Ore Oduba on theatre career: I started to worry whether it was going to happen

The sports presenter won Strictly Come Dancing and has since appeared in the West End.

Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba has said he had doubts as to whether his musical theatre career would get off the ground.

The sports presenter lifted the coveted glitterball on BBC One’s hit dancing series alongside Joanne Clifton in 2016.

The 34-year-old made his theatrical debut last year when he starred as the Teen Angel in the UK tour of Grease and went on to land a role in Curtains the Musical, a comedy whodunnit, which also starred Jason Manford and Carley Stenson.

Speaking to Laura Whitmore on her BBC Radio 5 Live show as part of the Under The Spotlight segment, Oduba spoke about his career transition from children’s TV presenter to sport and then the West End.

He said: “Oh, there’s huge risk. People don’t like you doing different things, people like putting you in boxes. It’s easier, isn’t it?

“But, I guess, since the very beginning I’ve kind of had a lot of noes, I’ve had a lot of people thinking, especially in my school, no-one goes into telly, that’s not something that happens.

“I guess I’ve kind of used that as some motivation, not the reason I want to get into it but it definitely helps; if somebody tells you you can’t do something, you end up trying to use it as a positive.

“So, when it came to theatre, I finished Strictly and of course it was a baffling time! We had no intention of winning it; the biggest show on telly happens, you finish out on top and you have all these opportunities.

“But I spent two years trying to hone the crafts at least to get on to the stage. Like any job, you’re always working to try to get better, you’re never perfect, you’re never finished.

“So, I knew I had to spend a couple of years getting myself up to a standard where I can be an asset to any company, to any cast. Eventually, in 2019, I got my first job!”.

But Oduba confessed he had doubts.

“At one point, at the start of last year, I thought is it ever going to happen? I’ve been talking about this musical theatre malarkey for years, literally years now! Is it going to happen?

“And, even in your own head, when you’re feeling quite positive and quite hopeful about something, you start to doubt it and I started to worry whether it was ever going to happen, and of course, like buses, there came two roles that were going to see me out until April 2020!”

Oduba, who has also hosted the National Lottery Draw during his career, revealed that he thought he would grow up to be a surgeon.

Strictly Come Dancing 2016
Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba celebrate after winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 (BBC/PA)

He said: “My dad’s a lawyer, so I thought the only kind of job that would impress him would be a doctor, surgeon, accountant, that kind of thing. So, for ages, despite the fact that I hated biology and I have a really unsteady hand, I was going to be a surgeon! Can you imagine?

“I’d gone through loads of different ideas, my mum started trying to influence me.

“I knew sports was an outlet that I loved, I loved playing sports but I knew I was never really going to be a professional. I didn’t have that top pedigree.

“I was helped by the careers team at school and my mum was trying to help, trying to find me other jobs within sport.”

He went on to land a job presenting Newsround shortly after graduating from Loughborough University. He went on to host Sportsround, Match Of The Day: Kickabout, and was one of the string of BBC presenters for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Whitmore competed in Strictly in the same year as Oduba but she and her professional partner, Giovanni Pernice, were the sixth couple to leave the series.

– Laura Whitmore’s BBC Radio 5 Live show airs every Sunday from 10am.

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