The Big Breakfast: Interview with Mo Gilligan

Category: Interview

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The Big Breakfast is back for a one off special for the Black To Front Project. How does it feel to be presenting the show that kicks it all off?

The Big Breakfast is an iconic show, a bit of morning fun, and to be in the realm of the presenters that have gone before feels like such an honour. We just want to give people a bit of joy in the morning.  


What can you tell us about what you’ve got planned for the show?

We’re using the template of the original Big Breakfast so expect a lot of crazy anarchy. There’ll be some cool surprises, a lot of new talent which I’m really excited about, and of course games. A lot of fun and craziness for the start of the morning!


What are your memories of The Big Breakfast?

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!’  


So, this will be the first time you’ve worked with AJ Odudu, but you do know each other?

Yeah, I’ve known her for quite a while, but this will be the first time we’ve worked together which will be lovely. I’ll be taking her lead a little because she’s done so much more live TV than I have and is an absolute pro at it. Having watched her on so many shows over the years, she’s just really good at what she does and it’s an honour to work with her.


How do you think AJ will get on as part of this year’s Strictly line up? Are you hoping she takes you for a twirl around the house?

I think she’ll be really good actually – and it’s only fair that now she’s on the show that she shows off some dance moves. Come on AJ man, let the British public know what’s in store!


Who would be your dream guests?

In the morning you definitely want someone with loads of energy! I’d love Idris Elba, John Boyega or Daniel Kaluuya. They’re definitely up there in terms of my dream line up.


The Big Breakfast was famous for being anarchic, unpredictable, and comparable to a riotous after-party. Will you and AJ be bringing more of the same?

Oh yeah, 100%! There will be plenty of surprises and of course we want to keep people tuned in for as long as possible. As well as those who remember watching it originally, there will 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.


As a comedian, do you think that morning breakfast shows could do with a bit more comedy?

Oh yeah! 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.   


Who were your presenting inspirations growing up and now?

Oh definitely people like Chris Evans. He just had this unique wackiness about him and when presenting a show, was just able to effortlessly pop up all over the set. Then from watching T4 as a kid – June Sarpong, who I got to meet and was actually quite starstruck. There were a lot of weekend morning programmes I’d watch as a teenager and those presenters were so slick. For me, Dermot O’Leary’s slickness in delivering lines was just the best.


Loads of household name broadcasters got their big break from The Big Breakfast over the years. Have any of the team from the original series got in touch to give you good advice or warm wishes?

I haven’t spoken to anyone yet, but I’ve seen a lot of them have been talking about how excited they are about the return. I spoke to Denise Van Outen about Celebrity Gogglebox last year before this was announced – she told me how much she enjoyed watching me and Babatundé on the show which was just lovely.


Do you get a thrill from doing live TV where anything can happen, or does it make it nervous?

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 a lot of people tuning in 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 thing. You see it so much with other live morning shows too now, and on a global level too.


You have a big following on social media. Do you feel pressure to deliver on social constantly or has it become routine for you?

I wouldn’t say there’s a pressure to deliver, not for me anyway. I’ve always felt with social media that I’ve built the audience up over the years so I don’t feel the pressure to be like, I must do this sketch now.


You announced earlier this year that you’re launching The Lateish Accelerator Programme which is brilliant. Do you feel positive about the legacy that can come from initiatives such as that and the Black to Front Project?

Yeah, 100%. A lot of young people often say I can do things online and carry on like that, but TV gets you to an audience that you wouldn’t necessarily get from just broadcasting online. With the Accelerator Programme, we were able to offer not only great opportunities in front of the camera but also behind it. It’s still early days but if we can give people these key opportunities and I can help do that in some small way - I will absolutely do my best. For example, we’ve been working with a really talented young guy who had been a runner on countless shows and hadn’t moved up yet. We said, ‘you should be a researcher, you’re really good at it’ and now that’s what he’s done, and he’s amazing at it! Bringing people into the writers’ rooms is something I feel really strongly about too – I’ve not been in this industry for a long time, but I’ve definitely noticed those opportunities need to be shared. It’s a hard world to get into it but even when you do get in, it can be a challenge to break that glass ceiling so that’s why it was so important to me to launch something like The Lateish Accelerator Programme.


You’ve now written your first book too which comes out soon. What can you tell us?

My book, That Moment When, comes out on the 2nd September and I’m so excited. I’ve put so much into it and it’s very funny – I’m not just saying that as it’s my book! I’ve worked closely with an editor on the audio book as well and we’ve just laughed at so many parts of it. I wrote a lot of it last year and then made changes within the year so reading back, it’s been like ‘oh I forgot about this bit, this was really funny!’ There’s a lot of nostalgia in it but it’s the story of me before me a little bit, as well as how it all started. I get to share those moments that have really changed my life.


And now you can essentially change your name to BAFTA award-winning Mo Gilligan?

I think definitely winning something like a BAFTA was like ‘oh my gosh this is absolutely crazy.’ We talk about it more in the book, not how it happened but the moment when it happened – right in the middle of the pandemic!