Real life of Britain's Got Talent's Ant McPartlin from fallout with Dec Donnelly to personal battle and welcoming first child

Ant McPartlin
-Credit: (Image: Vincent Cole - Manchester Evening News)

From Byker Grove to Britain's Got Talent - Anthony McPartlin has now been a familiar face on TV for more than 30 years. A shared love of Newcastle FC led to his friendship and enduring partnership with best friend Declan Donnelly.

They have been inseparable in TV terms ever since. And they are the best of friends away from the cameras too - for years even living just three doors down from one another in Chiswick, London.

After recently waving goodbye - for now - to Saturday Night Takeaway, Ant and Dec are back on our TV screens for the 17th series of Britain's Got Talent. As ever, the contestants are vying to make it to the grand finale and secure their spot at the Royal Variety Performance - and £250,000 cash prize.

Read on to find out all about Ant's life and career.

Early life in Newcastle

Ant was born in Newcastle on November 18, 1975, celebrating his 48th birthday in 2023. He's said of his early years: “I had a happy childhood, growing up in Fenham in a cul-de-sac living opposite my nana and grandad, so that was great.

“But none of them were particularly musical or `showbizzy’. There was no inclination that I would be going on to do this."

He went to Wingrove Primary School in Fenham and returned there in 2009 to unveil a plaque in the school's sports hall. He enjoyed his early school days, telling Chronicle Live at the time: "I loved it – I absolutely loved being at school – and I hope everyone at the school now does too. I have a lot of good memories.

"My aunty, my mum’s sister, was a dinner lady at the school when I was there. It was lovely because I knew her and I could talk to her, but she used to chase me round the yard to try and give me a kiss. She also told everyone my nickname, which was ‘Toad in the Hole’. It was very embarrassing.”

The future TV star then went on to Rutherford, where he enjoyed drama lessons - eventually being put forward for a children's show called Why Don’t You by one of his teachers. He said in 2016: “I loved drama at school and I was put forward by my drama teacher Lyn Spencer. If it wasn’t for her, pushing me and supporting me, I don’t think I would be here today. So thank you very much Lyn."

The bullies who put him off auditioning for Byker Grove

Ant's first TV appearance was when Why Don't You..? came to town. The BBC show was presented by children and aimed at finding youngsters things to keep them occupied during the school holidays.

Ant once said of his time on the show: "It was the first and only time it came to Newcastle and they wanted a Newcastle gang. I really enjoyed Why Don’t You, but I didn’t actually enjoy the aftermath of it, getting spotted in school.

"There was quite a lot of mickey taking and name calling and I found that kind of tough. So when they came to audition for Byker Grove, I didn’t want to do it."

He said he hid the letter but his friend Craig "grassed me to my mam". Ant recalled: "She frog-marched me down to The Mitre and said `do the audition and if you don’t want it after that don’t do it, but put yourself in the position as you will kick yourself for the rest of your life if you don’t turn up.’

“She was right. I did it, I got the part and I liked it. I’ve never really looked back."

Byker Grove and a shaky start to friendship with Dec

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly in their Byker Grove days
Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly in their Byker Grove days -Credit:Mirrorpix

Ant first met future presenting partner and best friend Declan Donnelly in 1989 on the set of Byker Grove, where they were playing PJ and Duncan. Dec had already been on the show for a year playing sensible, level-headed Duncan, when Ant arrived on set as PJ.

It wasn't plain sailing at first. Dec said in 2006: "We didn't particularly like each other at first, I thought he was miserable". "We've rowed a few times - we're quite competitive," Ant added.

They soon formed a close bond over their shared passion for Newcastle FC, with Ant saying their friendship started when he sent him a Christmas card and invited him to a football match. He said: "And that was that. It just happened immediately. We clicked. We'd spend all day making each other laugh and annoying everyone and quoting Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer lines to each other."

Ant and Dec in their Byker Grove days
Ant and Dec in their Byker Grove days -Credit:BBC Images

On Boxing Day 1990 they had their first outing outside of work - heading to St James' Park to watch Newcastle draw 1-1 with Swindon Town. They soon formed a close bond - and were so in sync they even got the same GCSE results. Both got five in total, leaving school with three Bs and two Cs.

In 2013, they revealed the key to their lifelong friendship, with Ant telling the Guardian: "Fundamentally, we've got the same relationship you see on TV, and I think that's what keeps us sane, because if we had pretended to be somebody else for this length of time, it would have all gone t*** up by now."

