Interview: Melinda Messenger
Published on November 19th, 2010 | Jonny Abrams
When Rocksucker popped along to Soho Hotel for the launch of EA SPORTS Active 2, your correspondent tried his hand at skating, boxing and cycling, leaping around and sweating buckets in front of a gaggle of guffawing onlookers including Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton. D’oh.
Also present in the roles of active ambassadors for Active 2 were Goals on Sunday host Ben Shephard and glamour-model-turned-television-presenter Melinda Messenger. Now a 39 year-old mother of three, Messenger is still as gorgeous now as she was when she was peering down from a poster adorning the wall of a certain Rocksucker writer over a decade ago. We sat down with her for a highly entertaining (and all too brief) conversation about the fitness program, panto, Ian Wright, her cooking, sending foolish travellers to their doom and purely hypothetical wild animal death matches…
Tell us a little bit about your involvement with this revolutionary new fitness program…
I got asked to get involved so I got hold of the Active Sports 2 and it’s absolutely brilliant! I was really blown away actually. I don’t know what I had in mind but the reality is that it gives you the ability to work out in your own living room with what is effectively your own personal trainer, albeit on the screen but it’s very engaging and it kind of draws you in because you can see your progress and also feel it. It’s really motivating. It pulls you in and it actually feels like you’re doing the things for real – and, physically, you are because you have that amount of exertion, so you end up sweating and aching and feeling like you’ve worked hard. But it’s also fun at the same time. It’s great and it really does work.
Is it true that Ben Shephard beat Victoria Pendleton at the mountain biking?
I trashed them both, if truth be known! (Laughs) Uh, no. It’s brilliant working alongside Victoria and Ben because they’re both so super fit and I did think, this is going to be totally embarrassing for me, I’m going to get completely hammered. But it was good to see what kind of level they were at and compare heart rates, calories burnt and that kind of thing. Also, when you’re working out alongside somebody else, you do get a strong element of competition, which I didn’t think I had any of in me. I’ve since discovered I do!
How regularly do you work out?
It’s kind of as and when, normally, because I’ve got three children and I work so I do it whenever there’s time. So I’d just drop in and out of classes each week if I was at home to do that – otherwise I’d go for a run, a jog or a cycle. I’d say I’m pretty naturally active anyway – I don’t sit around much, I’m on the go, so I think my general fitness levels are quite good. But I could always do with getting better, without a doubt.
Rocksucker has some spectacularly cheesy questions lined up for you now.
You’re set to play the Genie in The Churchill’s panto version of Aladdin this Christmas.
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
Ah! (Gasps) Right. One of them is to have a never-ending supply of wishes.
No. That’s the one wish you’re not allowed to have.
That would answer it all really, wouldn’t it? Erm…I think to be able to fly would be brilliant, even if it was only for a day. That would be amazing, to just go where you want, so easily. Second one…I quite like all the superpowers – I don’t know what that says about me – but I’d quite like to be invisible for a day and see what that’s like, see the world through other people’s eyes. And the third would be to never get tired, to have a constant stream of energy. Can I have them? Are you going to grant those?
Rocksucker’ll fix it – especially for you, Melinda. Now, the antipathy between yourself and your former Live in Studio Five co-host Ian Wright is no secret. If Rocksucker was to say “Heee’s behiiiind yooouuu!” and Ian was suddenly in the room, what would you say to him?
I’d say, “I’m not turning round.” (Laughs) And that’s that! No, I’m sure we’d be very civil to each other.
If he started to speak, would you immediately do what he accused you of doing on the show and start talking over him?
(Laughs) I never did that. He did that to me!
The other year, you released a cookbook with Antony Worrall Thompson called The Sweet Life…
I love how much research you’ve done! This is very impressive. How would you know that? I’d forgotten about that.
Rocksucker knows all and sees all. Our next question – if Rocksucker was to come round to yours for a three-course dinner, what would you cook for Rocksucker?
What I cook depends on who’s coming round so it depends what you like and what you want. I’m vegetarian so if
‘s a meat eater then I’m sorry about that but I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed so I’d make up for it with flavour. I’d probably start with a really nice, homemade mushroom soup. For main course, I think you can’t go too far wrong with sweet potato casserole – it’s healthy, it’s nutritious, it’s tasty and it tastes better than it sounds. And dessert, maybe something like a really nice pavlova or an Eton mess – something meringue-based, with fruit. What’s not to like?
And it would make
very regular on account of the sweet potatoes.
This could prove to be very valuable in terms of planning Rocksucker’s working day. Now, how would you react if Rocksucker was to tell you that they had a poster of you on their wall when they were a schoolboy?
I would be slightly alarmed, slightly like “ooh, is this wrong?” and “oh my god, how old am I? How old are you??”(Laughs) I won’t ask which one it was because that would just take me to a painful place. I’ll remember it and I’ll be embarrassed.
