Ore Oduba explains his new BBC1 quiz show Hardball

The Strictly Come Dancing winner turned game show host tells us all about his new foray into BBC1 daytime

Ore Oduba presenting Hardball

Ore Oduba has got to be one of the busiest presenters on TV and radio.

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If he’s not popping up to host This Morning or stepping in to present The One Show, he’s standing in as a presenter on BBC Radio 2.

Somehow, the 32-year-old has also found time to host the Strictly Come Dancing podcast and nationwide tour, join the Royal Wedding presenting line-up and become a first-time dad – all in the past 12 months.

If that doesn’t all sound exhausting enough, Ore has now turned quiz master, fronting new BBC1 daytime game show Hardball.

The new show sees contestants having to answer general knowledge questions as quickly as possible. A bit like The Chase, every correct question they answer moves them one step forward on a grid.

However, biting at their heels is an unstoppable big ball that rolls on a 25 meter-long track. The aim is not to get caught by the Hardball.

“The format is simple: answer the questions,” says Ore. “But the problem being that this ball doesn’t stop until it catches you.

“I always remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He’s got the booty, he’s making his way out and then the ball starts chasing him down. You know when he slides his hat from underneath the closing door? That’s what Hardball is. But less Hollywood – and in a game show!

“Essentially, our contestants have to answer as many questions as they can before the Hardball catches them. It’s much easier said than done; this is not an easy show to win on.”

Meanwhile, Ore has to faultlessly fire the questions at the contestants to make sure they have the best chance of outrunning the Hardball.

“The questions come thick and fast,” he explains. “There’s a huge onus on me as the quizmaster to make sure I don’t muck it up, because I’ve got to be clear and coherent otherwise that might put them in trouble for winning money.”

Back in February, Ore fronted BBC1 game show And They’re Off for Sport Relief, and Hardball is his second time as quiz master.

Ore Oduba presenting Hardball
Ore Oduba presenting Hardball (BBC/Youngest Media)

“I love being in that role – I love game shows,” he says. “It’s a really exciting time for quiz programmes. I remember stuff like Going for Gold and Blockbusters, but we’re really lucky that we’ve got so many incredible shows like Pointless – which comes straight after us – The Chase and Tipping Point.

“The bad news is you’ve got to pick between me and Ben Shepherd,” laughs Ore. “And it does bring with it an element of competition. A very friendly competition, of course!”

Although Ore says he hasn’t played Hardball himself, he says he has felt what it’s like being in the contestants’ shoes.

“I’ve stood in that spot in front of the Hardball track, which stands at about 10 feet tall, and it’s really intimidating.

“It looks easy from afar, but looking at this ball up on the track as it’s getting closer, it just puts you in panic mode.

“I don’t know how we didn’t have people stripping off naked and panicking, running out of the studio. That’s what I would’ve done.”

Winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 boosted Ore’s profile immeasurably. He went from BBC Sport broadcaster to household name in just a few short months.

For Ore, Strictly was an “amazing experience”. However, as Laura Whitmore recently detailed, not every celebrity has a thoroughly enjoyable time on the BBC1 entertainment show.

Jo Clifton and Ore Oduba jive to Runaway Baby
Jo Clifton and Ore Oduba jive to Runaway Baby (BBC)

“It’s definitely intense. I make no bones about that – it’s the most full-on experience and it only takes a few things to knock yourself off course,” reflects Ore of his time on the show. “I was really fortunate that a lot of things clicked into place. They gave me the most amazing partner [Joanne Clifton] who I immediately had a connection with and is now one of my best friends for life. And honestly, it got better and better as the weeks went on.

“It’s not the same for everybody,” he adds. “But I was just one of the lucky ones who was able to wholly enjoy the experience.”

After taking the Strictly Glitterball home – which has pride of place in his guest toilet – Ore has spoken about wanting to get into musicals and tells us he would “love to do a show”.

“I love dance, I’ve been working on my vocals and I like being on stage,” he says. “It’s just trying to find the right one. So we’ll see.”

So has he been going to auditions?

“Oh there’s plenty that happens behind the scenes!” he teases. “I’m still working away at the game and hopefully there’ll be something very exciting in the future to get my teeth into.”

First, though, is being one of the presenters for the Royal Wedding on BBC1.

“It’s going to be epic,” he says. “It’s only in the weeks before that you start feeling the intensity and it’s one of those events that you know everybody is going to stop what they’re doing.

“There aren’t many TV events where the whole nation can sit down together and share a moment. And for me to be a part of that is going to be such an honour.”

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Hardball airs daily at 4.30pm on BBC1


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