Claudia Winkleman has revealed that she originally felt that hosting hit BBC show The Traitors would be “incredibly risky” for her career but it turned out to be the “ride” of her lifetime.
The first series of the psychological reality TV show, which saw 22 strangers play “the ultimate game of detection, backstabbing and trust” at a Scottish Highlands castle, soared to popularity over the Christmas period last year.
An average of 3.3 million people tuned in to watch three contestants split the £101,050 prize money, a BBC spokesperson said at the time.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, which appointed her as the recipient of its outstanding achievement award this year, Winkleman admitted the show “felt incredibly risky” to take on initially as she is know for her positive attitude on Strictly Come Dancing and this show would require for her to be much more serious.
She said the description of people ‘murdering’ each other in a Scottish castle also made her doubtful but she watched the Dutch version and was “interested in the psychology and how everybody gets on”.
The presenter revealed the moment that got her “absolutely hooked” was when two traitors turned on each other during a roundtable debate and her producer had to warn her via her earpiece to “watch her breathing” as she was so invested.
“It was the ride of my lifetime and even when we there we thought maybe nobody will watch,” she added.
“And I don’t think anybody really did watch at the beginning and then it sort of grew and grew.”
Earlier this year, the series took home the TV Bafta award for the reality and constructed factual category along with an entertainment performance gong that went to Winkleman.
Reflecting on presenting The Traitors as well as the new talent show The Piano and Strictly Come Dancing, she added: “I feel incredibly lucky, I cannot believe I get to do those three shows.”
She also said their success was “nothing to do” with her but the “amazing” production teams.
Winkleman became a household name after she joined Tess Daly as a co-host on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2010 after previously presenting the show’s spin-off It Takes Two.
She recalled that after she accepted the role, the controller of BBC One asked for her hairdresser’s number which she later found out was so he could complain about her fringe.
Discussing her role on the dancing competition, she said: “I don’t say this in a faux self-deprecating way. It is a machine. A steam engine. I’m not even a cog.”
She praised the team behind the show, led by executive producer Sarah James, including for props, the band, professionals and celebrity participants.
“My only job is to make sure that they are OK and to stop speaking on time and to look clean – that’s the gig but it’s really thrilling,” she added.
Winkleman also noted that she did not feel concerned about Strictly being fronted by two women when she joined due to the popularity of The Great British Bake Off which was hosted by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins at the time.
She said: “I felt incredibly nervous at the time but the two women thing, the biggest show on television by miles at that point, ratings-wise, in recent history was Bake Off and that was hosted by two women. So I was, like, I’m not even pulling on that string.”