This week we interviewed double BAFTA winning presenters Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes. The pair first appeared on our screens as contestants in Pop Idol in 2003. Their friendship began whilst filming backstage video tapes and they have been inseparable ever since. They’re best known for presenting Sam & Mark’s Big Friday Wind Up (CBBC).
Alongside their TV success, Sam and Mark are accomplished and well-loved authors, having published their first children’s book The Adventures of Long Arm in 2015 followed by the release of their second book in 2016 The Adventure of Long Arm vs The Evil Supply Teacher. 2017 will see the release of their third book The Stink Before Christmas.
You are releasing your debut children’s picture book The Stink Before Christmas together. Tell us a bit about it.
Mark: Father Christmas is getting ready for the big night however he’s not feeling his best as he’s eaten something dodgy. His evening just gets worse and worse and you’re wondering if he can manage to get the presents to everyone on time. Hopefully….
Sam: Well Father Christmas is preparing for his usual busy Christmas Eve delivering presents all over the world. But after eating some dodgy sprouts his evening becomes not as straightforward as he would have hoped. It’s a really funny silly Christmassy story. Perfect for a good laugh on Christmas Eve.
What inspired you both to write a Christmas book for children? And what do you feel makes for a great children’s book?
Mark: It’s always something we talked about and working in children’s TV for so many years it made sense. It’s definitely a passion project of ours and hopefully, that comes across when people read it
Sam: Well, I especially love Christmas so the thought of writing something that potentially could be read to kids every Christmas excited me. I think for a good picture book you was a good mix of everything. Sadness, adventure, laughter. I also think it’s important to make it so that adults can enjoy it too. Especially if they’re the ones reading it to their kids. Obviously, the illustrations are so important too. I think Tom Knight has done such an awesome job on this book.
As children, what were your favourite books to read?
Mark: I was and still am a massive fan of Roald Dahl. My personal favourite was The Twits as there was so much dark comedy in it – that was really funny.
Sam: We get asked this a lot and I always say George’s Marvellous Medicine. I didn’t read as much as I should’ve when I was a kid but for some reason, this was a book that I really got into and really enjoyed.
You are both well-known faces of CBBC. Is working together on set as fun as it looks?
Mark: It does not really feel like work to be honest. We’ve been so lucky doing this job for 14 years and it keeps getting better and better, lots of laughter and fun.
Sam: It really is. We always say we just have a laugh in front of a camera for a living. We work with some really lovely, funny and talented people on our shows so it’s a pleasure to go to work.
You are known for working on The Big Friday Wind Up where the children in the audience tell you about an embarrassing member of their family. What is the most shocking thing you have both come across so far?
Mark: There was once a mum and dad who dressed as Jedward and sang their songs all the time in front of their kids. The kids were big fans of Jedward so it was pretty shocking for them when we got Jedward and the parents to do a duet together in the studio. Their faces were priceless.
Sam: I don’t think anything shocks us anymore. We have been doing Wind Up for seven years now and have heard many stories about embarrassing parents. What never gets old though is the look on a kids face when we surprise them with their embarrassing parents in the studio.
You are currently touring Butlins holiday camps, performing a new game show. How are you finding this compared to working on a set?
Mark: I love doing anything live where the adrenaline is pumping and you don’t know how the audience is going to react. The difference between our Butlins show and a show like Wind Up is very minimal really as it’s chaotic and fun.
Sam: The great thing about doing a live show is that there is no going back. If we mess up or someone says something funny we just have to keep going. It’s also a lot more energetic doing a live show. On a pre-recorded TV show the edit is what can often make it look fast-paced, but when we are live on stage with no edit we have to make sure our performance and the content of the show is high throughout so the audience doesn’t get bored.
What are your favourite programmes on CBBC and why?
Mark: Horrible Histories is a favourite of mine. It really does a great job knowing the line between factual content and comedy and really good acting.
Sam: I think Horrible Histories is great. When something can make you laugh and you learn something at the same time you’re onto a winner.
What has been the highlight of your t so far?
Mark: Definitely winning 2 BAFTAs for best children’s presenters. So surreal and unbelievably flattering.
Sam: We’ve had many but definitely when we won our first BAFTA for best presenters back in 2013. We had not been nominated for 10 years so to just get a nomination that year felt great, but when we won it felt amazing. We’ve been lucky enough to win it again in 2015.
What’s the one baby product you couldn’t you have lived without?
Mark: Baby wipes. They have changed my life. I don’t just use them for my baby’s bottom I use them in everyday life. I really don’t know how I lived without them for so long.
Sam: Nappies 🙂 My daughter when she was a baby loved her baby bouncer; it would help get her to sleep as well.
How would you both sum yourselves up in one sentence?
Mark: Happy, laid-back and incredibly grateful for everything and everyone in my life.
Sam: I’d like to think of myself as caring, loyal and hopefully funny.