This is one of the toughest shows on TV, what made you sign up?
I've been a massive fan of this show, to be honest. I’ve watched all of the series and I've always sat and imagined whether I would have what it took to meet the physical and psychological demands of the course. So naturally, when the chance came up, I jumped in. I literally was so pleased I got it. I knew it was going to teach me something about myself I never knew because we all have a perception of our limits. I always think it’s interesting watching the recruits always talking about the fact that they thought they could only do so much because of how hard they worked and how hard they were pushed. But after doing the course they realised that, actually, they could do so much more, they're capable of so much more than they even expected.
This series is for Stand Up To Cancer, a disease we know has devastated your family. Was that another important aspect of the show for you?
I'll be honest, I was such a huge fan of the show that when I heard that there was going to be one for Stand Up To Cancer, I was sold already. But look, the fact that it’s going to raise money is just an amazing cherry on top. I would have literally paid thousands of pounds to have gone out there and done it, which sounds ridiculous given the amount of pain and discomfort that I experienced as a result, but it gave me a better knowledge of myself and who I am today.
What do you think the public’s perception of you is and do you think it might change during this show?
I think public perception of me is, generally, that I'm a nice person, a good person, and that's a very interesting question. I think I'll surprise people with how much courage I've got or how good I was at just pushing myself through and getting it done. But then maybe it wouldn't surprise people that much because I think that people know the story about the children and I and what I've had to do for the last 10 years. There’s always that part of me which is wanting to do it for the boys, to be that role model that I always try and be.
Did being a strong role model for your boys spur you on?
I think in order to grow both for me and the boys you have to put yourself in extreme situations. When it got really tough out there, when I thought about throwing the towel in, I only had to imagine the boys being by my side and that always got that extra 10% out of me that was required at the time. They were a massive source of motivation for me when it got particularly difficult.
In the opening episode you mention that you feel like you’ve lost yourself and hope doing the course will change that, what did you mean?
I think what I've had to do for the boys over these last ten years is put my life on hold for them, I’ve had to sacrifice my social life. It meant that, socially, I was never out there with my friends, even when it comes to visiting family and things, I used to take for granted. I was the person that used to go to everybody. But I needed to really dedicate every minute of my life to the boys and give them the consistency and routine that I knew that would be good for them. I certainly don’t regret anything because I grew as a dad. But most people at 29 are just trying to consider who on earth they are and what they want to do with their life. For me, it was worth it but I can’t help wondering who I might have become if it weren't for what I had to do in the last decade. I wanted to do this course because I'm convinced that it would help push me in the right direction to discovering a big part of myself that I feel or know is there but I haven't been able to tap into because of everything that’s happened.
How did you find the other celebs on the show?
I can imagine that the show bosses didn’t imagine that the team would be quite as strong as it was. I felt like I was in amongst some real warriors, to be honest, some people that just added an incredible attitude and that taught me a lot. People provide different roles, and it was just beautiful to see the group looking after each other. I've had to think for myself and the kids over the years in order to do what's needed for the boys. I walked into a situation with some amazing people that ultimately taught me that if you let the group see that you're struggling, then they'll be able to look after you. As much as I've always enjoyed looking after everybody else when they need it, I wasn't very good at being able to be vulnerable because it stands to reason that over the last 10 years, if I'm vulnerable, then am I going to be able to help the kids with their vulnerabilities? The answer really is that that was a misconception, but what I'm so grateful for is this group of people taught me that if you bring a problem to the table, it's not weakness. If anything, it means that they can support you. It's a lovely feeling to be supported by people that are around you that are going through the same thing.
Were you intimidated by the fact there were so many sports stars and Olympians?
Yes, of course! You walk in and there's a rugby player, a football player, an Olympic gold medalist, there’s a female rugby player that could snap me in half! I think anyone who's ever been on the show will always walk in and be like, "Right. Am I bigger than the others?" The answer was no! But that’s the thing about this experience, it’s not necessarily about how big your muscles are, it’s how you react mentally.
How did you cope having to do the more intimate stuff with Camilla, who you were paired with, like shower and use the toilet?
