Interview with Ashley Roberts for The Real Dirty Dancing

Category: Press Pack Article

An interview with co-host Ashley Roberts for The Real Dirty Dancing

Articles must credit The Real Dirty Dancing starts Monday 21st February at 9pm on E4 and All 4.


What did you think when you were approached to do Real Dirty Dancing?

I thought, “How fun will this be?” First of all, when I say I was obsessed with the film, I just loved it so much because of growing up in dancing, the story, Patrick Swayze, and the music. I just loved it. When it comes to being approached, I think it was Keith that told me about the show before E4 did. My birthday was coming up and I was inviting him to my birthday party. He was like,  “Ash, I don't think I can go, but I think it's because of a show that I might do with you." I was like, “What?" He's the film fanatic and we're really good mates, so it just kind of felt like a dream come true. Even on the show, which was so epic, in one day I was doing silly sketch stuff with Keith, then I got to dance, and then I was hosting all in one day. I thought: “This is pretty epic, to be able to have an opportunity to do all that in one show”. I was super excited.

What was it like working with Keith?

I mean, we just goof off! We're just laughing and being ridiculous. I'm like, “Wait, this is work?” We joke about, he's so funny and we've known each other for many years now, so it felt like two mates hanging out, having a good time.

How naughty is he on this show?

I feel like the older he's gotten, dare I say that, he’s calmed down, his heart is full of gold. You know what I love about him, though? He talks to everybody, he really makes you feel included. He was always messing around with the celebs and showing them videos that he makes because he always is constantly making videos or making different art crafts. He's so talented, that human. Yeah, it was really good vibes. I sound so LA when I say that, but it's true! All the celebs were really up for it, they got along, and it was just a lot of fun. We were in a Covid bubble together and the sun was shining. Somehow we got blessed with a lot of sunshine and it just really brings that Kellerman's look to the show.

Is it a double act that you two would like to do more of?

Well, the thing is we have fun. We've done sketch stuff before in the past together, so we’ve dressed up in costumes and were really goofy, and I’ve done Celeb Juice a bunch of times. We already have that friendship, which makes such a difference because then, when you show up, you know each other really well, to bounce off of each other or take the piss out of one another. We'd love to continue doing more stuff if that opportunity arises. Hopefully it will. Hopefully people enjoy it and we get to do another round. That would be awesome.

Can you remember the first time you watched the movie?

I don't remember the first time I watched it because it was all sort of a blur. I just remember watching it over, and over, and over again, you know, especially in that time. There was a few classics. It wasn't like now where we've got digital television where everything's at your fingertips. It was like you had a couple of VHS tapes. You went to Blockbuster and picked out your favourite film to watch, so I'd watch it repetitively, over and over again. There's so many iconic scenes, and songs, and one-liners. It’s stood the test of time, it really has. Even watching it now, because I re-watched it before we went and shot the show, I was like, "Oh, that's so good." I didn't realise quite how fit Patrick Swayze was because I was young, but now I think, "God, he was ripped!” He can move those hips. He had that hair, and that look, and those bum shakes. Honey, he had some cute cakes!

Did the movie inspire you in any way?

I think the movie, for me, was just about seeing that dancing. I guess kind of sexy, but when you're a kid, I don't know. It was inspiring, but I don't know what necessarily it was. Maybe it was the music and seeing people dance to it. I just loved dancing growing up, so for me it was that grace, people that were acting and dancing, I just was always drawn to it, but Dirty Dancing was extra special.

You did a Dirty Dancing routine on Strictly, what was that like?

Oh my God! We didn't nail that lift until the actual live show! Keith said: "Me and Paddy did it. It was so easy." I was like, "Get out of here. It's not easy!” It's quite scary. All your trust is in one person. You've got to get the timing and the momentum right and I was extremely nervous during Strictly because it was live. I wish I would've crossed my damn legs because they were just flying in the wind. I was so nervous about getting up there. Pasha brings me down and my feet hit the ground, and I was like, "Woo, yes," because that's the iconic moment. That's the moment everybody's looking for and you want to nail it, not only for yourself, but for people to enjoy it at home. The pressure was on.

Can you relate to Baby in any way?

Well, listen, we're complex as humans. You know what I mean? In some moments I may feel confident and in other moments I may feel insecure, so there is a vulnerable sense that she has in the beginning, and then evolves and gets more confidence. How can you not experience that in life? It's relatable. We show up and we have to learn a new skill, or we meet a different person, or kind of get thrown into different circumstances in life. You're not necessarily always just walking in with confidence, so that I can definitely relate to.

