Strictly Come Dancing 2020: First celebrities are unveiled

Strictly Come Dancing 2020: Actress Caroline Quentin, The Wanted’s Max George and Nadine Coyle’s NFL player ex Jason Bell are unveiled as the FIRST celebs to take on the ballroom

  • The trio of stars were announced on The One Show as the first three to sign up for Strictly’s 2020 series
  • The big reveal follows months of uncertainty amid the COVID-19 crisis as to whether Strictly would air at all this year
  • The series will follow strict protocols including ‘bubbles’ and no studio audience
  • Jonathan Creek actress Caroline explained that she used to do ballet as a girl, while pop star Max noted that his bandmate Jay McGuiness won Strictly 2015
  • Athlete Jason ‘wants to impress his daughter’ – whom he shares with Girls Aloud ex Nadine 

Caroline Quentin, Max George and Jason Bell have been unveiled as the first three celebrities to take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2020.

The big reveal took place on Tuesday’s instalment of The One Show – following months of uncertainty amid the COVID-19 crisis as to whether Strictly will air at all this year.

Things were as cloak-and-dagger as always as the first contestants were announced, with Caroline. 60, and Jason, 42, beamed in via Skype, while Max, 31, was sent into the studio in person, sneaking in by producers through the basement to ensure secrecy.


Hitting the dance floor! Caroline Quentin [L] has been unveiled as the first celebrity to take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2020, joined also by Max George [R] of former boy band The Wanted. NFL star Jason Bell is also set to compete

Big reveal: The third star to be named is NFL player Jason Bell – who is the ex of Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle, with whom he shares a daughter [pictured in 2009]

Jonathan Creek actress Caroline explained that she used to do ballet as a girl, as well as tap and modern dance, but is worried her knees will let her down.

‘I’ve been keeping it very quiet and it’s really difficult as I like a chat, as you well know, and it’s been so hard to be quiet about it. I’m a bit scared, but quite excited,’ the Men Behaving Badly actress told The One Show hosts Alex Jones and Amol Rajan. 

She added: ‘I do remember some of what I learned [dancing] but my knees are 50 years older than the last time I attempted any of it, and it’s my knees and my undergarments that are troubling me most as a notion.

‘I hope my knees don’t let me down and I hope the foundation garments live up to expectations when I start leaping about!’

New challenge: Jonathan Creek actress Caroline explained that she used to do ballet as a girl, as well as tap and modern dance, but is worried her knees will let her down

Caroline is perhaps best known for her role on sitcoms Men Behaving Badly – on which she played the long-suffering girlfriend of Martin Clunes – and Kiss Me Kate – starring as the titular character opposite the likes of Amanda Holden. 

American football player Jason – who shares daughter Anaíya with Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle, having been a couple for 11 years – said: ‘I am thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show, I’ve been watching it since I came to this country, so it’s time for me to do something cool to impress my daughter, now that she can watch me perform!’

He added: ‘I’ve always, as an athlete, liked to lock into the present moment you know, be in the zone, and I think this show will give me the opportunity to do the same thing I did when I was playing – perform at a high level and learn from the best.’

Ex: Jason met Nadine – who proved popular on last year’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! – in 2008 and they were engaged between 2010 and 2011 [pictured in 2008] 

Jason met Nadine – who proved popular on last year’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! – in 2008 and they were engaged between 2010 and 2011.

They split briefly, but reconciled for several more years, welcoming their daughter in 2014. They then split for good in 2019. 

‘Although Nadine and Jason were never married, they lived as a close family unit and remain good friends as they co-parent their young daughter. They still care for one another, but are no longer in a romantic relationship,’ a source told The Sun at the time. 

Max made his entrance via a basement lift, bedecked in red streamers, and told Alex that he’d already informed his former The Wanted star Jay McGuiness, who has also taken part on the BBC dance show.

Hush hush! ‘I’ve been keeping it very quiet and it’s really difficult as I like a chat, as you well know, and it’s been so hard to be quiet about it. I’m a bit scared, but quite excited,’ the Men Behaving Badly actress told The One Show hosts Alex Jones and Amol Rajan

American football player Jason said: ‘I am thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show, I’ve been watching it since I came to this country, so it’s time for me to do something cool to impress my daughter, now that she can watch me perform!’

