Over the decade since it began on television Strictly Come Dancing has never failed to surprise its audience with the dancing capabilities of some of its celebrity competitors. However in last years series, actress Lisa Riley was probably even more surprised than her audience.
“The whole experience was a surprise,” laughs Lisa who was paired with professional dancer Robin Windsor throughout the series, “I only expected to last two dances so getting to the semi-finals totally blew me away. The support was great, not only from everyone on the show but the viewers too, so even though people were upset when I got voted off, I just wanted to keep on learning.”
Lisa particularly got lots of encouragement throughout the show from Craig Revel-Horwood, the country’s most notorious entertainment judge and not usually the easiest of people to please when it comes to dance. However he quickly warmed to Lisa’s flare and presentation on the dance floor.
“Craig and I hit it off straight away,” says Lisa, “We’ve since worked together on the arena tour so I’m looking forward to working with him on Strictly Confidential.”
Strictly Confidential will give theatre audiences the chance to get up close and personal with some of the stars of the show. Lisa will be paired with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev, while Natalie Lowe will be joined by Ian Waite. The dance couples will take fans on an intimate journey into their backgrounds and motivations live on stage, giving audiences a personal insight into what led them to their Strictly Come Dancing adventure.
The brand new show has been written and directed by Revel Horwood, “Craig has devised a show that will provide a new insight into Strictly featuring, singing, acting, narration and questions from the audience,” says Lisa.
I ask Lisa if she had a particular favourite dance she performed while taking part in Strictly, the bubbly actress is quick to answer, “My favourite was my foxtrot, that was like performing on Broadway and I’ll let you into a little secret, I think we’ll be doing it again on stage.”
Has Strictly Come Dancing opened up a new avenue for the actress who was once famed for playing the notorious Mandy Dingle in the TV soap Emmerdale? “I’ve had a busy career since Emmerdale“replies Lisa, “Rebecca in Fat Friends was undoubtedly my favourite role but my Strictly experience is up there with that.”
Lisa continues to work hard and although her talent for dancing appears to have come to the forefront of her career, she remains busy in presenting TV shows and acting, more recently in an episode of George Gently.
She still has some ambitions too, “I’d love to play a cook in one of those classic dramas, you know, the ones that work downstairs with no teeth” she laughs.
- A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus Entertainment section The Guide during April 2013.