You're not edgy enough" - you can't bloody win. Just get me on a farm or a ranch with a bunch of celebs! Honestly, if I could live off one for six months and the other for six months then I think I'd be dead happy.
I have to talk to you about your Corrie cameo. How did that come about?
I can't act Elliot and I'm not a liar. I can tell you what I'm good at and I can tell you what I'm bad at. Acting is something I am absolutely dreadful at.
I had a meeting at ITV off the back of doing Zoe Ball's show and I met with the big head of entertainment there, we really hit it off luckily and she was like "I see you on Corrie" and I went "I know, but I can't act" and she went "Right..." but I went "It is my dream obviously. I'm a fan of it, I've got to do Corrie once, even if it's just in a little way" and that conversation happened about six months earlier and I didn't really think of it again.
But then I got a phone call saying "Would you be up for it?" - considering what a big show it is, it's the easiest job I've ever got.
It just really suited me, and like I say, I can't act, so for me it was just a nice thing to tick off the bucket list. Other things you can't get on various reasons...
What was the reaction like to Celebs on the Farm?
I was surprised actually because people seemed to love it and I went into it thinking "Oh, what's it going to be like? And what are these celebs going to be like?" and do you know what the lovely thing was - everyone's just human aren't they? We all got on, we had such a laugh making it, there was no nastiness, no bitchiness, none of the producers were encouraging that and it was nice.
What it was, was an entertainment show about celebrities competing to be the best farmer so we didn't give a shit if they were shitfaced in the pub in the evening or give a shit what they were watching on Netflix in their motorhomes. All we cared about was how they got on in the farming competition. They all really united and got on.
There was no drama and I think people liked it for that. You could have assumed that Charlotte (Dawson) and Megan (McKenna) wouldn't have got on for example and now they refer to each other as sisters! We were very lucky with that cast actually, and the cast on Celebs on the Ranch.
Let's talk about Celebs on the Ranch then. Similar premise?
Yeah, it's the same thing again really. We've taught celebrities how to run a farm and now it's how to run a real-life working ranch with real life cowboys. In our heads we all thought of some sort of western in terms of what it was going to be like and I think it surprised us all.
In some ways it's very much exactly how you'd expect it to be. But in other ways, these are salt of the earth people just living their lives. They're living their best life. Us over here live our best life with our new Gucci handbag and your Maserati car - over there they're living their best life because they've got each other, they've got nature, they've got a roof over their heads.
I think that's what comes across in the show actually. With Celebs on the Farm what came across was that everyone got on and people are actually giving this a go. Charlotte Dawson really gave every challenge a go.
Whereas with Celebs on the Ranch, it's almost as if the challenges take a backseat. But almost by accident. Because they're still very important to the show and the eliminations, but I think what you actually see when you're watching it, is the merging of two cultures.
You've got celebrities that need wifi, make-up and fake tan meeting people that need nothing.
What was it like filming out in Arizona?
It was amazing but I wish that someone had told me that it wasn't always hot. I only took one jumper feeling very smug like I was the new Caroline Flack in Love Island. You'll watch the show and go "Why is he wearing that jumper again?" because I only had one jumper and you couldn't get to a shop.
The nearest shop was a two-and-a-half hour drive away and it was a Walmart so it didn't really have anything I could wear!
It does look like glorious sunshine and we're all in scarves and hats - on one day I borrowed Rancher Rick's wife's cardigan, Rancher Rick's denim jacket and I had a big coat, a hat and a cup of tea because we were filming in this field and my nipples were like bullets!
How did Rancher Rick compare to Farmer Chris?
He's very different from Farmer Chris actually. I feel like with Farmer Chris, you just saw this lovely man, very serious about farming because that's his life, grow to love these celebrities. And it was the same with Rancher Rick but you always kept in the back of your mind "Oh no... he's got a gun!"
Was that scary?
Yeah! I mean, don't get me wrong, we had so much fun on that ranch but I definitely think the idea of a ranch is scarier than the idea of a farm. On the ranch they're shooting guns, they are herding wild animals - getting wild cattle from out in the literal wild west and they're so unpredictable. Even the horse, they're not cute little ponies like over here. They're bloody wild horses! And some of the cowboys are wild.
Some of the cowboys had never met a gay person, so me, Bobby Norris and Louie Spence rocking up was probably a nightmare for them!
And did they warm to you three in particular?
It was very funny and it's shown in the show, but on day one they weren't sure about us at all. They would barely shake our hands, they would barely utter a word - by the end of it, they loved us! They were asking if they could keep some of our more flamboyant shirts and it was really great.
What was the worst task the celebs were given?
For me, it's when they went on this cattle drive which took two days so they had to stay out overnight - this is in the mountains with mountain lions - and they had to herd cattle and bring wild cattle back!
I just think you've got a lot going on there. You've got to have control of your horse, you've got to listen to your cowboys, you have to get your lasso on and it was everything the celebs had learnt individually coming together.
But even then, they weren't in the safety of the ranch. They were out on the real life terrain of Arizona and it must have been dangerous because they wouldn't even let me go. I was part of every challenge to talk to them and cheer them on, but on that one, I couldn't be. I was just waiting for them to come back.
Who struggled the most?