He added: ‘I’ve always, as an athlete, liked to lock into the present moment you know, be in the zone, and I think this show will give me the opportunity to do the same thing I did when I was playing – perform at a high level and learn from the best’

‘I spoke to Jay earlier, he left me a couple of voice notes,’ Max explained, as Alex asked how he thinks he’ll measure up to Jay.

‘Oh no chance, there’s no comparison, but he might be able to mentor me maybe through Zoom, he may be able to help me out. He did say he can imagine me like a little schoolboy, nervous,’ he replied.

Max rose to fame in 2009 with the group – completed by Siva Kaneswaran, Tom Parker and Nathan Sykes – known best for hit song All Time Low.

Jay, 30, took part in the BBC dance show in 2015, taking home the Glitterball Trophy with professional dancer Aliona Vilani. 

In person: Max made his entrance via a basement lift, bedecked in red streamers, and told Alex that he’d already informed his former The Wanted star Jay McGuiness, who has also taken part on the BBC dance show

Fans will be delighted to hear the Strictly news – after worries the series would be axed this year thanks to the pandemic.

The intimate nature of the series means social distancing is impossible – but the pros have started rehearsals, with their celebrity counterparts slowly being unveiled over the coming days.

Other stars rumoured to be taking part are Denise Van Outen and Bill Bailey.

A source told The Sun, of comedian Bill, 55, that: ‘It’s a hard time for live performers so it seemed a good chance for Bill to commit to the show.’ 

Big shoes to fill: ‘I spoke to Jay earlier, he left me a couple of voice notes,’ Max explained, as Alex asked how he thinks he’ll measure up to Jay

Autumn is here! Fans will be delighted to hear the Strictly news – after worries the series would be axed this year thanks to the pandemic

According to the publication, Caroline has wanted to be part of Strictly for years but always had other work commitments.

Whereas in 2018 Bill revealed that he has been asked to do the dancing series several times but was put off by the ‘judgemental’ nature of the show.

The professional dancers are pre-recording their big numbers — and they are quarantining in a hotel in Elstree, Herts, before the official launch of the show at the end of this month.

The celebrity contestants will be asked to ‘bubble’ with their dance partners for the duration of the series, which is set to be shorter – nine weeks instead of the normal 13 – and quieter, with no live audience to clap and boo.

Funny girl: Caroline is perhaps best known for her role on sitcoms Men Behaving Badly – on which she played the long-suffering girlfriend of Martin Clunes

Sportsman: Cornerback Jason Bell is pictured playing for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in September 2006

Judge Bruno Tonioli will be dialling in from Los Angeles for the first five weeks, unable to travel back and forth from his duties at Dancing With The Stars due to the pandemic’s travel rules.

The BBC’s head of entertainment, Kate Phillips, said: ‘Strictly is a slightly shorter run but, apart from that, I don’t think it will be a lesser show at all. If anything, I think this series will be rather special.’ 

THE £275,000 HOOFERS’ QUARANTINE

Strictly dancers including reigning champ Oti Mabuse have been seen arriving at The Manor in Elstree, Hertfordshire, a historic hotel which stands on the site of an old Tudor house dating back to 1540.

Friendly competition: Max’s bandmate Jay McGuiness took part in the BBC dance show in 2015, taking home the Glitterball Trophy with professional dancer Aliona Vilani

The hotel is set in ten acres of gardens and was a private country club in the Thirties. 

The front door was previously part of the dungeons in Lewes Castle, and some of the wood in the entrance hall is said to come from ships involved in the battle of the Spanish Armada.

Previous guests include actors Tom Cruise, Peter Sellers and John Cleese.

Strictly Come Dancing Contestants 2020

CAROLINE QUENTIN

Age: 60

Profession: Actress, known for roles in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek

Caroline says: ‘I hope my knees don’t let me down and I hope the foundation garments live up to expectations when I start leaping about!’

