Why was Kevin Clifton so thrilled to be partnered up with Stacey Dooley? What made YouTube star Joe Sugg head for a dancing show on BBC1? And what has Katie Piper promised Gorka Marquez if they make it to Blackpool Week?
These are the questions you’ll only find answers to in our exclusive video interviews with Strictly Come Dancing’s Class of 2018.
We caught up with the stars and their professional partners behind the scenes at our Radio Times Strictly special edition cover shoot to get all the gossip about their practice sessions and their Strictly hopes and fears.
“I’ve always loved Strictly and it felt like the right time to do it,” said Stacey, “as work has been so intense — I was in Mosul this year, Iraq, Honduras… It’s important work that I’m passionate about, but sometimes you need a bit of escapism. Travelling keeps things in perspective: I’m not entertaining any bitching about what I’m wearing or the Strictly curse.
“Of course I want to win. Anyone saying they don’t is fibbing! If I go out first, I’ll be so beside myself I’ll have to emigrate.”
“This is a dream come true and I’m honestly having the best time of my life,” Vick said. “I’m like a magpie — I love getting covered in sequins, glitter and sparkles — and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world having Graziano as my partner.
“I haven’t been on a platform like this before and all the attention has been a bit of a shock to the system, like having the press write about my ex-boyfriend [actor Tom Rosenthal] as though I dumped him — we broke up a year ago and it had nothing to do with Strictly. I’ve just got to try my hardest, be myself and dance my little heart out.”
“I don’t have rhythm, but I have commitment — I’m going to treat this like a full-time job!” Katie revealed. “I never give up, and Gorka is like that, too. I’ve got some injuries — I’m blind in my left eye — that might make it more difficult, but it won’t hold me back. In a way, it motivates me more.
“We could all find reasons to not do things, but they don’t have to stop us.”
“I’ve never danced sober before, but I’ve always thought it would be nice to know what I was doing on the dance floor, ” Joe said.
“My grandparents love Strictly and I know it’ll make them really happy. I want to do Dianne proud, too — although I did think an American Smooth was a coffee, so I’ve a lot to learn…”
“In the past, I said if I was ever asked to do Strictly, it would be one humiliation too far,” Susannah said. “But you know what? Now I can’t believe I ever considered saying no. Anton and I clicked instantly — he’s got the same sense of humour as me. Although I have pulled a muscle in my ribs already. Anton thought I’d ripped my dress, but it was just my muscles ripping. Well, I don’t need my ribs. I’ll be fine.
“I’ll listen to the judges, but if Craig Revel Horwood criticises a specific thing, I will politely ask him to show how it can be improved. Craig, if you can do it better than my Anton, let’s see how it’s done, love.”
“I’ve been wanting to do Strictly for years! I’m a huge fan,” Faye said. “I had preconceived ideas about what it was going to be like, but it’s everything and more. And I’m excited for my little boy to see his mum twirling around on telly. Giovanni is passionate and driven and I am, too, so that draws us together.
“What fills me with dread is the idea of going on TV and dancing live in front of so many people. But I was born for this. More sequins, more spray tan, more feathers. I’m ready — throw it at me!”
“I was shocked when I was asked to do Strictly, but I just thought: “What an amazing opportunity”,” Seann said. “The night after performing the group dance, I was at a wedding and I did the routine on my own. It went down really well. I’ve had the tan, and Dr Ranj and I are getting our chests waxed together.
“Am I getting my top off? That’s up to Katya. If Katya wants to see the chest, then the British public will have to see the chest, too. She’s the boss! I 100 per cent want to learn how to dance. To make people laugh, I’d just carry on doing stand-up. Although I still don’t really know the dances, to be honest. Was I meant to research all this?”
“This is my first time being asked to do the show, and I jumped at it,” Charles said. “I’m hoping to master a few dance skills, and hopefully get as far as I can. My Casualty co-stars can’t wait to attend. Immediately, as soon as the news came out, it was a case of, “Where are my tickets?”.
