The Big Breakfast | Interview with AJ Odudu and Mo Gilligan

What can we expect from the new look series?

AJ: We can expect a new house for a start. We’ve upgraded it, so it’s going to be even bigger and brighter this time round. There’s more chaos, more competitions and just more vibes!

Mo: Expect a lot of crazy anarchy for the start of the morning. We want to keep people tuned in for as long as possible, so there’ll be some cool surprises. And of course, games.

AJ: Judi Love is returning on the bed; Phil Gayle is returning to the news; Melvin Odoom going to be out and about around the country with games and competitions. It feels like a real family affair again and I can’t wait for everyone to join together for the most raucous start to the day.

Mo: It’s live. Anything can happen.

Are you looking forward to teaming up with each other and the crew again?

AJ: Absolutely. Mo and I had never met or worked together before The Big Breakfast and I’m just so delighted that we got on so well and have since created a great friendship. It’s always amazing to work with good people who are not only super talented and generous but also really fun. I can’t wait to be reunited with him and the whole gang.

Mo: AJ is an absolute pro when it comes to live TV – it’s so great just picking up little tricks from her. The whole team had such a good time making the show and we’re just excited to be bringing that joy back to Saturday mornings.

What makes The Big Breakfast a unique way to start the weekend?

AJ: Quite frankly, there’s no other show on the telly quite like it. It’s perfect mayhem, I think. Bonkers but brilliant. It’s literally the show for everyone first thing in the morning on the weekends. And what a way to start your day.

Mo: I think there’s a gap for Saturday vibes. There’s a lot of great Saturday TV, but there’s a lot of cooking stuff going on Saturdays.

AJ: We’re going to have a house full of guests, so that’s going to be our equivalent of a live studio audience and all of that energy on the telly.

Mo: We’re bringing a different energy. It’s going to be bringing some comedy to the mornings! Life in general could do with a bit more comedy at the moment. With The Big Breakfast, it’s quite fun and quite silly and just a great wake up call. I feel like the nation really needs a bit of laugh, whether that’s in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

AJ: We’ll have a diverse team too – obviously, we’ve got this show beyond the Black to Front special now, but we’ve maintained the diversity of the crew and the cast. I think it’s going to really start to represent a part of the audience who are going to be able to see and recognise themselves a lot more on the telly. It’s going to be a show that’s for everyone.

You mention that the series will carry on some of that inclusive feel of the special, was that something that made it easier for you to say yes to doing a full series?

AJ: Yes. I had so much fun doing the first show so was excited to come back and host again alongside Mo but obviously the sentiment behind it boosted it for me personally, because it allows me to be in a space which I don’t often see or experience in TV.

I think it’s so important to show people that there are lots of different opportunities in telly, on and off screen, which should be open to everyone and hopefully, by setting that example, it will help shape the face of not just The Big Breakfast but of more programming in the future.

What was the reaction like on the day and afterwards to the special?

AJ: It was so brilliant. Mo was on social media throughout the actual show, whereas I was like, “I don’t want to look at any of it. I don’t want the feedback. I’m just going to do my thing.” So, to have such great public feedback from fans old and new was just amazing. The public response was really great and, thankfully, I think it helped encourage Channel 4 to give it a bit longer for this summer series.

Your great onscreen partnership was recognised with a prestigious RTS Award for entertainment performance. How did it feel picking up that award?Mo: It was one of my proudest achievements. Especially winning with AJ. She’s one of the best people I’ve worked with in TV, and she works really hard. And for the show to pick up an award as well was really special. The whole team deserved it.

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AJ: The awards felt so special. It’s nerve-wracking taking on such a historic show that means so much to so many people because you want to do it justice. So, to be recognised for something that we had so much fun doing was just the cherry on the top. We were so happy on the night, I can’t even tell you. We were beaming. We could’ve touched the sky that night. And we’re so glad to back with that energy behind us – we’re back as an award-winning duo! How funny!

The Big Breakfast is a Channel 4 icon – did you initially feel nervous picking up the baton or excited about putting your stamp on it?Mo: It’s exciting for sure. Yes, there are going to be people who remember watching it originally, but there will also be a new generation tuning in for the first time thinking “Woah, is this what used to happen in the 90s?”, so we definitely want to up the fun

AJ: A combination of the two, to be totally honest with you. I loved watching the show growing up and I know that a lot of viewers did. We obviously wanted to pay homage to the nostalgia of it and really honour the show that we know and love. But also, I’ve got a younger brother who’d never heard of The Big Breakfast, because he’s so much younger than me so, for him, it’s a new show and a new era. I am just so excited for me and Mo to put our own stamp on it, really bring it forward and make it ours.

Have you spoken to any of the past presenters about their memories of doing the show?Mo: I spoke to Chris Evans on his radio show about doing the show and he said that hosting the show was one of the happiest times in his life. He really enjoyed last year’s special and was looking forward to the series, which meant a lot coming from him. He was a massive part of the show. He was one of my presenting inspirations growing up. He just had this unique wackiness about him and when presenting a show, was just able to effortlessly pop up all over the set.