Fun fact: She met her now-husband, Sam Farmer in 1998 on the set of Men Behaving Badly when he was one of the studio runners.

MAX GEORGE 

 Age: 31

Profession: Singer – from former boy band The Wanted

Max says: ‘Nan – I’m doing Strictly this year!’

Fun Fact: Max’s fellow The Wanted bandmate Jay McGuiness was on Strictly in 2015 – and won it!

JASON BELL

Age: 42

Profession: Retired American Football player – now a pundit

 Jason says: ‘I am thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show, I’ve been watching it since I came to this country, so it’s time for me to do something cool to impress my daughter, now that she can watch me perform!’

Fun Fact: Jason is the father of Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle’s daughter. The couple were together for 11 years, only splitting recently in 2019

 

 

There are 49 rooms, and the hotel has been block booked — a notice on its website says: ‘The hotel will be closed for an exclusive booking from Monday, August 24 until Sunday, September, 20, 2020. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.’

The dancers — Aljaž Škorjanec, Amy Dowden, Anton Du Beke, Dianne Buswell, Giovanni Pernice, Gorka Márquez, Graziano Di Prima, Janette Manrara, Johannes Radebe, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Luba Mushtuk, Nadiya Bychkova, Nancy Xu, Neil Jones and Oti Mabuse — will quarantine here for two weeks before pre-recording all their group dance routines for the entire nine-week series.

A source said: ‘The dancers are isolating so that they will count as one house- hold. They are rehearsing in a huge marquee space where the hotel often holds weddings.

Will he, won’t he? Comedian Bill Bailey, 55, is rumoured to have signed up 

It’s back! Strictly Come Dancing rehearsals have started and the dancers are pre-recording their big numbers before the official launch of the show in late September

‘After 14 days, they will be able to go to Elstree studios and film the group dances.’

A physiotherapist and a couple of choreographers are also staying at the Manor, but not the hair and make-up team or the rest of the production crew.

Bed and breakfast plus dinner costs from £200 a night, meaning that it may be costing the Beeb £9,800 a day, or £275,000 over the required period.

Sources indicate that once the dancers have finished and gone home, the hotel will be used to do recorded segments, promotional shoots with celebrities and for costume fittings, too.

A bubble of trust 

Executives investigated the possibility of quarantining all dancers, celebs, judges, presenters and crew in a hotel ‘biosphere’ together .

This is what The Great British Bake Off did earlier this summer, with 120 cast, crew and bakers all holing up together at an Essex hotel.

The BBC team are thought to have considered the idea, but shelved it due to the prohibitive cost — up to £5 million for 12 weeks — probably to the relief of spouses, worried about the opportunities for illicit liaisons.

Instead, each pairing of a dancer and a celebrity will ‘bubble’ together. 

‘They will bubble as if they are a household and will dance and practise together during the day and then go back to their homes or to a hotel, depending on where they are from,’ says a source.

Every judge and dancer will be tested frequently and they’ve been told not to mix with anyone who has not been Covid-19 checked. 

Judge Bruno Tonioli says: ‘We have to take responsibility for our own actions.’

MOTSI’S BIG COMMUTE

Last year, new judge Motsi Mabuse decided to commute to London each week from her home in Germany, where she lives with husband Evgenij Voznyuk. 

She said at the time: ‘I have to travel because I have a little baby and I really don’t want to stress her, so it’s better to stress me.’

She will continue to commute but plans to move to London if there is a realistic prospect of Germany going into lockdown.

MASKS, SCREENS . . . OR NEITHER?

The German version of Strictly — Let’s Dance — was filmed when the pandemic was raging this spring. Motsi is also a judge on that show. 

There was no audience and the judges sat behind a desk with Perspex screens between them.

The professional dancers and celebrities danced in hold without face masks, as is the plan for the British series.

However, a BBC source says it is possible that a screen could be used for the judges — Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas — but that the set is still being designed.

No one on camera will wear a mask: not the judges, presenters, celebrities or dancers.

