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Some interviewees put the fear of God into you before you’ve even answered the phone. Step forward presenter and journalist Anne Robinson.
That’s because the 76-year-old TV legend’s standing as the Queen of Mean precedes her, thanks to her icy persona and cutting remarks on The Weakest Link, which she presented between 2000 and 2012. But OK! are pleased to report that any preconceptions soon vanish.
“Hi, it’s Annie Robinson,” she says, before apologising for being a few minutes late. And while we discover she’s no pussycat, she’s no Rottweiler either.
Anne’s the perfect mix of direct and witty – qualities that will come in very handy as she becomes the new host of Countdown, alongside Rachel Riley and Susie Dent.
Here, the star, who lives in the Cotswolds, talks exclusively to us about the pressures of her job, why she’s embraced her brusque reputation and how she and her daughter Emma, 49, are chalk and cheese.
Congratulations on Countdown. How did it come about?
A few channels had offered me things that I turned down, and then this came along in a text. I thought, “Oh yes, I would like to do that. That’s quite a nice gig.” I thought I could have some fun.
Did previous host Nick Hewer give you any tips?
Nick offered that if I wanted to call him I could. But I thought I should just do what I want to do. There’s three shows where you’ve got 10 minutes to come off, get changed and do your hair, but I thought, “He’s not going to know any of that. He just puts a different jacket on.”
So true! There’s a different pressure for women on screen. How have you prepared for that?
Well, because I’m incredibly vain I’ve already got a lot of clothes. Budgets for wardrobe now are miniscule. I wore only designer clothes on The Weakest Link and had 50 pairs of glasses. For this, I rifled through my own wardrobe and bought a few things slightly more brightly coloured than I would normally wear.
You’re pretty active, aren’t you?
I do Pilates twice a week, I train once or twice and I run a couple of times a week. Not very far though. I like keeping fit so I’m not aching, it’s totally practical.
Some people wondered how your Weakest Link persona would work on Countdown…
The Weakest Link persona came out of discovering in rehearsals with real contestants that they’re very competitive and quite stroppy. Let’s not be hypocritical – the language on The Weakest Link was no different than you and your partner or mother sitting down watching television and saying, “I didn’t realise she was so fat.” Or, “Why’s she wearing that blouse when it’s not even ironed?”
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Was the Queen of Mean tag unfair?
No, I thought it was brilliant!
Do you ever read reviews or social media comments?
Absolutely not! I live in this fairytale world where everyone thinks I’m brilliant. Listen, my daughter Emma very reluctantly shows me how to change a font on my laptop. I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to get on social media. And why write when no one’s paying you?!
Speaking of Emma, we hear you’re chalk and cheese…
I’m not sure where she’s come from – she doesn’t like spending money, she’s incredibly organised and is a very strict parent. They were with me for 13 months during lockdown.
What was it like living altogether?
It was everything – annoying, infuriating, completely wonderful and memorable. I’ve got two grandchildren, aged 11 and 12, and I have a guest wing where they did homeschooling and cooked during the week. But we’d be together all weekend. My gardens became a badminton court and a cricket pitch and their dogs dug holes in the whole lot.
Anne Robinson presents Countdown every weekday from Monday 28 June at 2.10pm on Channel 4.
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