How does dancing make you feel?

Oh, that's a great question. I wish I had a very articulate way to respond, but they've done scientific studies around dancing. It releases endorphins, and so does even just listening to music, that releases endorphins. To combine the two, it is magical. It can clear thoughts, or emotion, or maybe it can take you on an emotional ride. I think it's the magic sauce of life, getting to dance and move your body. It's so freeing and it's something I'm doing more of after doing Strictly, I've been doing more in my life since then because for a good 10 years there, I didn't. I wasn't dancing, so Strictly kind of re-sparked that within my soul. It's a good thing to do.

Why do you think dance is so empowering?

It’s because you're connected to your body. I think we move about life and it's all in the head or the heart, but when you're dancing you are connected as one. It's just being in tune with your body and soul. That sounds so hallmark card and cheesy, but it's true! You’re grounded in your body, and then when you have that sort of connection, there is this different confidence that comes out. It's a different sort of energy that you can carry with yourself. There's different styles of music and dance, and that's so beautiful. It's this language that you don't need to necessarily understand, or you do understand it without having to speak it. You know what I mean? It's just a language that can be understood by all cultures. You can just watch something and you think, "Oh, okay, I can feel that”.

Do you think as in life, Baby and Johnny were better lovers because they connected through dance?

I think Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze did that well because that was their role, but behind the scenes they were actually quite at each other's throats. That sort of passion, in a sense, can transfer as well. I definitely think if you've got good chemistry with your partner that shows. You've got that deeper connection to throw into the sauce of dance. That style of dance is very connected at the hip area. Even for me, when I grew up, I was always dancing with myself. When I did Strictly, and the ballroom holds, and all the Latin stuff, you were up against another human. You have to listen to each other's movement and body in order to be in sync. That is a whole other sort of surrender to that style of dance. They're good looking people, and they've got the chemistry, and they're rubbing their genitals together. It's got a sexual flare to it!

What did you think when you saw the line-up for the show?

I was excited because Anthea Turner is just fabulous, isn't she? She's so brilliant on the show. She's just up for anything and she's so enthusiastic about it, so she was great. Saffron I've known because she also she did Strictly. She's a little sweetheart and I was excited to meet Arg because Arg has had such a transformative time. He was such a sweetheart and really, really up for it. They were just such a great cast. Little Bobby, I didn't know much about Bobby, but man, he's so intelligent, but he's also such a sweetheart.

Apparently everybody fancied Anthea?

Everybody! Well, I mean, she is a hot little thing! I don't think she even realised it. She just walks in and everybody's thinking, "Anthea, you are a hot, little spicy señorita!”

You throw the celebrities in the deep end on day one by making them all show off their Dirty Dancing skills, how did that go down?

It’s mean, but it's also really funny to watch! They just looked at each other "Wait, what? Wait, are you serious?" We're like, "Yeah, keep grinding!”. I think my cheeks were sore from laughing so much, but again everybody was up for it. We were all in on the joke and it was a lot of fun. The whole show was a lot of fun. It's nice when you get to show up for work and you enjoy working with everybody.

In terms of the celebs, who surprised you the most?

Arg surprised me the most because he was really into it and passionate. Lee Ryan, I mean he was producing some serious Patrick Swayze looks. Everyone was saying, "Oh he looks like Johnny," and he's like, "No, no, no," and then he started doing some of the moves. I saw it and thought, "Oh gosh, he really does." I didn't know much about Tom before this. I didn't know he was a dancer, so that really surprised me because he came out with some moves right in the beginning. After seeing him, I thought “Oh, he's going to able to show up and do some fun stuff.”

Do you think Saffron, Lee and Chelsee had an advantage given they’ve all done Strictly?

Well, I think having performance in your background means you’re always walking in with a set of skills that other people, who maybe haven't done that in their life, have. You do have extra tools in the tool belt, let’s say, but it's also an entertainment show at the end of the day. You want to see different levels of skills and people showing up and delivering how they deliver. I will say, that being said, some people that didn't even have any performance skills still chucked themselves in there. That was what was great about it, you know?

It wasn’t all dancing, you made them do a bungee jump, what was that like?

So mean! I didn’t do it! I said, "I'm not doing it, so I'm so sorry, but you guys have to!” As me and Keith were going up, he's just looking over and enjoying himself, and I just get smaller and smaller. He’s like, "What are you doing?," and I'm like, "It's so high. I can’t look!” I skydive, but I'd rather skydive than bungee. I think it's something about the ground that I'm like what if it goes down, but something went bad? Thankfully, everybody was okay. But Lee did not want to do it. He made that known, bless him, but he did do it in the end, so Kudos to him!