“I’ve seen Karen do her thing on the dancefloor and know she’s going to whip me into shape. I’ve already started dropping weight and seeing muscle definition I haven’t seen in years…”
“I have been asked to do Strictly before, but I’ve never had time — cricket tours are always in the winter,” Graeme revealed.
“My kids absolutely love this show so I couldn’t let them down. And secretly I’ve always wanted to do it as well. I can’t wait to do the waltz. I wanted to get married in a top hat and tails but my wife wouldn’t let me, so this is my chance to get them on!
“I’m having an absolute blast. It’s way more fun than I thought it would be. I’m hoping to be here at Christmas and get that trophy, to be honest. Oti wants that and I want that for her. I’m in it to win it for this girl and hopefully I’m good enough.”
“The only dancing I’ve ever done is in the safety of my kitchen, and although it’s too ambitious at the moment, my ultimate aim is to do a sexy tango,” Kate said.
“And I want to get into my wedding dress again. Aljaz is really good at what he does. Gemma [Atkinson, Aljaz’s partner last year] said he’s the best teacher — I’m going to need that. I was afraid of Craig Revel Horwood but I met him the other night, had lots of hugs and now I adore him.
“Although when I read the news on Saturday night, my mum said, “You look a little too brown,” so I’m going to ease up on the fake tan!”
“My mum loves [US Strictly equivalent] Dancing with the Stars and she screamed when I told her I was doing Strictly — she’s coming over for the first live shows,” Ashley said.
“I’ve had dance experience in the past but it was all booty-popping, jazz and hip hop. I’ve never trained in this world at all, so this is all new to me. It’s been almost ten years since I performed with the Pussycat Dolls and this feels very different!”
“I always say I can’t dance and then turn into a pretty poor imitation of Justin Timberlake on the dancefloor,” Lee said.
“I don’t have a TV. Even when I was on EastEnders, I never watched myself, I couldn’t bear to. Although I think Nadiya will make me watch our dances back.
“She’s going to teach me so much about dedication and discipline. No matter what, we’re going to have fun. It’s not about the winning. It sounds cheesy, but it is about just being a part of this — I feel privileged to be here.”
“Since I was a little girl, Saturday nights were always about watching Strictly with my parents and sister,” Lauren said.
“I always thought it looked amazing and now, here I am. It’s a bit surreal, actually. I’m here to make friends for life, get dance skills and gain confidence. I’m excited to show the world what AJ and I can do. I hope I can inspire girls, whatever their ability or disability, to dance and believe in themselves — to say “If she can do it with one arm, I’m just as capable of doing it.””
“This is the first time I’ve got anywhere near to getting on Strictly and I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared,” Dr Ranj said. “I got asked fairly late on and I couldn’t believe it. It’s my absolute dream show. I grew up dancing. Being from an Indian background, music is a massive part of our culture and fabric.
“But I’ve discovered that is very different to all of this. I really want to do the paso doble because I just love all the drama — and I’d love to do an Indian-themed routine, too. I work part-time in the NHS and on This Morning so I’m going to squeeze in rehearsal time wherever I can. Janette has been the best partner, and I’m going to give it everything I have.”
“I had no idea that I was going to be doing Strictly when I left Death in Paradise a year ago,” Danny said. “Back then I thought, “I’m in no hurry to go anywhere.” I was supposed to be having a year off — then Strictly came up… Every muscle in my body has had this wake-up call. Blood, sweat and tears. And painful toes. Well, Amy will have painful toes by the time I’ve finished with her!
“I’m going to get fit — I was turning into a bit of a has-been. I’m the oldest on the show so I have to prove my prowess. I’ve known Bruno Tonioli since the late 70s — we used to do the same dance class!
Read all the interviews and see the spectacular photo shoot in the Radio Times Strictly Come Dancing issue, available now