Me - I Want To Be A Millionaire! (part 2)
On the morning of Thursday, October 3, Marc and I found ourselves on
the 09:40 Virgin Express from Coventry to London Euston. As the train
sped through Warwickshire, I gazed pensively out of the window at
landmarks such as Rugby’s enchanting cement works.
I’d been told that we would be met at Watford Junction station
by a driver holding a placard bearing my name, which made me feel very
important. My excitement at the prospect was slightly dampened on
arrival when it turned out that we were sharing the car to the studios
with another contestant – Steve, from Lancashire – and his
wife. Steve had an exceptionally irritating monotone voice and no
apparent inclination to stop using it. I estimated that the journey
from Watford to Elstree took slightly over five hours, though on
checking my watch I was surprised to discover that it had actually
been about twenty minutes.
Eventually we were deposited at the front gates of Elstree Film &
Television Studios, where we were issued with security passes and
shown around the site by Millionaire production team
member Lisa Telford. Lisa was the researcher who had spoken to me on
the phone; she looked after us magnificently throughout the day.
One of the most exciting things to hit us initially was the
entertainment legacy of this extraordinary studio complex. Everywhere
you look there are reminders of the classic films and TV shows that
have been – and still are being – made here. When Lisa told
us that all the dressing rooms normally allocated to
Millionaire were in use, and that we would be in another
building in a far corner of the site, we were initially disappointed,
until we discovered that our dressing room was in a block attached to
the mighty George Lucas Stage – home to the first three
Star Wars movies as well as the Indiana
Jones series and much else besides.
It turned out that the Lucas stage had more recently been used as the studio in the third UK series of Big Brother, with the house and its familiar exterior stairway lying directly opposite. Not only were we in one of the dressing rooms used by Davina McCall, Dermot O’Leary et al when making the show, but our window looked directly out at the front of the house. The dressing room was comfortably equipped with couch, dressing table, TV and en suite bathroom.
Lunch in the canteen was the first opportunity to meet some of my fellow contestants. The atmosphere was friendly, but cautiously so – after all, that evening we would become rivals in the dreaded ‘fastest finger first’ round to determine which of us would have the chance to play for a million pounds. There seemed to be a subtext lurking beneath all the small talk as each of us carefully and quietly sized up the opposition.
After lunch Marc and I were interviewed by associate producer Melinda Rogers, the aim being to compile a list of interesting stories or facts about myself that Chris Tarrant could make use of should I make it into the hot seat. She was particularly interested in my theatre activities; I had brought a picture of myself as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, which was whisked away so it could be flashed up on screen if required.
When Melinda asked about my marital status, I explained that I had a partner; Melinda asked my partner’s name and so I answered ‘Michael’. Put like that, it sounds straightforward; for some reason, though, I felt slightly apprehensive. Maybe it’s because I’ve never yet heard Chris Tarrant make unambiguous reference to a contestant having a same-sex partner. Occasionally, an obvious case will take the chair and be introduced by Chris, with the added comment that ‘...up in the audience is his friend so-and-so’, and you think, oh please. However, Melinda simply asked, ‘And would both you and Michael be happy for Chris to mention him as your partner on air?’ so I said yes, we would.
At 3pm sharp, we were all assembled in the green room ready to be briefed by floor assistant Susie Charrington and escorted down to the studio for a wardrobe check and full rehearsal.
Next: into the studio
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