Rylan Clark-Neal is the kind of celebrity who simply never stops – and he’s hard to pin down. RadioTimes.com exclusively caught up with the presenter as he made his way to his latest job – the second series of Supermarket Sweep.
The first batch of revamped episodes landed on ITV2 last year, and as ever, people have loved Clark-Neal and his infectious personality on it – it’s been renewed, this time on ITV. “It actually means a lot [to be back]. I was very involved in trying to bring Sweep back and it was a good year before we did when I kept sort of hinting to my friends at Fremantle about Supermarket Sweep,” he tells me while driving on the way to film more episodes.
“We worked really hard to bring it back and ITV said, ‘yeah, let’s do it’. It was such a worry, especially with a show that people really love and with someone like Dale Winton in the role, it’s quite big shoes to fill. And on ITV2 as well – it’s a younger channel. I was a little bit worried because I’m more at home with your Doris and your Jean.”
But of course, as anything Clark-Neal turns his hand to, it was an overnight success. There were people insisting it wasn’t the same without Winton, who passed away in 2018, but Clark-Neal knows that – he wouldn’t have even bothered if the original host was still with us.
“You’ve got the expected, ‘Oh he’s no Dale Winton’ and I’m the first to say if he was alive he would be doing the show – and I would want him to do the show, it’s Dale’s show,” he said when asked about the viewer reaction to the first batch of his episodes. “I think once people got over the fact Supermarket Sweep is back and it’s modern, they sit there and think they’ve missed watching a show where you don’t have to think too hard, the questions aren’t too difficult, and anyone can play, young or old. It’s been really nice.”
What’s apparent when chatting to Clark-Neal is his sheer enthusiasm for the TV industry. Not only was he involved in bringing Supermarket Sweep back as a concept, but he was also there to check over the design of the set to make sure it was familiar, but a bit new too. Discussing his process, Clark-Neal explained: “Any show I work on I just try and be myself and make it my own. But with Sweep, I played it differently. I’m such a fan of the show and I wanted to give a nod to Dale as much as I could. I was re-watching so many episodes just to get Dale’s language – we all know the show but I just wanted to give little bits, like the language and little things like that, which might have been in the script anyway, but I wanted to do it the way Dale did it. In my head it just felt right to do it that way.”
He’s got a bit of a knack for making established shows his own – and he has the Midas touch when he does so. So far, the 31-year-old has brought back Ready, Steady, Cook on top of Supermarket Sweep, joined the teams of Big Brother and Strictly Come Dancing, and has even successfully hosted This Morning – there’s a reason he’s amassed over 1.6 million Twitter followers: people simply love him.
But ask Clark-Neal what he’s doing right and the humble lad from Stepney Green emerges. “I’ve been so lucky for work. Strictly, Big Brother, This Morning, Sweep… I’ve been very lucky to always stick my toe into different shows. I don’t know what I’m doing, I must be doing the right thing.
“I’ve got Sweep and Ready, Steady, Cook – they were the shows I wanted to make work. To bring back one show and it does really well, you’re the luckiest man on Earth. To bring back two… well someone is looking down on me.”
Rylan Clark-Neal shot to fame with his now infamous X Factor stint, where he brought sunshine, fun, and that crying meme to proceedings. You could see from his first audition he was born to entertain, and more importantly, was born to be in showbiz.
It wasn’t until 2015 his fortune changed indefinitely when he joined the Big Brother team to present Bit On the Side. Continuing what Emma Willis and Dermot O’Leary before her started, Clark-Neal became the ultimate companion to main show.
It’s crystal clear why he did so well on that when talking to him about Big Brother – he simply adores it, and it meant a lot to join the family. “To me, Big Brother was the original reality show. Civilian Big Brother we loved because we got to know people and Celebrity, we got to see the real person behind the persona. There’s no other show that does that. You’ve got brilliant reality shows, like I’m A Celebrity, Strictly, Love Island, which are fantastic, but Big Brother was really the only reality show where you never saw anyone else, producers didn’t get involved. They wouldn’t ask you to retake anything. It’s just brilliant and will forever be my favourite show.”
However, in September 2018, we said goodbye to Big Brother without any inclination of a return date. Declining viewing figures and a media storm surrounding Roxanne Pallett and Ryan Thomas on the Celebrity version were enough to kill off the 18-year-old series.
Mentioning the premise of bringing it back and if you were ever in doubt of Clark-Neal’s passion for the series, that would soon change. He said: “I wish I could be Mr Humble and say it’s the right time to rest it. B****cks. It should never have gone in the first place, I was so f*****g annoyed.
“I get it, of course I get it because I’m not stupid, I know what happens. But it’s been gone two years now and next year’s a big birthday for it  – I would go back in a heartbeat, of course I would. It started my career really. I would love nothing more than to see it back on air. I miss it, I really do.”
Whether or not it will come back is undoubtedly still up for grabs. A successful “best bits” show earlier in the year offers fans hope – and there’ll be one very excited Londoner ready and waiting to start all over again.
But until then, Clark-Neal is without a doubt the busiest man in showbiz. With a return to Strictly: It Takes Two is already in the bag, Supermarket Sweep about to launch, and more projects on the way, does he ever have “pinch me moments”?
“Oh yeah, every single day! I’d be bruised from injuring myself. I have little moments where I think, ‘Oh you’ve done alright’. I have to quickly forget about it otherwise I’d get in my head.”
He’s done more than alright, he’s slowly on his way to becoming one of the most treasured presenters this country has to offer… the rise of Rylan has only just started.
Supermarket Sweep airs weekdays on ITV at 3pm. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.