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I TALK TO The 2019 Strictly Celebs

The time has come for this year's Strictly celebs to find out who their professional partner will be, but before that I caught up with the class of 2019 to see what they had to say about signing up for the show, their biggest fears and more.

The 14 celebrities strutting their stuff on the dance floor this series are Alex Scott MBE, Will Bayley MBE, Anneka Rice, James Cracknell OBE, Dev Griffin , Michelle Visage, Viscountess Emma Weymouth, Karim Zeroual, Mike Bushell, Catherine Tyldesley, Saffron Barker, Emma Barton, Chris Ramsey and David James MBE. Sadly, Jamie Laing was forced to pull out of the. competition due to injury. It's not yet been announced if he'll be replaced.

They'll be judged by Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Shirley Ballas alongside Motsi Mabuse, who joins this series having been a judge on the German version of the show since 2011.

And when it comes to the professionals, world-class Latin dancer Nancy Xu joins the line-up this year alongside AJ Pritchard, Aljaž Škorjanec, Amy Dowden, Anton Du Beke, Dianne Buswell, Giovanni Pernice, Gorka Marquez, Graziano Di Prima, Janette Manrara, Johannes Radebe, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Kevin Clifton, Luba Mushtuk, Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones and Oti Mabuse.

Each week (apart from week one) the two couples with the lowest combined scores, from the judges and public vote, will face each other in the dance off with one couple leavinh the competition for good. And as always, at the halfway stage of the competition Strictly travels to the international home of ballroom dancing where the celebrities and their partners will perform at the world famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom.

On why they said yes to Strictly...

"It’s a dream to do Strictly!"

Viscountess Emma Weymouth

Catherine Tyldesley: I'm a massive fan of the show. A huge fan. Like my husband said, we watch it every year but now I'm actually doing it and it's not quite the same as watching it on the telly. It's all a bit real. But the opportunity to learn a new skill is really exciting.

Emma Barton: There's always someone from EastEnders I think so that's quite nice. I'm the biggest fan ever, I just love it. I just thought, if I don't say yes I don't think I'd ever get asked again. I think I would regret not doing it. You regret the things you don't do, not the things you've done. So I had to.

Dev Griffin: It's one of those things you watch on TV and wonder if you could do, but it never feels like a possibility until someone asks you and then you're like "Oh my God! That's huge. It's the biggest show on telly." I didn't hesitate when they asked me. I was like "Yeah, sign me up."

Emma Weymouth: Because it’s a dream to do Strictly! I still can’t believe I’m doing it. It’s a dream come true. I’ve always regretted not training as a dancer, I feel I look athletic but I can’t do what they do. Their bodies are so incredible and they are so strong and beautiful and impressive. I gave up ballet when I was four because I got really shy, so I’m excited now to have that opportunity later in life. We all watch it on TV and now to be in the TV, it’s mind-blowing.

"I want to fly the flag for disabled athletes."

Will Bayley

Michelle Visage: I've got a new body, I'm 50 and I want to show my kids that nothing should stop you. If you want to do something, meet your challenge and do it.

Will Bayley: I want to fly the flag for disabled athletes. Jonnie Peacock and Lauren Steadman have done so amazingly on the show in previous years and I want to carry that on. I want to inspire others.

Karim Zeroual: It's an iconic show, my family loves it, I've watched it since I was young. I love music, I love dancing, I love learning a new skill, so it had all of those factors really, so I thought, you know what, what a brilliant project to be a part of! And it's so fun as well.

Alex Scott: For years and years I've wanted to be a part of this show, so to finally get the call up, I was like you don't even have to ask me, I'm already there.

Chris Ramsey: I got asked if I would consider it - then you go for a meeting with them, I had a chat - the talent bookers and everything were so lovely and I thought "This will be nice. I can do this." - then you do your practice dance and I came out of it, phoned my manager and said "I have to do this show". They pair you with one of the dancers to see how fast you pick stuff up. I imagine they said to the producers "It took him ages, this'll be hilarious, get him on board".

