Jason Gardiner is back on ITV's Dancing On Ice panel - and judging by the opening episodes, he's not losing his 'Mr Nasty' tag. He tells us that if celebrities can't handle the heat, it's time to go.
Dancing on Ice is in full swing - are you pleased to be back?
Yes, of course. It came out of left field, really. None of us expected when we finished the show nearly five years ago that it was ever going to come back. When I got the call, I didn't think they were serious. And when they did ask me to come in to talk to them, I thought it was going to be about a new project. But it was about this.
Why is now the right time for its return?
I do think absence makes the heart grow fonder. Dancing On Ice is part of TV history and I feel so proud of its legacy. We all put a lot of work into making the programme brilliant. Shows like Dancing On Ice bring families together. It is fun and entertaining.
What do you make of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean joining you on the panel?
I love Jayne and Chris. I did this show initially because of Jayne and Chris. They're huge idols of mine and they are phenomenal. They're so dedicated and hard-working. It's the same stock I come from. We get one another, they have the same level of perfection and discipline [as me] and it's all those things I find absolutely delicious about life.
Could you learn a thing or two from new judge Ashley Banjo?
I am always open to learning something from people that I respect, and I absolutely respect Ashley and what he's done. What feels great is for the first time the panel feels solid. Everybody that is on it is an expert in their own right and has incredible experience that they're going to bring to the panel and to the show.
What do you think was missing before?
It was missing people that really had an understanding or actual experience in dance. For the last Dancing On Ice, we weren't allowed to talk about the choreography. As a choreographer, to go nearly 10 years of not being able to ever mention the choreography, because it was given to them, is difficult. This year, the pros have to choreograph the routines.
You're longtime friends with contestant Antony Cotton. Are you conscious of not giving him any leeway?
I've known him for 20 years, but nobody gets special dispensation from me. He said to me when he was cast, 'I don't expect any sort of special treatment'. I said, 'You're not going to get it'. In fact, I am going to be tougher on him and I think he knows that. And he's ready for it. Come on, it's Antony Cotton! He'll give as good as he takes.
So we can expect more straight talking from 'Mr Nasty' this series, then?
The way I have always approached the show is instinctively. Even though some people might not agree with my methodology, there's a real purpose to it. Ultimately, it provokes them to either do better or if they can't handle the heat, then bye bye! It's a competition at the end of the day.
What advice would you give to the celebrities listening to your comments?
I am telling the truth. If they are clever and they don't let their egos get in the way, they will see what I am saying is actually going to help and not destroy them. I'm not going to sit there and say, 'It's great you are trying'. I am not there to judge whether they're trying because everybody is trying. It's whether or not they are delivering. I'm very impartial and I don't have favourites.
Do you like the comedy gold moments too?
For me personally, those kinds of moments don't do anything. I understand why the public love it. But I like talent. I like to see things that are good. I like it when people are great. Mediocre is not what turns me on. I like surprises and I want to feel the magic. Then I am hooked. It's a very tall order, though, to ask for..
Dancing on Ice is back on ITV on Sunday nights.
Catch up on episodes you miss on BT TV via the ITV hub app.