On Saturday night, Paul O’Grady steps into the shoes of his dear departed friend Cilla Black to present Channel 5’s revival of Blind Date.
The consensus is that C5 couldn’t have found a more fitting replacement for our Cilla, yet O’Grady admits that when he first stepped out on stage to the strains of the famous theme tune, he thought to himself “this isn’t right”.
In an interview in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, he recalls: “It was a shock at first when I heard the music, and they said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host, Paul O’Grady’.
“I thought, ‘This isn’t right, it’s so synonymous with Cilla, she should be here, not me.’ I felt like I shouldn’t be doing it. It was her show.”
It was only after reassurance from Cilla’s sons and others close to her that O’Grady began to accept that he was the right man for the job.
“I spoke to her sons and lots of people who knew her and they said, ‘You have to do it, because she’d want you to do it for everyone.’”
Nevertheless, it was something of a learning curve for O’Grady, who has done stand-up comedy – as his drag queen alter-ego Lily Savage – and celebrity chat shows but had never interviewed members of the public. He quickly decided to reign in his acerbic persona.
“There’s a definite skill. Because you’re not interviewing celebrities, like I used to. You’re interviewing the public, so they’re not as confident. The last thing they need is for me to devour them, so I’m very avuncular with them, I’m very kind. I’m like a brothel madam, really.”
Blind Date starts on Saturday 17th June at 7pm on Channel 5