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‘I’ve come a long way from gunging kids – it’s been a natural career progression’: TV presenter Jean Johansson on savouring the spotlight

© Andrew CawleyA Place In The Sun star Jean Johansson has gone from interviewing pop stars for children’s TV to serious politics and now her own show.
A Place In The Sun star Jean Johansson has gone from interviewing pop stars for children’s TV to serious politics and now her own show.

Jean Johansson is travelling from Alicante to Tarragona to film daytime staple A Place In The Sun when she pauses for a chat with P.S.

Being able to escape the cloudy and blustery early spring climate of Scotland for bright and sunny Spain might be one of the perks of the job, but it has taken a lot of hard work and effort for Jean to be as busy as she currently is.

The 42-year-old broadcaster is an audience favourite in the long-running lifestyle series and has several more projects on the go, including the launch today of a new series, Key To A Fortune, in which she tracks down inheritors to properties that have been left by a distant relative who did not make a will.

“I’m really blessed and it’s been a busy couple of years, but I’ve worked hard to get in this position where I’m getting good offers for good shows,” she says.

“I’m feeling so lucky but I have worked my a*** off. I’m based in Scotland, so I’m not in the media mix in London, so I have very much had to keep my hand in – keep my presence on the telly, keep my contacts going – and I guess these are the rewards, so I’m enjoying it.”

Jean’s growing TV career

Jean, from Port Glasgow in Inverclyde, has also presented on Animal Park, This Morning and Dream Life For The Same Price in recent times. She has never been busier and that is something she wants to maintain.

Fronting her own show in Key To A Fortune is, she hopes, another step forward in her career.

Jean Johansson. © Andrew Cawley
Jean Johansson.

“I definitely want more,” she smiles. “I’ve been doing my bits and bobs for years, so it was nice to be rewarded with something where you can be out in front as presenter.

“But I’ll always want to work consistently as a TV presenter, which isn’t easy in the current climate, where there are lots of cuts in telly, so I feel lucky.

“Hopefully I’m going to be on everyone’s tellies consistently – that’s the aim!

“This project does feel like me up front, so there is massive pressure but it’s what I’ve been working towards. It’s mine and the experts’. We have a different expert each episode and we’re a team.

“I’m sure I have an audience now from A Place In The Sun, Animal Park and all the other shows I have, so I hope people turn this on and say ‘there’s Jean!’ It’s something new and they can sit and enjoy it for an hour.”

Keys To A Fortune

Key To A Fortune shines a light on the nearly £80 million worth of unclaimed inheritance in the UK – much of it tied up in bricks and mortar.

The series sees expert teams track down relatives – often unaware of the family connection – to inform them of their unexpected windfall.

“There are lots of property shows so it’s nice to have one which is a bit of property, a bit of inheritance and a bit of bringing families back together,” Jean explains.

“I did think it would be a rare thing – I don’t know anyone who’s had a phone call telling them they’ve inherited an amazing cottage in Kent – but it happens every day, as I discovered on the show.

“Loads of people die without leaving a will. I think the audience will be shocked not only by how many people it happens to but also that it could happen to you.

“It’s nice to see something extraordinary happen to ordinary people. It’s a huge privilege for me to be there when they get to see their property for the first time.

“We filmed up and down the country – Wales, the north of England, Orkney. I usually have to get on a flight when I’m filming for A Place In The Sun, so it was nice to be based in the UK.”

Jean with Grado on STV Hogmanay show. © Jamie Simpson
Jean with Grado on STV’s Hogmanay show.

So, what would Jean do if she received a call telling her she had inherited a property – keep it or sell it?

“The experts on the show are great at showing the potential of what can be done, so there is massive temptation to invest some money if you can get it and do a place up, but I don’t blame anyone who wants to put their inheritance to auction and get some money as soon as possible.

“I do believe in family legacies, though, if you can afford to hang on to an inheritance. With the property in the first episode, I 100% would keep it if I could because it’s so special.”

Family life

Jean lives in Ayrshire with her husband, Jonatan, a former Rangers forward and current youth team coach at Ibrox, and their son, Junior.

“My son is 13 now and ironically I feel he needs me more – or I need to watch him more as he comes into those teenage years – so while I do have the dream job, it is hard being at airports and flying away all the time. But I’m lucky to have the support system at home.

“In my spare time I like just hanging out at home, which is my paradise, and hanging out with my boys. I live down near Largs, so I like taking walks on the beach.”

Jean Johansson with former Rangers footballer husband Jonatan. © James Veysey/BAFTA/Shutterstock
Jean Johansson with former Rangers footballer husband Jonatan.

A few months ago, Jean was asked to interview Sir Keir Starmer at Scottish Labour’s winter gala event and she commented on Instagram afterwards that there have been so many times in her career when she hasn’t been taken seriously as a presenter, so she was honoured to be trusted on this occasion.

“I was a kids’ TV presenter for years, so I was gunging kids and interviewing pop bands, and I think many people had a picture of me in my early 20s in their head of being sunny and smiley.

“And that is my demeanour – I am a bright and bubbly person – but there is another side to me. I have a journalism background, so it’s nice to be trusted with interviewing someone like Keir Starmer.

“A show like Key To A Fortune also shows a mature side to me. It involves big subjects like death, inheritance and trying to advise people through tough times.

“The themes are more mature than A Place In The Sun, so I’m glad I’ve been able to move easily into another zone that’s a little more grown up.

“I’ve matured as a person and as a host and that feels great. I’ve come a long way from gunging kids – it’s been a natural progression and I love that.”

London-centric no more

Jean also loves how the industry isn’t as London-centric as it was when she started in the industry.

“You had to be in London, especially as talent, because everything was based down there. That’s not the case anymore.

“Channel 4 has a base in Glasgow and I made Dream Life At The Same Price with a production company in Belfast.

“Anyone who wants to be in telly no longer needs to be in London. I was part of a crop of teenagers who came from all over the country and jumped on a bus to London seeking fame and fortune.

“You don’t have to do that anymore; you can be a broadcaster from anywhere in the country and I love that.

“People can broadcast from their phones now, so the landscape has changed. I’d say to anyone to go for it. Set up a YouTube channel and TikTok account – it’s nice that the power is in your handset. It’s still difficult to get a career but it’s easier to get a foot in the door.”

Jean hosting Animal Park. © BBC/Endemol Shine UK/Joff Wilson
Jean hosting Animal Park.

TV saved me after dad died

Jean says she is a workaholic and found that her job helped her through one of the hardest moments of her life last year.

“I realised during lockdown that I’m a workaholic,” she admits. “I love working, so if I can get the right balance of enough family time and enough time working then I’m happy.

“I have a new project coming up that I can’t talk about, but it will involve more travel. I’m hoping to take my son and husband with me over the summer.

“It was great to work last year with STV doing their big charity appeal and I did the Hogmanay show too, so it’s nice to know I’m broadcasting to a Scottish audience at times as well, and it would be the dream to do more work at home.

“I lost my dad last year and that was a massive life event, and work kind of saved me. I kept myself busy. Grief is such a strange thing but getting up and going out to work helped.

“Going to A Place In The Sun saved me, as I was able to click out of grief and into work mode.

“There were some big life lessons last year but anyone who has been through it will know it’s a journey and you do eventually come out the other side.”

Key To A Fortune, Channel 4, Sundays, 5.15pm