An interview with DAVINA MCCALL, who returns to DStv’s ITV Choice (channel 123) at 6pm on Sunday, September 2, as the host of the sixth season of Long Lost Family. The show sees McCall and Nicky Campbell reunite more family members with missing relatives that they have been desperately searching for, and answering questions that have haunted people for years.
This is the sixth series of Long Lost Family. What do you think is the secret behind its enduring popularity?
What I still love about Long Lost Family is that in every series there seems to be a new wave of people who still haven’t seen it before but want to know what everyone is talking about. I also think we keep it very fresh every series, there’s always a different slant
There’s always something quite extraordinary that happens because, as I’m realising in life, the older I get, everybody has a story. We’ve just got to find it. Also, this need to feel a part of something, to feel a part of a family, is what gives us roots and grounds us. It’s just part of our DNA. I just think the nation can empathise with everybody, even if they haven’t been through exactly what they’ve been through.
It is just so phenomenally moving and it never ever gets boring. The other thing I love about Long Lost Family is that it’s historically really fascinating. I mean we do cover the history of cities or people and what was going on at the time. I really like that.
Which story from the new series stands out for you?
There were many actually, but perhaps the story of a woman searching for the youngest birth mother we’ve ever come across, who was only 13 years old when she had her daughter. The first episode features two adopted people, born on opposite sides of the world, who make an unbelievable discovery, and a seemingly impossible search in Ecuador.
Many of the stories involving babies having been given away were due to families refusing to give their support. Do you think the programme shines a light on how much attitudes have changed in the last half century?
Yes, it’s enormous. There’s so much more support for girls now if they do want to keep their babies, and also this concept of foster care is amazing as well. And if you’re struggling for a bit then your child can go into foster care and come back to you at some point.
So yes, attitudes have massively changed. And I think it would be nice looking forward to try to find more lost people. It could be somebody who has been estranged from their family for years.
It’s your job to tell the searchers if you have found their relative. How do you feel when you know you have to deliver the news that you can’t find them?
What’s difficult is that I’m always quite nervous, so often I’ll be in their house for a bit – and whatever news it is, whether it’s good news or not quite the news they wanted, it’s always tough.
The chat happens quite naturally and it just comes up when it feels appropriate, so it’s always a bit nerve wracking. I’m always conscious that people are hoping they are going to get some good news or an answer.
What is your favourite part of filming the programme?
I think the whole process is really amazing. You go on a journey with somebody and when we are able to find the person that they are looking for, I always talk about the day they get reunited as being like a wedding. You go and pick them up in the morning and they are so nervous and always in their best clothes and they look so lovely. But it’s really scary, like you know you’ve got to keep the bride and the groom apart. Nicky’s with the groom and I’m with the bride.
You and co-presenter Nicky Campbell have such different roles in the programme, have you ever wanted to swap with him?
I think on series two he was working on something else and I had to do one of Nicky’s bits. It was the weirdest thing. It felt like I was patting my head and rubbing my tummy. I just felt like, ‘I don’t know what I’m saying; I don’t know what I’m trying to reveal; I don’t understand what is going on; this is extremely weird’. I felt really out of my comfort zone. So no, I have no desire to swap with Nicky whatsoever… and I think he’s really good at what he does!”
You’ve said before that you try to contain your emotions because the programme should be about the contributors. Were there any instances in this series where you had to fight back the tears?
Yeah, I often find it very difficult and it’s usually when I’ve said something and someone has a really, really big outburst. That’s when I think, ‘Oh my god, am I going to go?’. But I won’t let myself. I literally would rather stab my thigh with a pen than cry.
The thought that a contributor would look at me and say, ‘Are you ok?’ would be terrible. I just couldn’t do it. I cry when I watch the series when it is broadcast.