Ross Kemp on becoming a game show host with Bridge of Lies
“There’s probably a snob factor on some people’s part. It’s entirely up to them. I don’t care what people think. If I think it’s good, then it’s good enough for me.”
Kemp is host to BBC One’s new daytime quiz Bridge of Lies, which sees teams seek to win a cash prize by navigating a ‘bridge’ by only stepping on the correct answers. Example: if the sleeve theme is “Disney Movies” and they walk to “The Lion King”, they are safe, but if they walk to “How to Train Your Dragon” (produced by DreamWorks), they are safe. in worry.
The show’s treatment ‘just went off the page’ according to Kemp – and he also had a pre-existing relationship with the STV producers of the 2017 ITV documentary Ross Kemp Behind Bars: Inside Barlinnie. On top of that, the challenge of doing something radically different appealed to him. “I knew there would be people who would say, ‘Ross Kemp can only do documentaries’ or ‘he can only be Grant Mitchell’ – so it’s a little challenge for Kemp, in his middle age, to see if he can do it.”
Kemp says he “worked hard” to perfect an on-screen character that would work for Bridge of Lies. “I’ve watched a lot of people who I think are very good at [hosting game shows] and believe me, it’s not as easy a gig as people would like to think. I have a new respect for these presenters because the dynamics can often change very quickly and you have to adapt.”
It lists The Chase host Bradley Walsh, Pointless presenter Alexander Armstrong and Tipping Point’s Ben Shephard as his inspirations. “I don’t know them very well, but I’ve spent a bit of time with each of these three people and they’re individuals in their own right and they bring their personalities to this particular game show and I think, in terms of my physical, I am the right person for Bridge of Lies.
“I didn’t take anything from anybody else, because if you start doing that, you’re just trying to replicate something else. You have to be organic and true to yourself.”
Having made the transition in his career from actor to BAFTA-winning filmmaker, Kemp is used to taking a leap into the unknown, but admits this latest career move has proven harder than it did. had first planned. “Having traveled a bit around the world, I have been in more perilous situations than crossing a bridge in a studio, but I find myself there very quickly, especially if… and I say this sincerely, there is no there wasn’t a group that I didn’t like.
“It wasn’t like talking to a total stranger – everyone seemed very relaxed with me and as a result I was very relaxed with them, and I think that shows.”
Resisting the urge to help his participants, especially when they made obvious missteps, proved difficult. “It was so hard, because it’s not a format I’m used to. I can only say: ‘Think about it, take your time'”.
On a practical level, working in a busy studio and communicating with the show’s production team via headset was another new experience. “I wasn’t used to people chattering in my ear, telling me what to do. I’m used to being alone in a tiny outfit. It wasn’t like that obviously at EastEnders – there were lots of people telling me what to do and then I went off and did exactly what I wanted to do most of the time…within the limits!
“So it was a totally different format, a totally different way of working.”
The game itself is also more involved than you might think, according to Kemp. “It looks very simple on the page, but the complexity of how you play it and the strategy involved is a bit more complex than just hoping you’re going to get lucky.
“Some of the devs and people who worked on it at STV, we were playing it, it’s such a good game. I was hosting it and they were playing it and you were watching… there was a lot of arrogance before a drop, my mate. It’s a humbling game.”
Kemp himself thinks he’d do pretty well if he tackled the Bridge of Lies, which he attributes to the wisdom that comes with age. “Te Ross Kemp, 25, would play Bridge of Lies very differently from Ross Kemp, 50, because Ross Kemp, 25, would be very arrogant, he would think he knows everything. .. and then he’d pass halfway and he’d be out of the game, while 50-year-old Ross Kemp would take his time a bit more, be a bit more strategic and just focus on getting through, though with a lot of money that I could amass. So that’s sort of the philosophy of Ross Kemp from Bridge of Lies.”
The end product is, he suggests, “entertaining television on many different levels”, combining a quiz with the physical element of crossing the bridge as well as a “kind of Gogglebox social interaction of families and colleagues” – with teams of four taking on the game one at a time, the remaining members of the team remain locked in a green room, observing their teammates and commenting on their decisions but unable to advise or interfere.
Kemp hopes more of these interactions will make it to the screen in the future if Bridge of Lies moves on to a second season, explaining that a number of funny moments shared between teammates ended up on the editing room floor. “It’s about conveying a format to an audience. There were so many things that hit the ground running from the airing of the format that were hilarious and very eye-opening.
“I said, ‘Oh, why didn’t we have this moment?’ and they said, ‘Because we’re trying to make people understand what the game is about, Ross’ – and that’s really important!”
Ahead of a potential second series of Bridge of Lies, Kemp is back on more familiar ground with a new documentary project – Sky History’s Ross Kemp: Shipwreck Treasure Hunter airs next month and sees him dive into a dangerous environment.s to uncover the secrets that lie beneath the sea and uncover hidden treasures and the story of Britain’s past. “It’s a totally different pair of sleeves,” he says. “My year couldn’t have been more diverse.”
Despite being accompanied by experts on his dives, Kemp had to train for months to qualify as an advanced rescue diver for the documentary, which he says is being considered as a possible comeback series. .
“There were some hairy moments,” he revealed. “We dived at one point in a force eight [wind]. It was a real experience.
“It was dangerous in places – it really was, properly. But it was also incredibly rewarding. I got it – I got what treasure hunters get out of it, spending their afternoons with a metal detector, because there’s an incredible feeling of being directly in touch with a woman’s past. way that I have never felt in a museum.”
Uncovering lost history can be exciting, but also sobering, with Kemp noting that Shipwreck Treasure Hunter won’t shy away from the darker side of British history – a discovery, for example, sees the team uncover anti-personnel weapons “designed specifically to spray gunfire against a mutinous crew of enslaved human beings”.
“Hawkins [John Hawkins, 16th century naval commander] was one of the richest men in the world at the time, on the scale of Bill Gates, and made most of his fortune from transporting slaves – that’s not something you find when you take your history books,” he says. “Particularly at the high school level. And it’s really important that we talk about our story and that we don’t avoid the parts that make us uncomfortable, because they are factual.”
It’s a very different project from a game show, but not without its own technical hurdles to overcome. “It’s a new skill – making plays on camera underwater! Even when there are bullets whizzing by, I can kind of do it, but it was totally unlike anything I had. done before. But here I am – old dog, new stuff!”
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Bridge of lies begins Monday March 14 at 4:30 p.m. on BBC One and iPlayer, and continues daily. Visit our entertainment hub for more news, interviews and features, and find something to watch now with our TV guide.
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