Miriam Margolyes on why she turned down Strictly Come Dancing: ‘They must have been nuts’

Miriam Margolyes has admitted that she thought BBC bosses were “f***ing nuts” when they tried to get her to sign up for Strictly Come Dancing.

Considered a national treasure to many, the Harry Potter actor, 82, has become a mainstay on daytime TV and chat shows in recent years due to her famously outspoken nature and hilarious lack of filter.

But during a new interview, Margolyes revealed that she’d turned down the chance to spend even more time on dominating the UK’s screens after being asked to take part in not one, but two of the UK’s biggest reality shows.

Appearing on the Dish from Waitrose podcast, Margolyes discussed her recent tell-all memoir Oh Miriam: Stories from an Extraordinary Life, and how she’d agreed to do it because “they offered me a lot of money”.

“That’s true, that’s absolutely true,” she said. “When you’re old and you know that your earning potential is diminishing, you’ve got to get the money while you can.”

Margolyes continued by saying that she “won’t do that, what do you call it? The dancing thing”.

Host Nick Grimshaw asked if she meant Strictly, with his co-presenter Angela Hartnett questioning if she’d been asked to appear on it multiple times.

Actor said she had too much ‘class’ to go into the jungle (BBC / Southern Pictures / Ela Furdas)
Actor said she had too much ‘class’ to go into the jungle (BBC / Southern Pictures / Ela Furdas)

“Yeah, they must have been f***ing nuts,” Margolyes replied, in her typically blunt fashion. She then added that she’d also had the offer to take part on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! too. “And they asked me to go in the jungle,” she said, with Grimshaw asking: “Was that a hard no?”

“I’ve got class, love,” Margolyes said. “I’m not doing that.”

While they may be the UK’s biggest shows, Strictly and I’m a Celebrity are also known as some of the most intense reality TV programmes out there. Contestants on Strictly Come Dancing dedicate themselves to hours of rehearsals every day, with new routines to learn week-by-week. Were she to go onto the show, Margolyes would be the show’s oldest ever contestant, beating current record-holder Angela Rippon, 79.

While I’m a Celebrity airs for a much shorter period of time – three weeks to Strictly’s three months – the famous contestants are forced to live in uncomfortable conditions in the Australian jungle, while taking part in gruesome challenges.

Actor admitted she thought Strictly bosses were ‘f***ing nuts’ to ask her to compete on the show (PA)
Actor admitted she thought Strictly bosses were ‘f***ing nuts’ to ask her to compete on the show (PA)

Earlier this month, Margolyes made an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, where she shared that she was “appalled” at herself for swearing at Jeremy Hunt on Radio 4 in 2022, as she considered the radio station a temple.

Elsewhere in the interview, Margolyes opened up about changing her mind at the age of 82. The actor shared that she’d originally struggled to accept when non-binary people used they/them pronouns, as she was “very keen on grammar” and didn’t understand how the pronouns could be used in a grammatically correct way.

However, it was Australian actor Zoe Terakes, who is non-binary and transmasculine and uses they/he pronouns, who changed her mind.

“[Terakes] had a discussion with me about it and [they] said: ‘What does it matter to you? If you can make somebody happy by calling them they instead of he or she, why not do it?’ And I thought, that’s right, it doesn’t matter about grammar!”