How good were the sets?

That's what was so cool about it, they’re so good. At the finale you walked on and you were like, "Oh wow, this really feels like we're on the actual movie set." The production did such a great job, so it was cool because you kind of feel like your little dreams are coming true, like, “God, we're in Dirty Dancing”, but we're not, but we kind of are. It felt so real.

What was it like seeing everybody attempt the iconic lake lift?

By the way, it's actually harder to do that lift in the water than it is on the ground, but it's the iconic scene of the film, so we had to do it! but Everybody gave it a real go. First of all, it was cold. You know, it was cold out. I didn't envy them having to get into the water, but they were all brave souls and did it. It's harder than it looks. At least, when you're on the ground, you've got a bit of a running momentum, so yeah, they did really well.

How important do you think chemistry is in a partnership?

Oh, it's so important because, especially within Dirty Dancing, they're very close, sort of intimate scenes. You want to be able to feel like you can relax, and feel like you can indulge in the scene, and not be thinking about it too much. If you have that kind of trust, and that chemistry, and connection with somebody, then it makes the experience much more enjoyable.

How do you find that chemistry with someone you’ve just met?

Usually it does take a bit of time to get to know each other. With Pasha, I didn't know much about him before I met him, but everybody around him was so complimentary, and so I really felt like I was in safe hands. Again, I was ready to show up and learn, so he was my teacher. I respected that. I think that the same thing kind of came with having a great cast, like we did. Everybody had respect for one another, and so regardless the chemistry kind of built bit by bit, but they all were really ready to show up and have some fun with it.

Have you had a moment in your career where you’ve felt that instant connection with someone you’re working with?

Yeah, I remember back in the past because I did mostly singular dancing, but there was a time where I was part of a dance company when I was about 16. There was a guy that I just loved dancing with and we were really good friends. It’s the same thing with life. When you go, and you meet someone, and you have a certain sort of conversation that just rolls and rolls. It's really easy to talk to that person. That exists within the dance world as well. Sometimes you meet someone and you just sort of have that kind of connection with them. The thing is, at the end of the day it is a performance and you are putting on a show, so you've got to find that within yourself. Finding a quality about that person that makes you feel connected to them and roll with it. Some people you just have a better connection with.

Do you think having that connection on the dance floor can lead to more off it?

It really depends because even seeing Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. They were arguing a lot off screen, but then they got to channel it in a way that came across onscreen like they were these passionate lovers that we all loved and watched. We were all engaged in the story and believed it to be true. There are some circumstances where you've got really great chemistry on the dance floor, but you're not necessarily the closest in life. It's hard to explain, but there is different chemistry. That guy and I ended up being really, really good friends, but people are different outside of dance as well. They live their lives maybe differently.

How important was chemistry between all the Pussycat Dolls?

I think that's the great thing about us girls. The second we're on stage, and the music drops, and the lights turn on, it's showtime. Smacking the girls' ass cheeks, I'm running behind and giving a little pat pat, let’s go! We have trust on that stage that we're going to go out there and we're going to smash it together. That's really awesome to have.

You turned 40 during filming, what was it like marking a big milestone doing this show?

Well, I didn't expect anything because I was there working and that's a focus, but they really went all out! My friends put together this amazing video footage of everybody saying happy birthday to me. The poor cast had to watch. It was 20 minutes of all my friends and family sending their birthday wishes in front of the cast. "Sorry, guys. This is probably so annoying to just sit here and watch this," but they got me a really lovely cake. It actually felt really special. You know what? I was so grateful to be working and be doing a fun gig.

What can you tease about that big finale?

What was great is production did such an amazing job because we walked on set and I was like, “Oh, wow!” Even for myself, I wasn't one of the celebs taking part in it, but just walking in there, it felt really real. They did such a great job in recreating it, so I think that that will be fun to watch, seeing everybody within the scene. In the finale, people were really giving it their all. They showed up and they wanted to deliver as best they could.

Was it like a scene from Kellerman’s backstage?

Me and Keith were kind of on our own little lily pad, so really the kids were playing. I think the kids had a few fun moments, bless them, but they were also working really hard. I hope that they did actually let loose a bit.

Would you like to do a second series?

Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully people enjoy it. I think it's great because it's got the nostalgia side of it, and then some people just having fun, so hopefully that will come across well to those watching at home. I saw Saffron afterwards and she said they're all on a WhatsApp group and they were going to see some shows together. When you get to do a show like that and you get to bond, you take away those friendships and that's just great.