While we’re in the late nineties, how did your role in Eurotrash come about?
It was one of those fluky things. I think I’d just sort of started and they approached my agent and said, would I do something for them? And I did. We had such a laugh – we’d laugh all day. Then they kept asking me back and asking me back and we ended up travelling all around Europe with them. It was a real giggle.
Did you ever get to do any of the silly voiceovers?
No I didn’t! That was one of my favourite things about the entire show, the silly voices. I’ve got so many silly voices that I could have done for them but hey ho.
Which accent would you have gone for?
(In the relevant accent) I probably would have gone for Wiltshire, ’cause that’s where I’m from.
While Rocksucker was doing a spot of research, we came across this passage on your Wikipedia entry, which Rocksucker shall now read out to you so that you may verify it for us in stages. Please confirm or deny it as we go along.
“In 2006, Messenger recorded a pilot for a game show called Messenger of Doom.”
“It was essentially a remake of The Crystal Maze, with contestants completing a series of challenges in exchange for ‘life candles’.”
Right, ok. I see where they’ve gone with this – they’ve taken Fort Boyard, which The Crystal Maze took their show from originally. Messenger of Doom – no, but I like the concept of that and I’m sure it could be worked on.
It gets better: “If a contestant failed to complete a challenge then a leather-clad Messenger appeared on the screen with the words ‘I send you to your doom, foolish traveller!’.”
(Laughs) Ok, yep.
“The contestant then spent the next twenty minutes stripped to their underwear in an ice bath.”
Mmm. Could work for me. I’m up for that.
“The pilot was well received at test screenings but the elaborate and expensive sets and costumes discouraged channels from commissioning a full series.”
Well, they were fools. That’s a show right there. I’m going to take it to Channel 5 and see what they say.
Do you support a football team?
Erm…no, not really. I kind of get pulled into a battle with my kids because one of them supports Chelsea and one of them supports Man U, so I usually just opt for Reading because they’re the local team and that just defuses the whole situation. But, if I was being really honest with you, I’m fine with it whether they win or lose.
We were going to ask if you could explain the offside rule…
Where do you keep your 1997 Rear of the Year trophy?
Well, that is framed in the sitting room, above the mantelpiece next to my Spectacles Wearer of the Year award! No, it’s not – I have no idea where it is. I think it’s a plate in a box in an attic somewhere. That’s if I’ve still got it. Maybe I should treasure that a little bit more, given that the rear is no longer where it used to be.
(Attempts to quickly assemble sincere words of reassurance)
Well, it’s still there – clearly that would be weird if it had moved to my knees.
In essence, it is currently on a couch in the Soho Hotel. It’s overwhelmingly likely to have been elsewhere on this very day in 1997.
What, in your opinion, is the largest animal that you think you could throw into a basketball hoop from ten yards out?
That is some kind of crazy question because it’s not just about the size of the animal but it’s about the hoop. You’ve got to think this through – it’s about trajectory. I don’t want to make myself look foolish with this, you see. I think maybe a micropig.
Yes. You know, or a small, pot-bellied pig. But then the belly might get stuck half way. Maybe it wasn’t such a good choice. I’d start with the micropig and work my way up, see where I got to.
At the risk of further incurring the wrath of the RSPCA, which do you think would win in a fight out of a gorilla and a grizzly bear?
Ooh. A gorilla. Especially a silverback. They are beasts and they’d stop at nothing – they’ve got a lot of power there. Grizzly bear – scary, frightening, but I think the gorilla’s got stamina. That’s where my money is.
A lion or a tiger?
Lion. He’s the king of the jungle. No contest.
Ah but lions don’t live in the jungle.
Well they’ve got the title so they’d still win. That’s that. Can’t argue.
Last one: a shark or a python?
Ooooh. Now, that one depends on territory, doesn’t it? Put the python in the water and the shark’s got it. Put the shark on the land, it’s the python’s. So it’s a draw. Even Stevens.
Good answer, shows you’re thinking. Finally, any new projects in the pipeline other than Aladdin?
More Cowboy Builders – I’ve just finished a new series which goes out in January and then I’m starting filming the next series in February. I think it’s going to be on a roll, forever. That and Messenger of Doom, which will hopefully be scheduled for sometime around March. (Laughs)
Your message, quickly, for the Cowboy Builders of Britain…
Er…watch out, we’re coming to getcha! And if not us, then a pot-bellied pig and a tiger. You know, I’m still slightly perturbed that you had a poster of me.
What can Rocksucker say?
You were young and foolish. (Laughs)
Melinda Messenger was speaking at the launch of EA SPORTS Active 2 – the new interactive fitness program out from November 19th. It includes a heart rate monitor and over 70 different exercises to choose from, allowing you to personalise every workout. Available on all formats, visit www.easportsactive.co.uk for more information.