Strictly Sheffield judge Craig is a charmer!

Craig Revel Horwood needs hip surgery
Craig Revel Horwood needs hip surgery
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The judge: Craig Revel Horwood

He looks (even in a tracksuit) and sounds just like the man the audience loves to boo, but in real life the Strictly judge is a bit of a pussycat.

Of course, the Craig we see on TV is happily playing up to his ‘Mr Mean’ persona, which has been going down well with panto audiences over Christmas as he has been playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

Craig just about had time to hang up his costume before rushing off to join the rehearsals for the Strictly tour, which he is directing this year. He said he loves being busy and wouldn’t have it any other way

When we spoke he was thrilled that he is going to be taking on the role of another villain, cruel orphanage boss Miss Hannigan in a new touring version of the musical Annie.

But there’s no doubt that the Australian is a bit of a charmer, even if TV audiences don’t see that side of him.

He said: “When I’m on Strictly I just wear a judge’s hat, like real judges do. When they wear a wig they’re different to when it comes off and they’re not the same. Everyone puts on some sort of front.

“I put a professional hat on. I think a judge should be honest, direct, responsible and be as accurate as you possibly can in scoring, to benefit the person.

“Otherwise you’re just lying to the person and not giving them an opportunity to improve. There are ways and means of doing it.”

Craig is used to the notoriously tough world of musical theatre. “When I go to dance class, people would be shocked and surprised at how tough the teachers are. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t attain perfection. It’s the same if you’re an Olympic trainer.”

Does it matter when his fellow judges disagree with him? “I don’t care about any of them, I really don’t. It doesn’t bother me in the least what they do.

“I do my job and I’m true to myself. I have an opinion and that’s why I’m there. Take it or leave it.”

He admits to irritation with judges who don’t say what they really think: “There are other shows with judges’ panels and it does make you wonder why they’re there.”

Craig’s had a taste of what it was like to be judged on shows when he appeared on Celebrity Masterchef and won the opera show Maestro. He said he enjoyed both because they gave him new skills and challenges.

However, you won’t see Craig in the celebrity jungle or Big Brother house any time soon: “You do that as a prostitute.” he said with typical forthrightness.

Craig came to Britain as an ambitious youngster but appearing on TV was the last thing on his mind, he says.

“I have a passion for the theatre. I worked in musicals until I was 30, then I gave up performing in them and moved over to directing and choreography.

“I found my niche and what I love doing and it was a lot more creative than being just someone’s toy soldier and being moved about.”

Craig said musical theatre is his first love and joked that Strictly is what he does on his days off!

He’s directing the show and said that the celebrities are doing a lot more dances, including a musical extravaganza.

He added: All the singers are dancing and singing, they’re really cranking it out. I love the band and all our singers.

“There will be close-ups on the big screens and some fantastic dancing and great tunes. It’s all singing and all dancing with a little bit of tapping.”

Even the judges will be dancing, he promises.

Craig agreed that this season of Strictly had the best overall level of talent yet. “It’s nice to have show where you get people like Caroline, who are amazing.

“I would even go as far as to say that Scott Mills will have some dance moves cracked, if he does them 32 times a day, by the O2 at the end of the tour!”