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Game show host is much more than a role for Danny Dyer

© PA Photo/Endemol Shine UK/Kieron McCarronThe Wall presenter Danny Dyer
The Wall presenter Danny Dyer

Danny Dyer is pacing around a well-lit sound stage about 25 minutes from Warsaw Airport in Poland.

He looks trim in a blue suit and is swigging from a can of energy drink with a piece of tape wrapped around it to obscure the brand name.

Every so often he says something to a crew member or a middle-aged married couple from the north of England, who have flown out to take part in his new show.

This is a break during the EastEnders star’s first outing as a game show host – a new BBC1 programme called The Wall, in which contestants must combine strategy, knowledge and luck in a bid for a life-changing cash prize.

The couple have previously told Dyer they want to use the money to fund their young son’s dreams of becoming a pilot and he seems to be genuinely invested in them doing well.

“It’s a surreal experience,” he admits as he sits in his armchair in his dressing room a bit later, after filming is over.

“When I filmed the pilot I was on the verge of tears because it’s a really emotional show.”

But, as impassioned as he is now, the 42-year-old was not always so keen.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to do it at first, and that’s just me being straight.

“The opportunity came up and I thought, ‘Do I want to be a game show host? Not really.’ I mean, I’m quite busy at EastEnders.

“I watched the American version, which is always very earnest… There’s a lot of money at stake, and it was a bit like, ‘I don’t know if I can pull this off’ – Americans are so different to us.

“And then I thought, ‘Do you know what? Go and do the pilot and just see if you enjoy it’ and I really did enjoy it. I did.

“Did I ever think that I would be hosting my own game show? No. I think that I’m at a period in my life when you’ve got to try stuff and so I just thought, ‘Let’s have a go, let’s see where this leads.’”

I venture if this enthusiasm for trying new things is a by-product of getting older.

“I’m not that old!” he retorts with a laugh. “I’m very grateful for a lot of things I’ve got in my life.

“And this is a BBC primetime show, it comes on after Strictly, to be asked to do that, you’ve got to go, ‘OK, I’m very blessed.’

“I think they want something different; they don’t want the – no disrespect to anyone – robotic game show host vibe.

“And so I’m blagging it and I’m very raw and I said, ‘I can only be me, because everyone else is taken.’ And I suppose that’s what they wanted.”

Indeed this is true – Dyer’s hosting is just a reflection of his personality.

He hugs me just as warmly as he does the contestants, he swears when the cameras are rolling and when they aren’t, and his dialogue is peppered with his signature vernacular, which sometimes makes it sound like his EastEnders character, Mick Carter, is hosting the show.

When the couple mention they want to take their son to Disneyland, he tells them it’s “a good gaff”.

“I’m not acting,” he stresses. “So once I read the stuff and explain the game, all I’ve got to rely on is me.

“And so I can only feed off the contestants and whatever they’re going through, I’ll be with them all the way.

“I’m rooting for them and I want them to win money. In a way, in my brain, I’m telling myself I’m playing a game show host in a film.”

It’s not without its challenges though.

“If you’re an actor and you go in feeling a bit down, you can switch off and play the character, say the lines and go home, whereas on this I’ve got to be happy – I didn’t realise how happy game show hosts were!”

Dyer is juggling the hosting gig with his full-time role in EastEnders.

“I fly out here, I do six episodes in five days, and then I’m straight back Monday morning in the Vic, cracking on.”

The Wall is on BBC1, Saturday at 8.30pm.