Entertainment

Soap stars Bobby Brazier and Ellie Leach join Paralympian Jody Cundy in Strictly

Bobby Brazier as a toddler with his father Jeff (Andy Butterton/PA)
Bobby Brazier as a toddler with his father Jeff (Andy Butterton/PA)

EastEnders actor Bobby Brazier, former Coronation Street star Ellie Leach, and Paralympic champion Jody Cundy are the latest stars to join the Strictly Come Dancing line-up.

Brazier, who is the son of Big Brother star Jade Goody – who died in 2009 aged 27 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer – and fellow reality star and TV presenter Jeff Brazier, said he is excited to take part in the BBC’s flagship programme because “I love to dance”.

The 20-year-old, who has played Freddie Slater in the BBC soap since last year, told BBC Breakfast: “To perform live will be scary, I think – daunting, but exciting. There’s a real difference to doing acting and dancing live and having time to prepare.

“It’s going to be a rush I haven’t felt before. I just like to party – house and disco. I’ve got good rhythm… but as far as ballroom and Latin and proper dancing goes, I’ve not done much.”

On swapping T-shirts for sequins, Brazier said: “EastEnders have had me dressed up in mad stuff – I’ve been a pumpkin, so I think sequins is fine. Even personally I wear some pretty crazy stuff anyway, and it’s all part of getting into a role for the dance and the different kinds of songs, so it’s exciting.”

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Bobby Brazier as a toddler with his father Jeff (Andy Butterton/PA)

The model, who has walked for Dolce & Gabbana at Milan Fashion Week, also said growing up watching his father Jeff dance “taught me a lot”, but added that he hopes to pass on his new skills to his younger brother, Freddie, who is a “stiff” dancer.

Meanwhile, Leach, whose participation was also announced on BBC Breakfast, said: “It still doesn’t feel real that I’m going to be doing Strictly!! It’s always been a dream of mine so I guess dreams really do come true!!!!”

The 22-year-old played Faye Windass in Coronation Street for 12 years before leaving earlier this year, and was involved in storylines that included falling pregnant at 13 and later reconnecting with the child she gave up for adoption.

Cundy, an eight-time gold medallist who has represented Great Britain in cycling and swimming events at seven summer Paralympics, was unveiled on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The 44-year-old said: “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I am literally the last person to get dragged on the dancefloor so this is jumping feet-first in at the deep end, something I never imagined myself doing, but you’ve just got to say yes when they come saying ‘Do you want to be on Strictly?'”

Cundy has also competed in multiple World Championships, winning 23 world titles, most recently at the World Cycling Championships in Glasgow this week, but said the prospect of getting knocked out of Strictly early will be more nerve-wracking.

He said: “My most nervous thing would be going out in the first week – even talking about it now my heart is pumping. I had a world championship final literally last night and my heart rate is probably higher now than it was then.”

Cundy, who holds the world record in the Flying 200m and the 1km Time Trial and took 14 consecutive world titles in the MC4 Kilo Time Trial, said his team will be testing him before and after Strictly training to see if dancing practice affects his performance.

He added he will be seeking advice from former Strictly star and Paralympian Jonnie Peacock, saying: “He is an amputee as well and he gets his legs done by the same people who do my legs, so hopefully there will be some tips in there to get the most out of the prosthetics.”

Leach will join the BBC show months after leaving Coronation Street, and said: “Obviously it was really emotional, my last day, but I think the fact that I come out of Corrie and now I’m doing Strictly… I could never have imagined that this would have happened and I’m so, so grateful.

“I can’t wait to join the Strictly family, I’m so excited.

“I used to dance a little bit when I was younger, but it was tap, ballet, modern street dance. I’m not trained at all, and especially not in ballroom or Latin. I’m really excited to learn that new skill.

“I think that’s the most amazing thing about Strictly… being able to just be on the dancefloor every week. I’m always straight on the dancefloor, I love a good boogie, but I don’t know if my moves are good enough yet.

“I’m excited to kind of do something different, all the Latin dances, and ballroom as well, it’s so exciting.”

Strictly Come Dancing 2023
Adam Thomas was the eighth celebrity contestant confirmed for the new series (BBC/PA)

Leach said the “scariest part” of the show will be having her dancing critiqued by the judges, but added that she is grateful fellow soap star Adam Thomas is included in the line-up because he will be a “little piece of home”.

The Strictly line-up so far also includes BBC Asian Network’s Breakfast Show host Nikita Kanda, actress Amanda Abbington, Bad Education star Layton Williams and broadcaster Angela Rippon.

They will be joined on the dancefloor by journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy, comedian Eddie Kadi, Irish TV presenter Angela Scanlon and former Love Island star Zara McDermott.

Presenters Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will be back to host the show when it returns to screens in the autumn.