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STV presenter Laura Boyd on how lockdown chat with Dolly Parton almost came unplugged

© Andrew CawleySTV’s Laura Boyd at home in Glasgow with her co-star, daughter Penelope
STV’s Laura Boyd at home in Glasgow with her co-star, daughter Penelope

Video calls beset by technical problems have become a familiar feature of lockdown life this year.

It’s one thing to set up a successful Zoom meeting when it’s a friend or family member but, for STV reporter Laura Boyd, getting the Queen of Country to work her laptop was a whole new level of stress.

Chatting to Dolly Parton, the multi-platinum selling music legend, has been a highlight of Laura’s year, despite the gremlins.

“For the first 15 minutes of our interview time I realised I could see her but she couldn’t see me,” explained Laura.

“There was something technically wrong at her end. The camera had cut off.

“Having to tell Dolly Parton, ‘No, I think the problem is on your end…’ was quite awkward!

“I was sitting looking at my screen thinking that this is the biggest interview of my life and it’s not going to work.”

The call, however, was ultimately successful and Laura is now presenting Unmuted, a new celebrity interview series on Scotland Tonight.

In it she chats to celebrities about the lighter side of pandemic life – from box sets to baking.

Highlights in the series include a catch-up with Dancing On Ice star John Barrowman, former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy and wrestler Grado.

“John Barrowman’s lockdown when he was living in Palm Springs was quite different to ours – Segways, swimming in his pools, clearing out his four-car garage!” added Laura, 39.

“Grado is going back to watching Take The High Road, so he can talk details about what’s happening on this old soap.

“Sylvester McCoy is going to be next week, he was hilarious. He was known as the Twist King of Dunoon, as apparently he introduced the dance to the town.

“He was so smartly dressed on his top half – he had a brilliant flamboyant waistcoat on. On the bottom half he was just like everyone else – he was wearing joggers and a slanket.”

Without access to the studio and a make-up artist Laura admits it’s been a struggle to look quite as glamorous as she usually does on our screens.

“Trying to get a good camera angle at home is tough,” she said. “How does anyone look good on Zoom? I look at my face and wonder how I could get a less flattering angle.

“Some days I try to get away with just filming my top half. Often I’m wearing a nice top but with jammy bottoms.

“With big interviews I try to make an effort and not look like a riot.”

Laura  with Penelope © Andrew Cawley
Laura with Penelope

In 2009, Laura was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, a form of cancer.

Since then she has returned to work and has become a mum to baby Penelope, who was born via surrogacy with the help of her sister-in-law, Jayne.

Penelope has become an STV co-star, whether Laura likes it or not.

“She wants to be involved in everything, if I have the laptop open she wants to be slamming down on the keys,” added Laura. “I’m paranoid she’s going to send a message to someone.

“I’ve ended up using her in a couple of pieces, and she appeared in a wee bit about online Burns Nights a couple of weeks ago. It took 10 takes to get right, but luckily she loves haggis. She’s not a very compliant co-star.

“She’s kept us going through all of this. You don’t have time to dwell on the doom and gloom with her. She’s brilliant.”

Laura harbours ambitions to interview Billy Connolly about his lockdown life in Florida but, for now, the Dolly Parton conversation remains a career highlight.

“She was so lovely and she’s just so on it,” Laura said. “She lists off the things she’s doing and you can’t help but be impressed. I asked what she planned to do next and she started a big spiel about how she was releasing new make-up, perfume and even a line of wigs.

“That woman is unstoppable. If ever I have a lockdown day when I’m tired I think I’ll try to be more Dolly. That should be our lockdown motto.”