WITH more than £12million in the bank, Bradley Walsh is one of the richest men on British telly.
But that is because he is one of the hardest working, too.
With almost daily appearances on screen, he has hosted ITV quiz The Chase for 12 years, is about to front new BBC1 game show Take Off with Holly Willoughby and will star as Pa Larkin in ITV’s Darling Buds Of May reboot The Larkins.
But the host, actor and comedian is almost ready to turn his back on his 40-year career in showbiz.
Bradley, 61, said: “You know what, in a couple of years time I won’t have to do any of it, I’ll be retired and that’ll be it.
“It seems like I’m on your screen all the time only because I cram everything in a certain area of the year. We make 210 Chases, 16 Celebrity Chases, 16 Beat The Chasers. It’s only actually 86 days recording.
“So out of 365 days, you’d imagine I have loads of time off. But once you’ve got your bedrock of shows set in, that allows you then to go off and do other things.
“I don’t actually have time off, I have meetings, I have personal appearances I have to make and stuff like that with other things I’ve got going on, so it’s quite tricky to juggle it about.”
The father of two, who also appeared in ITV hit Breaking Dad — where his son Barney, 23, took him on a road trip across several countries — reveals how he has to block off huge chunks of his year for each TV project.
But it is only his best-known show that lets him. He said: “The Chase allows me to do the other stuff which I really want to do — not that I don’t love doing The Chase.
“The Larkins is the new series, so that’s a 14 to 15-week shoot, and then you need five to six weeks on the road for Breaking Dad.”
Speaking on Sliding Doors podcast, the former Coronation Street and Doctor Who star also revealed he is now a big believer in playing to his strengths.
Which is why he has never taken up the offer of appearing on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
He said: “Here’s the trick of doing stuff you can get away with, you’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself. If you don’t get it you can’t sell it.
“If you can’t dance, you can’t sell it, no matter how big a showman you are. Stick to what you know best. I’ve been asked a couple of times to go on Strictly.
“But I’m not a dancer. I don’t even think I’m a good dad dancer. I’m a bad dad dancer, which makes things even worse.”
Bradley, who has been married to Donna Derby for 24 years, was not always as choosy though and he advises rookie stars to take any opportunity they can — and to commit to it.
He said: “I always remember, the great Bill Shankly, who was the manager of Liverpool back in the day, and Huddersfield Town, once said something, and I’ve never forgotten it, ‘Even if you end up sweeping the roads, don’t cheat, sweep them properly’.
“If you’ve been given a job and you’ve signed up to do it, do it, don’t half do it. I’ve given talks and stuff like that at schools and drama colleges and they ask, ‘What’s the secret?’. And there is no secret.
“The easiest part of our industry is giving up. That’s the easiest bit. ‘I can’t do that, I’m not a good enough actor, I’m not this’. That’s nonsense, there’s something for everyone.
“You’ve got to realise the opportunity when it comes along, but I think that comes from your background, your childhood, your upbringing.
“I was brought up from a council estate in Watford, lovely it was, fantastic, we had the most fantastic time. Those wonderful summers when we were kids and stuff like that.
“But there’s also a certain hunger that breeds. You will have a certain desire.”
Bradley started out as Pontins Bluecoat before going on to star in some of TV’s biggest shows — but he has a surprising career highlight.
He said: “My greatest thing, I’ll never forget, I was in pantomime at Milton Keynes and my son Barney played my sidekick. He was like eight.
“I taught him to deliver the lines and wow, he came on, and he stole that part of the show, and I remember coming down at the curtain call, packed house, 1,600 people, opening night, and he got the most fantastic round of applause.
‘FANTASTIC ROUND OF APPLAUSE’
“I was so proud to be on the stage with my son at the age of eight. I mean, I didn’t start until I was a Bluecoat when I was 21. And then I didn’t turn professional until I was 26.
“And he’s such a lovely guy. My son Barney is the man I always wanted to be because he’s so laid-back and so humble.”
But along with his successes, Bradley has regrets, too. And one is his passion for football.
He tried to launch a career as a professional aged 18, but that came to an abrupt end four years later when he suffered serious injuries.
He still takes part in the Soccer Aid charity match with other stars every year, but the impact of those injuries still burden him nearly four decades later.
He said: “Today, and I’ve said this to many of my friends, I wish I’d never kicked a ball in my life. Nowadays at 61 I’m suffering with my knees and ankles.
“My fitness, my general fitness, thank God, is good. But my knees and ankles . . .
“My wife’s got a great saying, she says, ‘You never see a couch potato in the osteopaths’. True, but I love being part of Soccer Aid every year and being with the lads.”
Though he admits he loves acting, he is far from glowing about the process, which is why he ended up doing more entertainment shows, including Wheel Of Fortune and Tonight At The London Palladium.
Bradley said: “To any actors listening now, any young actors, it is
categorically the most boring job you will ever do. You sit around all day. Now I can’t do that.”
It was after his stint as DS Ronnie Brooks on ITV’s Law & Order: UK from 2009-14 that he gave up on the acting idea and went to see ITV boss Alison Sharman.
He said: “I sat in her office and she said, ‘I thought you were an actor now?’. I said, ‘Allie, it is so tedious sitting around. When can we knock some shows out?
“She says, ‘Look at this’, and I looked at it, it’s called The Chase. She said, ‘What do you think?’. I read it and said, ‘That sounds good’.
“We did the run through in front of a couple of the executives, and at the other end of the table was Shaun Wallace, the Dark Destroyer, and the Beast [Mark Labbett]. They were the only Chasers we had at the time.
“He said his name was Mark LeBete. I said, ‘That’s The Beast in French, you’re now The Beast’.
“I said to Shaun Wallace, ‘What sports you like?’. He said, ‘Boxing’. I said, ‘Who’s your favourite boxer?’. He said, ‘Nigel Benn’. I said, ‘You’re now the Dark Destroyer’. That was because Benn was called The Dark Destroyer. He said, ‘Oh I love all that’.”
But despite all his hard work and determination, Bradley says good fortune still plays a huge part in everyone’s life.
He said: “Luck does play a part — being in the right place at the right time. But you have to recognise that and see what’s happening.
“You’ve got to look at it and go, ‘This is a major opportunity, if I knock this back I’m an idiot’. You’ve got to take it on.
“We have to know what failure is like to know how great winning feels. It’s as simple as that. God loves a trier.”
- Take Off with Bradley & Holly starts on BBC1 on July 24.