Anneka Rice: The most touching thing for me is that on 8th September, the day after the launch show goes out, it will be 30 years since Challenge Anneka first aired. It's amazing to after 30 years be returning to the bosom of the BBC. That's partly why I did it in a way. (Strictly) is a show I've watched all my life, I've brought my children into the audience and it never even occurred to me that I would do it myself because I'm not interested in learning to dance. I can't dance, I'm just really bad. So why this year? A few things fell into place and I just thought, my youngest son is out of university - if I'm going to learn to dance, this is the year to do it.

On being asked to do Strictly before...

Michelle: This is the first time I've been asked to do Strictly. I've been asked to do Dancing with the Stars but I kept saying no waiting for Strictly to come through. It's more true to what ballroom really is. I've been obsessed with watching ballroom for years, never taking part, never trying it, but I've watched it. I've got friends who did Dancing with the Stars so I got into it. It's just more of what I think it (ballroom) is. I don't like all the celebrity and the craziness. I like the technique.

James Cracknell: I've been asked if I was interested before, but last year I was away studying at university. I've just come back now and it just fitted in really well. I'm not guaranteeing that I'll be here until December.

Catherine: I have spoken to them about it before but it felt like this was the right time because it had to work for us as a family. When you're in Corrie, they won't let you do it. You can only do ITV shows like Dancing on Ice... but now I'm free!

On the Strictly experience...

"The whole experience is getting better and more exciting day by day."

David James

Dev: I think I've been quite lucky genetically in that I ran a marathon the other year with no training. I've also come off the rails a little bit in terms of what I'm eating doing this because I'm going to burn it off in the studio. So I'm actually really looking forward to the discipline side of things and being in some sort of routine. I'm terrible otherwise. I'm actually hoping it will stick as well - not just oh I got into good shape whilst doing the show - it's something I continue afterwards.

Emma B: I think it's a good discipline. I did a marathon, but I did train for it. And I was still really really slow - thank you. It will be exciting to get your fitness up.

James: We had one movement and we did it every single day. That's pretty much it. One day it's brilliant and then I've forgotten it by the next day.

David: I'm finding that everything is getting better day by day on the simple basis that having had no background in dancing and going in on day one and someone's teaching you how to do spins. You think "OK" but you get through it and then day two you learn a little bit more - the whole experience is getting better and more exciting day by day.

Karim: I'm so excited, just keen to get a bit more training. I've delayed lunches to put in some practice with my partner, or whoever I'm dancing with in the group number, I'm like, "Can we just go over this bit?" They're like, 'I wanna eat' and I'm like, "No i wanna carry on" You get the Strictly bug. Not looking shipshape just yet, but we're getting there.

Catherine: I can't stop dancing! And I have lots of anxiety dreams.

Alex: You want to get to training. When you get home you're so tired, you want to sleep because you're going to training tomorrow. It's once in a lifetime and we're so lucky to even be a part of it that you've just got to embrace it and go with every element of the show. Well that's how I look at it.

Chris: Everyone is so nice. I've never had a job, TV and back in the day when I worked in pubs and stuff, where I've got on with everyone so much.

Will: It's going well for me. I'm really loving it. It's something new. With my sporting background, me being a table tennis player, you have to be quite creative in the way you think. You have to come up with different shots, different styles, and I think that's probably a strength. Hopefully I draw on my work ethic when it comes to table tennis which is drilling things over and over again. It's not coming naturally to me so I'm going to try and put that into my dancing.

Michelle: They've had two weeks, I've had one hour so we'll see how that goes. I was here the first day when we were all in a room together but I didn't even do any choreography that day. The only thing I did that day was the Waltz because I had to leave and catch a flight. I was filming a documentary back home which had been planned for a year so when I was offered this, I had already committed to that which is why I had to miss the red carpet. So I had an hour when I got off the plane yesterday but that's all!

On the costumes...

"I am a gay man trapped in a woman's body."

Catherine Tyldesley

Alex: I don't know how anyone could say that they don't love that part, because that is part of Strictly, having a different look every single week. I've been in football kits my whole life, I'm ready for some dresses. Come on, glam me up!

Catherine: Oh my God. I am a gay man trapped in a woman's body. I can't stop staring at them. The detail... and they just whip them up. "I've done this amazing frock in twenty minutes" They're insane. Amazing. I can't wait.