AJ: Yes, I worked with Denise Van Outen on Cooking with the Stars, and she was just so complimentary of the special and the show. She said it was the best show ever to work on, and Zoe Ball said to me that when she worked on the show, she loved it too. For a lot of people in TV, that was one of their first entrances into telly: the celebrity booker on Strictly Come Dancing, she was one of the Families of the Week on the original series. It feels like everyone’s got such a positive story to tell, be it past presenters or crew. It feels so special to be part of that history now.

Why do you think The Big Breakfast has a special place in viewers’ memories?Mo: The Big Breakfast is an iconic show, a bit of morning fun. Being a kid and remembering bonkers things like Zig & Zag. It just became the norm in the morning, which is quite weird as now, if you saw the same thing when switching on the TV at breakfast you’d think “Man, there’s a lot going on!”

AJ: For me personally growing up, it was kind of like The Big Breakfast was a show that actually changed the face of breakfast TV back in the day. Everything was really straight and suited; everyone was very well behaved. So, to have a little bit of naughtiness in the morning just felt really fun and special. That energy is so contagious – when you get good vibes first thing in the morning to make you smile. It is a form of escapism from so much going on in the world.

What was your favourite Saturday morning show back in the day?AJ: Back in the day I loved CD:UK and Live & Kicking. Live & Kicking was amazing because it was just a bitesize of everything. A bit of music, a bit of Rugrats, a bit of Kenan and Kel… Just so much fun. What I loved about Saturday morning TV as a kid was everyone playing games, having a laugh and meeting popstars. Maybe you’d be lucky enough to be in the audience and win a prize – or even get phoned at home and win. I think to have that energy of old school Saturday telly brought back is amazing.

Mo: Those weekend morning programmes like T4 I’d watch as a teenager and the presenters were so slick. You had June Sarpong, who I got to meet and was actually quite starstruck by, and Dermot O’Leary. His slickness in delivering lines was just the best. They were a great morning double act.

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AJ, you’ve both presented loads of live TV in your career – is it still an adrenaline rush or do you get used to it?AJ: Oh my gosh, I still get the biggest rush of nerves, adrenaline and butterflies, but I just live for it. It’s such a weird thing. I always say to my mum, “Why do I like this pressure?”, but I think there is something thrilling about it. It adds an element of energy and spontaneity to an interview. Live TV is the reason why I fell in love with TV in the first place and why I always wanted to get into it. It’s always on the edge of something going wrong, which I often think lends itself to things going right.

What’s the weirdest/wildest thing that has happened while you’ve been broadcasting live?AJ: Gosh, I remember when I accidentally gave out results ahead of the time that the public actually knew about it. That was on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, and there was a five-minute delay, and I think I tweeted “Ah no, so sad that this housemate has left the house” and everyone responded like, “WHAT?!” That was awkward. That’s one of the reasons why I never tweet, I can’t be trusted.

And for you Mo – Do you get a thrill from doing live TV where anything can happen, or does it make you nervous?Mo: The last episode of The Lateish Show S3 was live, so I had a chance to get a bit more practice in. I love it though; I love the risk involved as it just feels like you’re living on the edge a bit. It’s definitely a thrill as anything can happen at any given moment and you just have to roll with it! That’s the cool thing about live TV. There will be people tuning in just to see it go left, and that’s what it comes down to with live TV these days – you just don’t want to miss out on that one incredibly funny moment. You see it so much with other live morning shows too now where one moment can turn into memorable chaos.

Are you a ‘morning person’? How do you like to start your day?AJ: I feel like I used to be a morning person, but that’s started to change over the years… So doing this series is going to be interesting! My alarm clock is usually a music playlist that eases me out bed. Then I’ll have a shower, brush my teeth, have my breakfast. Normally I have coffee, eggs, toast – things like that. I’ve got a rule that I can’t be on my phone until I’ve left the house because I think it’s just good not to be bombarded by news or social media before I’ve had a couple of hours to be able to take it on. I’ll throw a workout in every other day, be it skipping in the garden or a HIIT workout. So actually, saying all of that, maybe I am a morning person – I get quite a lot done!

And AJ, you’ll be on our screens again soon on some E4 shows soon, is that right? What’s coming up?AJ: Oh my gosh, so much. I’m doing The Big Blow Out for E4 and Married at First Sight UK: Afterparty for E4. I am so excited to meet the new cast on MAFS UK. I loved last year’s cast. This year though… OH MY GOD. The casting team have smashed it. They’re bigger and better than ever. I’ve just been given four episodes to watch, and I can’t wait to get started. And the thing is, last year’s cast still has two couples who are together, there’s a Married at First Sight UK baby on the way… It actually works!

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.