Brian Dowling still gets excited when he meets someone from Fair City. He tells Stephen Meylers why
When 4.2 million votes won Brian Dowling Big Brother in 2001, it looked like the air steward from Rathangan, Co Kildare, was all set for the big time.
Even before his exit tune of Nasty Boy had ended, he was deluged with offers from agents, TV companies and magazines, all vying to get a piece of him.
But when the hype was over, Brian was left with a couple of choices; either to keep trading on his win and turn into a professional ligger, like his housemate Narinder, or grab a TV career while the agents were still interested in him. Being very obviously gay would, according to conventional television wisdom, rule out a job on children’s television, but luck got him a slot on ITV’s hugely popular kid’s show SM:tv, just after the departure of Ant & Dec. His cheeky naivety suited the show perfectly and, two years later he’s the Saturday morning show’s main presenter.
“There were all sorts of people trying to sign me, but I never thought it was going to take off. I think I got SM:tv purely by accident really, when one of the main presenters, James Redmond, left.
“We won two Baftas in December for Best Children’s TV show. There might have been some worries about the gay thing as well - it is children’s television after all. But it’s a great show to do we have lots of fun.
“Of course I was a bit intimidated when I had to interview big stars on the show. One of my first was Jennifer Lopez, who has the reputation of being this big diva. But she was really cool, she knew my name when I arrived and was really friendly.
When Britney Spears came on the show, I was nervous too, but I found myself telling her to sit down when we were doing this belly dancing thing, because she kept touching my bum. The nerves never really wear off though. I met Ciara O’Callaghan who plays Yvonne in Fair City recently, and I was totally in awe of her!
“I was gushing on at her about her cocaine storyline, because I watch the show with my mother when I’m back home.
“My contract with ITV runs until August, but I’m talking to them about shooting my own show in April. It’s a sort of makeover dating show.
“Girls write in to me about their boyfriends’ style problems. Then I spend the day with them and change three or four things about them. After a date with their made-over boyfriend, the girl lets me know if I’ve passed or failed.”
Despite being on the A-list of celebrity invites in London, Brian says he has little time for partying.
“I was in Dublin recently for the Meteor awards, which had a really cool celebrity party afterwards, but I was back in the hotel early and up to catch a plane back to London first thing.”
He does make it back to Ireland, though, whenever time permits for some R&R; “It’s almost like I’m two people, I just completely switch off when I’m here.
“I can go wandering around the city and there’s no hassle. I get to come over to Dublin to see my family every five or six weeks or so, which is pretty much the same as it was when I was working at Ryanair.”