In these days of here-today-gone-tomorrow celebrities it’s not often you get to meet a true TV legend like Michaela Strachan.
An entire generation has grown up with Michaela, the effervescent and ubiquitous Surrey-born host of countless kids and wildlife series, who's bringing her live stage show to Tunbridge Wells this Easter.
With her easy, girl-next-door charm, she’s amassed countless fans from a raft of popular shows. She started out on Timmy Mallet’s Wide Awake Club in the 80s, before hosting The Really Wild Show in the 90s and noughties and now co-hosts the BBC’s primetime Spring, Autumn and Winterwatch series.
She’s bemused by the telly royalty tag when we talk at the end of the latest live Winterwatch from the Scottish Highlands. But it seems I’m not the only fan to mention her legendary status.
“It’s so sweet and funny, because somebody at the airport said that to me this morning - he wanted a photo at 6am, and I said ‘Oh no... really...?!” laughed Michaela, who looks nowhere near her 46 years. But honestly, who'd want to be photographed that early in the day?
“Then he told me, ‘but you’re a legend!’ I must be honest, I was very flattered, but I find it quite surprising. I mean, am I really?! Are you sure?!”
Lots of self-mocking laughter followed. But then, that’s why we love Michaela - she’s both endlessly enthusiastic and endearingly self-effacing – she’s one of us, only prettier.
Although a veteran of live telly, Michaela and her Winterwatch co-hosts Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games have the extra pressure of not knowing whether their animal stars will perform on air for the cameras.
“It’s great fun and I love doing live – it keeps you on your toes,” said Michaela.
“It’s an extraordinary programme to do because it’s all very reactive – the script can’t be written the night before because you don’t know what the animals will do!”
Michaela is still passionate about children’s TV. She's rightly proud of fronting the BBC's long-running children's programme, The Really Wild Show, which exposed animal cruelty across the world.
“We did animal issues, which are close to my heart, and some specials that were quite hard-hitting for kids,” said Michaela.
“But I loved the show - to be paid to go around the world and see wildlife for a programme for children is an amazing job.”
Michaela revealed her sense of humour, honed from years on kids shows, sometimes gets her into trouble on the Watch shows.
“I get pulled back a lot on adult telly - they’ll give me a note afterwards saying ‘Michaela, don’t camp it up so much’ - so I do get reined in!” confessed the star.
Michaela lives in Capetown, South Africa, with partner Ben Able, an actor, their son Ollie, seven, and her three grown-up stepchildren. But she’s constantly back in the UK for work, which gives her the chance to see her mum who lives in Hersham, brother who lives in Farnham and grannie – who’s just turned 100 – in Eastbourne.
Her son Ollie has grown up knowing ‘Mummy goes away for work’ and partner Ben and her stepchildren happily help out. Ollie will be joining Michaela when she brings her Really Wild Adventures to the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, at Easter. The interactive musical stage show is aimed at three to nine-year-olds, taking families on a journey through an alphabet jungle of animal rhymes based on her Really Wild Adventures children’s book. There’s also lots of music, dancing, puppets and poetry as well as plenty of fascinating wildlife facts.
Living in "beautiful" Capetown and jetting across the world for her television series all seems a long way from Michaela's roots in Ewell, Surrey, when her ambition was to be a dancer and musical theatre star.
“If I’d had a crystal ball back then I think it would have shown me still doing some sort of performance - but then again, presenting is a performance,” said Michaela.
Michaela Strachan’s Really Wild Adventures, is at The Assembley Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells at 1.30pm on Tuesday, April 9. To book visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk or call 01892 530613/01892 53207