Presenters Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will keep a distance from each other and the competitors.

This week, Daly, 51, shared a photograph on Instagram of her and co-star Winkleman recording a ‘Best of Strictly’ special show — seated some way from each other. 

She wrote: ‘Dreamy being reunited with @claudiawinkle today for some (socially distanced) filming for our ‘Best Of’ Strictly shows — on TV in September.’

Digs: Strictly dancers have been seen arriving at The Manor in Elstree, Hertfordshire, a historic hotel which stands on the site of an old Tudor house dating back to 1540

For the first five weeks: Bruno Tonioli will film comments from Los Angeles to be shown in the results show and not deliver a mark for the contestants, before returning to the UK 

STILL DANCING CHEEK TO CHEEK

Because the dancers and celebs are ‘bubbling’ together, they will still partner as normal — without the need for masks — sequinned or otherwise.

Judge Bruno said: ‘The hold is a huge part of the routine. No one will wear masks because everyone will be tested regularly.’

BBC boss Kate Phillips said: ‘I’d say Strictly is probably the hardest show to do in the current circumstances — a live weekly show that relies on body contact.

‘Having said that, I think studios have really risen to the challenge and there’s that old line, necessity is the mother of invention.

‘I would say that across all the entertainment shows, we’re seeing constant good ideas and surprising ways of working to overcome the challenges.’

Distanced: Judge Motsi Mabuse will still commute from Germany

SO WILL IT BE MAKE-UP IN PPE?

Kate Phillips said the corporation is having to ‘look at how hair, make-up and costume will work backstage’.

Sources say dancers and contestants will have access to professional make-up artists, led by Ant McPartlin’s ex-wife, Lisa Armstrong. 

The make-up artists will, though, have to wear PPE. Bruno says he is ready to do his own make-up, though he won’t be in London initially.

LET THE MUSIC PLAY, DAVE

It wouldn’t be Strictly without director of music Dave Arch and his band playing live for the performances, as they have done since 2006. The band features up to 15 musicians, including three trumpets, two trombones and three woodwind/saxophones, as well as four vocalists.

Hosts: Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will keep a distance from each other and the competitors during filming

There are strict social distancing regulations for indoor musical performances.

Sources say Arch will be ‘pretty much in the same place’ as normal in the studio, as will the band, but that his singers will probably have to stand further apart from each other, or be separated by screens.

BARE-BONES CREW AND NO ENTOURAGE

There will be a smaller crew than usual, and less elaborate staging and sets. It’s said the aim is to have 75 per cent fewer people on set than usual. 

Bruno’s on his own 

Bruno Tonioli, 64, generally flies to Los Angeles and back every week for eight weeks during the Strictly run as he is also a judge on the U.S. version of the show (where he is paid £1.5 million a series, compared with £250,000 from the BBC, making the permanent jet lag worth it).

This year, travel is impossible, so for the first five weeks Bruno will film comments to be shown in the results show and not deliver a mark for the contestants.

He said: ‘I won’t be part of the main show giving scores as I’m not in the studio. That would be unfair — you have to be there to do that.

‘They are sending me a link featuring all the dances which I’ll watch and then give my opinions for the results show.

‘I’ll leave the scores for the three other judges — they know what they’re doing.’

He will then fly to the UK and return to the panel for the semi-finals and final after quarantining for two weeks. The judges will all sit a socially distanced two metres apart, just as the Loose Women panellists do.

 

Celebrities — including pop singers who record a performance for the Sunday results show — will be told they cannot bring an entourage.

Some singers may pre-record their performances several weeks in advance, as setting up the stage for them will take longer with fewer crew. 

A source said: ‘There will be no agents hanging around, no friends or family members. It will be basic crew and talent on set.’ 

As for the live audience, the BBC has said it is ‘impossible’ to have an audience, but this week Kate Phillips said she is hoping to have a small audience in the studio. 

A final decision will be taken nearer the time.

WHY LESS WILL MEAN MORE

There will be fewer episodes of the show than usual. 

Last year, Strictly started airing on September 21, but this year it won’t come to the screens until October 24. 

