Who's next for the ice pick in the back After disappointing ratings for Dancing On Ice, head judge Robin Cousins says no one's safe…
21:56 GMT, 27 April 2012
Robin Cousins isn’t a my-dressing-room-is-bigger-than-yours sort. Instead, he’s been showing up at ITV1’s Dancing On Ice on a Sunday for the past seven years, doing his job, saying thank you and leaving.
‘For the first few series there were three of us in the same dressing room,’ says the Olympic skating champion. ‘Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill both had their own. I shared a Portakabin outside with Nicky Slater and Jason Gardiner. It was tight but I didn’t mind. We had a laugh.
‘For this last series we had individual dressing rooms, which is very nice. We just rock in at 10.30am, hair and make-up, in for the show and you’re done.’
Robin (centre) with fellow Dancing On Ice judges Katarina Witt and Louie Spence
That’s to say he keeps his head down, which is probably just as well given he’s the only surviving judge from an original panel of four. First to feel the ice pick in their back two years ago was the lovely Nicky Slater who had a, well… frosty relationship with fellow judge and former skating partner Karen Barber.
At the time Karen, who was married to the show’s trainer Steve Pickavance, was photo-graphed after sleeping over at father-of-two Christopher Dean’s home but definitely, definitely wasn’t having an affair with him (‘rumour and innuendo,’ Chris told me when I interviewed him 16 months ago). Four weeks later her marriage was over and they were an item. As luck would have it, she’d just been given the job of Dancing On Ice head coach with her own dressing room.
Next for the big freeze was acid-tongued Jason Gardiner, who upset Karen in the 2011 series, telling her, ‘If your opinion mattered you’d still be on the panel.’ Jason is said to have flounced off the show after producers auditioned Louie Spence behind his back for 2012. Does Robin miss his Portakabin mate
Former Dancing On Ice head coach Karen Barber
‘I miss the barbs, well not all of them. Obviously you just assume everyone’s going to be there forever. I didn’t know Jason had left until he sent me an email. I thought, “Oh, how’s that happened” It was a shame. But I have no control at all. Chris and Jayne are involved in the audition process and who’s in it but, ultimately, the line-up is selected by ITV. I have no control… and I don’t want any either.’
These days he prefers spending time with his partner at their home near Brighton. He rarely talks about the man he married in a civil partnership five years ago, but when we meet Robin is wearing a silver wedding band and tells me, ‘We’ve been together now for a very happy few years. I’m more content than I’ve ever been.’
Which I guess is why he doesn’t seem particularly bothered that with Louie Spence and Katarina Witt on the panel this year, audience figures fell. What does head judge Robin have to say about complaints that, without Jason, the ice panel is less than sparkling ‘It doesn’t matter what we say, viewers will vote for their favourites. They’re texting before we’ve even started.’
OK, so is it the lacklustre celebrity
line-up that’s turning viewers off ‘Well, they do have contestants I’ve
never heard of,’ he says. For the record, this year’s winner Matthew
Wolfenden plays David Metcalfe in Emmerdale. ‘We’d love to have some big
A-listers but they’d have to put six months of their lives on hold to
learn to skate and it can be dangerous. Insurance companies won’t cover
them,’ says Robin.
What about the presenters This year
Christine Bleakley replaced Holly Willoughby as Phillip Schofield’s
co-host. ‘Obviously, there isn’t the chemistry that there was with
Holly. But Christine’s been an easy fit and it’s always about Phillip.
He’s the lead. But everybody’s a star in their own right.’
I didn’t know Jason had left until he
sent me an email. I thought, “Oh, how’s that happened” It was a shame.
But I have no control at all.
With Karen’s star, it seems, in the ascendancy since those sleepovers with Chris. Did he know ‘No I didn’t know,’ he says. ‘During the show we barely see each other. But I’ll see more of them on tour.’ Dancing On Ice: The Tour 2012 started last weekend but Robin will not be joining it until he finishes his role as Teen Angel in a touring production of Grease. It’s his new role as Billy Flynn in Chicago that Robin’s cock-a-hoop about though.
‘It’s great to be able to talk about it,’ he says. ‘I did the audition in October but I haven’t told anybody until now. I wanted to make sure it was going to happen first. People might say it’s a stunt casting me in Grease or Chicago, but I don’t care what people think when they walk through the door. I do care what they think when they leave.’
Robin is a driven man. He began skating in international competitions at the age of 14 and left school a year later. ‘It wasn’t the competition, I just loved to perform. I wanted to be Gene Kelly when I was a kid. His dancing looked so spontaneous, and that’s how I was when I got onto the ice.’ He became Olympic champion in 1980, and was a three-time World Championships medallist. Musical theatre happened ‘by accident’ when he choreographed a skating show in the States. He was asked to sing and offered a job.
‘If this all came crashing down tomorrow, there isn’t a “What if”. I’ve fulfilled more than I dreamed I would when I left school at 15.’ Robin is also mentoring the synchronised swimming team for this year’s Olympics. ‘I’ll be an Olympic ambassador for 2012 and performing in Chicago too. It’s a dream.’ And Dancing On Ice ‘Another series has been commissioned but they haven’t asked me back yet so I shall wait until the end of the summer,’ he says. ‘If they don’t OK, next…’
Robin will be in Chicago at London’s Garrick Theatre from 17 July. www.chicagothemusical.co.uk