I found it quite amusing, to be honest, and Camilla was the last to care about that stuff. I remember we were on sentry duty, where we had to keep watch. It was the early hours of the morning and I said to her, "I'm absolutely busting for a wee”. I couldn't go because you had to stay at your post at all times and I couldn’t risk going and then if something major goes down you all get beasted as a punishment. Anyway, she just brazenly tipped the tea out of a flask she had and handed it to me and then was like, "Just go in this!” At that point I just laughed, I was like, "You are my kind of girl. That's incredible!” It's just like if you're in the special forces, you should have the kind of level where you just let go of normal standards and principles. You have to just get things done in whichever way you can. I rated her for that, I really did.
How did you feel about the DS screaming in your face and ordering you about?
I've heard screaming and shouting in my life before so I can switch off from that. I already developed that mechanism so I didn't mind that so much. What was difficult for me is that I didn't know where the boundary was with them. There were times when they appeared approachable but I never really trusted that I could, at that point, relax and have a bit of a joke with them. I just played safe and I didn't want to say something too familiar and then be shouted at. Again, that really was something that I remember from childhood, so much of what I did in Chile brought up things from my childhood that made it really obvious to me were issues I’ve taken into my adult life. It's just like holding a mirror up to yourself and realising that there's still things from a long, long time ago that you carry with you in everyday life.
The DS get their recruits to do some incredible things, were you scared of anything they made you do?
Everybody's got a fear, I'll never say that I'm fearless, but you end up trusting the DS so much that whatever they put in front of you, you know that, ultimately, they've tested it. You know that if they're asking you to do it, it's either because you can do it or because there's a real benefit to doing it. I just switched off all fear and it left me, actually, from the word "go" when we had to fall back from the side of a helicopter, in that moment I just let go of all my fear. I know that I'll end up watching it and literally won't believe what I did. But I just switched off all negativity and all doubt and all fear and was like, "I'm going to do it”. That's what I was there for, I wanted to find out who I was. Fear is not going to help me to discover who I am and what actually I've got about me that I've not recognised for years. I can’t tell you how liberating it was to let go of that fear. Some people went in there to prove something to the public about themselves, I just wanted to prove something to myself because I've had to be so safe, I’ve had to be so responsible. I wanted to just peel back that layer of being a good dad and whatever I needed to be to two great kids. I wanted to see what's underneath and if I liked what was underneath it. I really, really liked that I could switch the fear off, and it just made me come back and feel liberated, really that’s the perfect word for it.
Having been a fan of the show, you knew what you were in for, but was it a massive wake-up call when you were actually out there?
Yes, because watching the show, you wonder how much of it is physical and how much of it is psychological. I was less worried about the psychological elements of it than I was the physical, I think. The truth, I guess, is that when I got there, I felt pretty good in myself but then quickly learned that the process will always expose what it is that you need to see about yourself and work on or overcome. What I love about Ant and the DS staff is that it’s not their job to expose people for negative reasons to eliminate people unnecessarily. Their job is to expose you so that you can grow. I absolutely had a fear where, physically, I was great, psychologically, I think, great in lots of areas, but actually, I was far too focused on myself and I wasn't sharing enough of myself with others.
I was always ready to help everybody, people generally came to me quite a lot of times for help with things and to ask questions because they knew I’d seen the show before. I liked playing that role, but actually, what I wasn't doing was sharing how I really felt with people because I considered that weakness. I was trying to lock that out. I was trying to lock out my insecurities, and as a result it made it hard for the people to connect with me. This was pointed out to me by the DS. At first, I felt like it didn't seem that justifiable, but actually, when you reflect, which you have a lot of time for when you're walking up hills and going up mountains and things like that, you realise that it's a very well-delivered and important lesson, not just for me on that course, but actually, for me in life in general. It's had a massive impact for me. I needed to learn that.
Your boys must be very proud of you doing this?
Yes, definitely, and they couldn't believe the stories I told them when I got home! They had many questions, but their little imaginations will still never really do the reality justice. When we all watch it together as a family, I think they're going to be absolutely amazed. I hope it inspires them to want to do crazy stuff like that when they're adults.