Karim: That's my favourite bit, yeah! White flares, tail suits, sequins....

Michelle: I have given them about 30-40 pictures of what I like, what I want, how I should look. We had a fitting today and I was like "That's going to have to be a little higher." I know my body after all these years.

On their biggest fears...

"I've already been told not to stray too near to the end of the stage."

Mike Bushell

Catherine: Forgetting my moves or falling over. There are a million things that could go wrong. When I was stood doing the group dance, I said to Aljaž "We're really close to the pit. Has anyone ever fell in?" and he was like "No it's fine." I'm going to be the first person to fall into the pit, I can see it.

Emma B: Falling over, for sure. Just missing a step, then missing the rest of it and getting flustered. How do you not do that? That's going to be difficult.

Chris: Injuring myself. I pulled my groin this morning and my back in the first thing we did and my fear is doing that in my first dance. It'll be something weird with me and I'll do it at the beginning of the dance and people will go "You weren't smiling" and I'd be like "No, I was dying inside!"

Karim: Wardrobe malfunctions. Dropping the girl. Million percent. It's hard, man. In our group dance, my biggest lift is right at the end of it and Nancy runs to me and I'm like "Hold on! Oh no, oh no..." and I have to just give it everything I can.

Alex: Forgetting steps. Like what do you do? Just have to have your Grease Sandy moment and just like... until you get back into it.

Mike Bushell: I've already been told by the Strictly bosses not to stray too near to the end of the stage. The swimming pool has certainly followed me. I'll be interested to see if there is a dance that involves a pool at some point. There was a rain dance last year but I don't know how that was done.

Michelle: The normal, forgetting steps. I think we'll never be as good as we want to be. We'll always want to be better but we can only do what we can on the night.

David: In football you've got no control over what the opposition does in a game but you just practice and practice and practice and hope that you've practised enough and correctly. The biggest fear I guess is that we miss something in preparation, which I can't imagine we will. Or that on the day we just don't get something right.

On potential professional partners...

"I don't want to be shouted at."

Chris Ramsey

Chris: Honestly, they're all so lovely. They're very patient which is the main thing. I just want someone I can get on with. I get on with them all really. I don't want to be shouted at. I don't want anyone shouting at us but I don't think any of them will.

Saffron: I would absolutely love to have AJ. I think he said that (on The One Show) because we're a really similar height. I'm the smallest girl and he's the smallest guy so it would work really well. But I could also get Neil or Kevin because they're also smaller. But yeah, I'd love to have him, but I'd love to have anyone. Everyone is so lovely.

On what friends and family have said...

"I think they're actually quite glad to - not see the back of me - but take a break (from me) for a little bit."

Dev Griffin

Michelle: RuPaul was so excited. He was like "Why do you want to work that hard?"

Emma B: I've had some amazing tips. Basically, remember it. "Don't fall down the stairs" that's from the lovely Kellie (Bright). "Eat well, make sure you rest." Jake Wood said "If in doubt, shake those hips like he did" and I think Jake did really well. We're a lovely family in EastEnders and they're just really excited for whoever is doing it. Every time someone passes you on set it's "Da da da da...." - OK I'VE HEARD IT ALREADY!

Saffron: My nan literally - I'm not exaggerating - calls me up every day crying. Crying with excitement. She just cannot wait. She's my biggest fan. She goes through every single comment on every single video. I don't know how she has the time. It's really nice because my granddad is such a sweetie but he never watches my videos because he doesn't really know about the internet world, so for the first time ever he's getting really involved. He's very excited.

Dev: Radio 1 have been really supportive. They're like - "take all the time off you need" - I think they're actually quite glad to - not see the back of me - but take a break (from me) for a little bit. They've been really supportive and it's actually going to be a really nice place to talk about the whole experience. I feel very comfortable with that audience.

On how they dance on a night out...

"I need to maybe stop the dutty wine..."

Karim Zeroual

Karim: I'm a party starter man. I don't mind if it's empty, I'm just confident so I'd just get on there, try and do a little two step, bust a little whine. That's my kinda thing. I need to maybe stop the dutty wine and be a bit more elegant and graceful and proper. So there's rhythm in me, but it's having to contain it and trying to transfer it to something completely different.