To be fair to them, I don't think any of them struggled. I think different challenges suited different people. You had Georgia (Steel) who's tiny who had to get on a massive horse and then you had Victoria (Baker-Harber) who's got the poshest clothes I've ever seen. I'm thinking "Oh God, if a horse shits on her boot, I wouldn't want to be that horse!"
What was the atmosphere like on the ranch?
Unlike the farm, we were very isolated. Once we were there, we were there for the whole time. There was no leaving, there was no popping to the pub, no takeaways. Once we were there, we were there.
We were always with the same people and everyone got on. No one had one of those minutes where they were like "You need to get away from us now." Everyone really got on, we were singing around the campfire! Everything cliché you can think of, we did it.
What's your favourite moment from the series?
My personal favourite moment, which I don't think is my favourite moment of the show without giving anything away, was the first night because we were all there together, the cast, the crew. We had the campfire going, we had a glass of vino and were just under the stars.
I remember thinking "Oh this is it now for two weeks and it's going to be lovely." There's no wifi so we had to speak to each other so you find out about Georgia's life before Love Island and I've never fallen in love with a woman the way I fell in love with Tanya. She's the nicest lady who cannot do enough for you and I was like "Tanya, I thought you'd be like Tanya Turner from Footballer's Wives!"
What sets Celebs on the Ranch apart from other reality shows?
It's really honest. There's really no production in it, even the eliminations, we don't really want to do them. They're just part of the show because you need the competition element otherwise what's the show? But there's a bit of me that's always like "Why can't we all stay to the end and just announce a winner?"
Obviously there are some funny bits like Louie Spence with cowboys, where he's flirting with them and they're reaching for a gun - all the funny moments come from that. But the thing that sets it apart is that there's no nastiness. I don't think there's one bit that people are going to dislike or find cringey or cruel.
I think it's the perfect time for a show like this looking at what's going on in the world. You don't want to see people scream at each other. The world is screaming at each other at the minute so I think we want to watch TV and go "Oh that's nice".
Today in particular, looking through Twitter I had to turn my phone off for a few hours because if it's not Brexit it's this LGBT in schools thing and I made the mistake of watching the debate where there are people like me who go "Why don't you just teach about LGBT relationships in schools?" and you have other people saying they're not homophobic, but being homophobic. Oh my God this is exhausting!
Visually, you could watch Celebs on the Ranch on mute because it's beautiful and you would still enjoy it. TV is normally very guilty of going "This is our camp character!" or "This is our bonkers woman" or "This is our shallow person" - what is brilliant about this show is that every single one of those people have depth.
Mark Francis Vandelli for example from Made in Chelsea is normally the coarse one, quite conservative, but that's let down. You see a very sweet side to him and he's just a lovely lovely man - I started fancying him at one point. I'm probably ruining his career now by saying that!
Little Courtney from TOWIE, the way she arrives on day one compared to her last day, it was two different people!
We know that Celebs on the Farm is coming back later this year. Do you have any idea of who's going in?
It is! If names are confirmed, they've not told me. I genuinely don't know any of the names yet but I'm looking forward to it but also I'm nervous about it. Because we've created two magical things now with Celebs on the Farm and Celebs on the Ranch so I want it to stay magical.
Sometimes I have lost jobs because they go "it's about the mix of people" and you're a bit like "what a load of TV nonsense" but actually, seeing the mix of people on our show, it really is! If we get one person wrong, you will lose that warmth. We had Georgia from Love Island and Courtney from TOWIE and in your head you're like "Oh my God, those two are gonna hate each other. But they became best mates."
Who would your dream celebrity be?
My dream celebrity would be Michelle Visage. I would love her to do it, but what do I know? I have absolutely no power whatsoever.
I must say, the job of a celebrity booker is hard. They have to get the mix right, convince the agents, convince the producers and then convince the channel. Then you're going to get a few people say yes or no and then they're going to have to go back to the drawing board. I really respect that job now because it's not easy.
As I say, so far, we've had two very good mixes and you're like "how are you going to do it a third time?" I was dubious for the ranch, I was like "We're not going to be able to recreate that magic" and we surpassed recreating that magic actually.
I am excited to see who's going to be on Celebs on the Farm series two, but so far I have no idea.
Outside of these series, what are you up to? Still a definite no to Edinburgh Fringe?
Definitely still a no! I hate Edinburgh! It's for the middle class... listen, until my parents drop dead there is no point of me going to Edinburgh. That'll be my show because at the minute, the fact of going up there and being like "You know what, I'm quite happy. I have the same struggles as you - I've got to pay my credit card bill off, the hotel was a bit dearer than I expected and I've got earache but I've still got to make it to work" - so even though I can make that funny, I just don't care. I'm telling you!
Is it just stand-up you're turning your back on or just Edinburgh?
No, I still love stand-up! I've got a comedy special coming out in May on Comedy Central and I do love stand-up. The thing I don't love about it is the nonsense and how contrived it can be. I just want to lock myself in a room with a few strangers and laugh.
The nice thing about stand-up is that that's where I feel like I have the power, because you can do it your way. Just hire a room, sell some tickets and do what you do well. No one can tell you what to do. No one can tell you to rein it in or ham it up - you can just be you. That is my favourite
Celebs on the Ranch airs Mondays to Fridays at 9pm on 5Star