The final will be on December 19 after an overall nine-week run, rather than the usual 13.

As a result there will be fewer celebrity contestants, and the two landmarks of Halloween and Blackpool will come earlier in the run. 

There was talk that Blackpool, which is filmed at the legendary Tower Ballroom, may be scrapped due to the pandemic, but at the moment — local lockdowns permitting — the plan is to go ahead as normal.

The shorter run is partly in order to minimise risks and quarantining, and partly to allow for as much as possible to be pre-recorded in order to keep the Elstree studio working.

Strictly Come Dancing 2020: Who are the pros?

ALJAŽ ŠKORJANEC

Joined the show: Series 11 (2013)

Celebrity Partners include: Alison Hammond, Helen George, Daisy Lowe, and Viscountess Emma Weymouth

Best Result: Won with Abbey Clancy in 2013  

AMY DOWDEN

Joined the show: Series 15 (2017)

Celebrity Partners: Brian Conley, Danny John-Jules and Karim Zeroual

Best Result: 2nd Place with Karim Zeroual in 2019 

ANTON DU BEKE

Joined the show: Series 1 (2004)

Celebrity Partners include: Ann Widdecombe, Nancy Dell’Olio, Judy Murray and Ruth Langsford

Best result: 2nd Place with Emma Barton in 2019 

DIANNE BUSWELL

Joined the show: Series 15 (2017)

Celebrity Partners: Rev Richard Coles, Joe Sugg and Dev Griffin

Best Result: 2nd Place with Joe Sugg in 2018 

GIOVANNI PERNICE

Joined the show: Series 13 (2015)

Celebrity Partners: Georgia May Foote, Laura Whitmore Debbie McGee, Faye Tozer and Michelle Visage

Best Results: 2nd Place with Georgia May Foote (2015), Debbie McGee (2017) and Faye Tozer (2018) 

GORKA MARQUEZ 

Joined the show: Series 14 (2016)

Celebrity Partners: Tameka Empson, Alexandra Burke and Katie Piper

Best Result: 2nd Place With Alexandra Burke in 2017  

GRAZIANO DI PRIMA  

Joined the show: Series 16 (2018)

Celebrity Partners: Vick Hope

Best Result: 12th Place with Vick Hope in 2018 

JANETTE MANRARA

Joined the show: Series 11 (2013) 

Celebrity Partners Include: Jake Wood, Peter Andre and Aston Merrygold

Best Result: 5th Place with Jake Wood in 2014

JOHANNES RADEBE 

Joined the show: Series 16 (2018)

Celebrity Partners: Catherine Tyldesley

Best Result: 11th Place with Catherine Tyldesley in 2019 

KAREN HAUER

Joined the show: Series 10 (2012)

Celebrity Partners: Nicky Byrne, Mark Wright, Simon Rimmer, Charles Venn and Chris Ramsey

Best Results: 4th Place with Mark Wright in 2014, and Chris Ramsey in 2019. 

KATYA JONES 

Joined the show: Series 14 (2016)

Celebrity Partners include: Ed Balls, Seann Walsh, Mike Bushell

Best Result: Won with Joe McFadden in 2017 

LUBA MUSHTUK

Joined the show: Series 16 (2018)

Celebrity Partner: James Cracknell

Best Result: 15th Place with James Cracknell in 2019 

NADIYA BYCHKOVA

Joined the show: Series 15 (2017)

Celebrity Partners: Davood Ghadami, Lee Ryan and David James

Best Result: 6th Place with Davood Ghadami in 2017 

NANCY XU 

Joined the show: Series 17 (2019)

Celebrity Partner: TBC

Best Result: TBC 

NEIL JONES 

Joined the show: Series 14 (2016)

Celebrity Partner: Alex Scott

Best Result: 5th Place with Alex Scott in 2019 

OTI MABUSE 

Joined the show: Series 13 (2015)

Celebrity Partners: Danny Mac, Anthony Ogogo, Graeme Swann and Jonnie Peacock

Best Result: Won with Kelvin Fletcher in 2019 

 

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