Dermot O’Leary talks X Factor

Dermot O'leary

Dermot O’Leary’s television and radio work has made him a household name. He has been at the helm of The X Factor since 2007 and also hosts his own award-winning BBC Radio 2 show every Saturday, which has won three Sony Radio Awards. Dermot has also chaired the debate and interviewed party leaders for First Time Voters Question Time on BBC Three, presents Unicef’s SoccerAid, and is host of the National Television Awards. In March 2014 Dermot hosted the ground-breaking ‘Live from Space’ season on Channel 4.

What do you think the new panel each bring to the table?
Mel for me is almost like a mini Sharon Osbourne, in that she is kind of un-produceable, which I love. It doesn’t matter what anyone says to her, she knows her own mind. Cheryl is incredibly insightful, and emotionally engaging, and really intelligent. Simon brings brutal honesty and you need that, because this is an audition process. Louis for me brings an encyclopaedic music knowledge, and say what you want about him but he knows how to put a band together. Also, he’s not afraid of making decisions that won’t make him popular with the people.

How often do you find yourself disagreeing with the judges’ decisions?
I’m a soft touch; I wouldn’t say I’d put everyone through, but you get to know people and you get to know their families and the fact that they do jobs that they don’t particularly want to do and they have a fair degree of talent. So when you see someone whose audition doesn’t go that well I do feel quite bad for them.

I can’t wait for the live shows, because I like it when the panel has disagreements, and when it kicks off, because that’s what I’m there for. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it when they go below the belt, or they start saying nasty things to each other, or they have disagreements in the press, I’m not a big fan of any of that. But I like it in studio when all’s fair in love and war, and then when it finishes, we have a drink together.

What’s the overall dynamic between them?
It’s really early doors in terms of dynamic; Mel B and Cheryl have a great understanding and get on very well at the moment. But they all work very well as a team – Mel B has a clear definition as to what she wants and Louis is
brilliant because you can put him with anyone.

Which judges are you expecting to clash the most, have you noticed any disagreements yet?
I think Simon and Cheryl will clash a fair bit in studio, and I think Mel B will clash with anyone. Louis digs his heels in about the strangest things – it could be an outfit, a song choice, someone’s hair, it’s never something
particularly controversial.

You’re first on hand to console the acts who don’t make it through – Would you say that’s the hardest part of your role on the show?
At the moment the hardest part of my role on the show is definitely when the acts come off and they haven’t done too well. But then it’s quite hard because they’re not really listening, all they’re doing is mulling over their
audition. Sometimes you can have a good conversation with someone, and try to contextualise it, and other times you could be saying anything to them.

Do a lot of the contestants come to you for advice once the show is underway?
I always do a pep talk before we start. People that get to the last three in this show are the hardest working, the most talented, and the most honest. There’s nothing that drives me nuts more than when someone gives me the
answer they think I want rather than how they’re feeling; and people worry about how they’re going to be perceived. There’s nothing worse than being perceived in any other way than being honest and who you are. The people that do well in this show are the people that are true to themselves.

This is your eighth series on the show – what are your favourite memories from throughout the years?
I love those moments in studio where you’re not quite entirely sure something has happened – it invariably involves more colourful contestants, so Wagner doing Love Shack, Jedward doing Ghostbusters. But then I love the moments where someone will just pick up an audition song and absolutely sing. For me, it’s about seeing an Ella Henderson, seeing a James Arthur, seeing an Olly Murs, come on and blow an audience away.