Alex: If I'm out, I love music, so if we're at the bar and Beyonce comes on, I'm running to the dance floor. But it's not any moves, it's just like 'Wahey!'.

On the dance they're most looking forward to...

"Because of the speed, ballroom will suit me more."

James Cracknell

Dev: They all make you look a little bit like classy. The pros are so good. They just fix your form a little bit and then in a few minutes you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and you think - I actually could pass for, maybe not a professional dancer, but someone who sort of knows what they're doing.

Michelle: I love latin. Love Latin. But I'm looking forward to standard as well, sure. I don't know any of it. I've never done any of it. So it's all new to me so bring it all on! I gave a whole list of music and every single dance has a Madonna song in it just FYI. I'm sure I won't be allowed to do all that Madonna but I'm really excited.

Emma B: At the moment anything slow so I can remember it!

James: Because of the speed, ballroom will suit me more, but apparently I've got the posture of a caveman so I need to work on that.

Emma B: I want to learn that latin style. That's something I've never really done before ever. I mean, I haven't done any of it ever. But I feel like that's the most out of my comfort zone. Technical and fast.

Alex: For me, the Argentine Tango. I just love the passion and the performance of it, so if I get to do that one week, I'm just like "Yeah!" That long skirt...

Emma Barton explains why she previously said she had too much experience for Strictly...

"I have never done anything that we're going to be starting to do."

Emma Barton

That was ten years ago. I think at the time because I was on my feet doing a show, that's probably why I said that. But now I'm in it, I have never done anything that we're going to be starting to do.

I'm very good at a jazz hand, I've got musicality but really I've never been in hold or done any of these things, double work, at all. So it is a new thing. It will be a new thing.

Michelle Visage on swapping judging for being judged and the possibility of a Drag Race and Strictly crossover...

"I know how to give it and I know how to take it."

Michelle Visage

The reason I judge people is to help them. If they listen to my critique they'll come back better next week. I will come back better with any critique that I'm given because I know how to give it and I know how to take it.

A lot of people think there's going to be a clash with me and Craig - and no actually, I want that (critique). I will hear you and I will work on that next week and show you that I heard you. That's the whole point of judges.

I don't know (about a Drag Race and Strictly crossover)! When we filmed Drag Race, I didn't know I was doing Strictly at that point. Maybe series two? That's a good idea. But we did have AJ as one of the dance coaches on Drag Race so there is a little bit of a crossover.

Alex Scott on already being the favourite to win...

"How does that even happen?"

Alex Scott

How does that even happen? I think that comes from doing Sport Relief and then obviously winning that. But I was up against Chris Kamara who had a bad back, so couldn't move, David Ginola flew in the day of the competition and Karen was like, "This is what we're doing".

So I had a couple of days with Pasha, Pasha's saying like, "We've got a minute to do this, this is what we're gonna do' so it wasn't me learning an actual routine, it was like, "OK Pasha, this is what we're doing'. So I don't think that's enough to cut it, but obviously the bookies have said that...

(My friends) keep messaging me; do you know you're the favourite?' And I'm like, 'Shut up!'

Saffron Barker on whether she thinks Joe Sugg opened doors for social media stars to take part in Strictly...

"I'm hoping people just like me for me."

Saffron Barker

Yeah I think so. His personality definitely shone and people ended up loving him which is so lovely. I think so and I hope so.

None of my audience watch TV as we all know so I'm hoping that the support from them carries me through. A lot of them have said that they're going to watch the show. I'm hoping people just like me for me once I'm on the show as well. Fingers crossed!

Anneka Rice talks about her injury...

"I fell flat on my back... ended up in A&E."

Anneka Rice

It happened about six weeks ago. Way after I'd signed up and was all ready to start getting physically very very fit but I fell flat on my back on a neighbours grassy slope in their garden, ended up in A&E.

I've got a small tear, it's mostly bruising - so I haven't been able to train. Usually I'm so fit, I do yoga... I had a steroid injection yesterday just to get the swelling down. It's just something that will get better in time. It's much better today but I've been told to rest it for two days.

Strictly Come Dancing returns tonight at 7.10pm on BBC One


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