Music career and Saturday shows

Ant and Dec have worked with Cat Deely in the past on SM:TV Live -Credit:Getty Images
Ant and Dec have worked with Cat Deely in the past on SM:TV Live -Credit:Getty Images

During the fifth series of Byker Grove, Ant and Dec's characters formed a band called Grove Matrix and recorded a song called Tonight I'm Free. They got a call from a record company to say that they wanted to release it as a single in real life - just as they were told their characters were being written out of the show.

They had vowed to stick together after Byker Grove, with Dec telling Weekend magazine, "We made a pact. We said to each other, 'Look, whatever happens, I'll always be there for you and you're never in this life on your own or against the world – you've always got a mate looking out for you."

It led to a successful music career off the back of the show, releasing music under the names of their characters PJ & Duncan. The had three albums, a BRIT Award nomination for Best British Newcomer and 14 top 20 hits during a four-year pop career.

They became best known for Let’s Get Ready To Rumble - which would finally go to number one when it was re-released in 2013 in aid of ChildLine.

In 1994, they had their first foray into presenting together on children's show Gimme 5. And just a year later they landed their own programme, The Ant & Dec Show, this time on CBBC. There was some controversy at the time over a slot called Beat The Barber where losers in a quiz had their heads shaved.

In 1998 they launched early evening show Ant & Dec Unzipped on Channel 4 but were poached by ITV in the same year. The move saw them hosting Saturday morning ITV children’s programmes SMTV Live and CD:UK alongside Cat Deeley.

A move into primetime TV, film and a string of awards

Ant and Dec, Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly attend the BAFTA Television Awards 2024
Ant and Dec, Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly attend the BAFTA Television Awards 2024 -Credit:Getty Images

Ant and Dec's first taste of Saturday night prime time TV was battle of the sexes gameshow Friends Like These in 2000, followed by music reality competition Pop Idol in 2001.

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway came along in 2002, followed by I’m A Celebrity, gameshow Poker Face in 2006 and in 2007, Britain’s Got Talent. In January 2022, they launched another new game show Limitless Win, said to feature the world's first ever limitless jackpot, as well as a never-ending money ladder contestants must climb by answering questions correctly.

In 2006 they starred in Alien Autopsy, telling the tale of two men who attempt to fool the world with a video of a supposed alien autopsy.

Away from the cameras, the duo have even written a children's book together. Propa Happy was published in May 2022, with all proceeds going to the NSPCC. The book was described as a fun-filled guide to feeling good for children aged 7+, packed with games, jokes, anecdotes, challenges and quizzes to make kids smile.

The pair have won the TV presenter award at the National Television Awards for 22 consecutive years. And in 2017 they were both awarded OBEs in the Queen's honours for services to broadcasting and entertainment.

They said at the time: "We're humbled and honoured and ecstatic about the whole thing. We hope it can inspire young people from backgrounds like ours that things like this do happen to us sometimes. Put your head down and work hard and you can achieve what you want. You can end up in Buckingham Palace."

A rare falling out that threatened their joint career

Although Ant and Dec remain the best of friends, they did have one major falling out. In their book Once Upon a Tyne: Our Story, the pair admitted that things "got ugly" in 1995 while they were filming in Spain.

They explained that an argument happened when they were getting ready to appear on GMTV's Fun in the Sun with Anthea Turner. The show was being filmed live in Torremolinos, where Ant and Dec were promoting their latest musical offering at the time, the Mirror reported.

Ant wrote in the book: "It was a special summer holiday version of the ITV breakfast show, in 1995, we were promoting Stuck On U. Our tour manager Kim Glover told us we had the day to ourselves before appearing on GMTV the following morning... so we went to the pub."

They ended up having a few too many drinks and by 10pm, Dec said he wanted to go to bed due to their early start in the morning. However, Ant wasn't ready to call it a night just yet as he remembers asking his pal: "What the hell are you going to bed for?"

Dec continued, "stumbling towards the lift," which Ant admitted "incensed me and I lost it." He demanded: "Don't you dare walk away from me when I'm talking to you."

Dec then began "ranting" at Ant, asking "who the hell does he think he was, talking to me like that?" He said Ant "was really pushing my buttons" as the pair kept arguing in the lift and when Ant tried to state his case, Dec put his fingers in his ears and started saying: "La la la la, I can't hear you."

Ant admitted that he "punched Dec in the chest" as his childish antics "made my blood boil." Dec responded by attempting to knock the cap of Ant's head, admitting: "I didn't quite hit the target and ended up just punching the peak of his cap." Ant added: "I proved Dec is rubbish at fighting when he's had a few."

Two hours later, they were refusing to look at each other on the breakfast show but their closeness soon returned.

Drink driving crash and rehab

The presenter once had a squeaky-clean image but has been open about fighting his demons in recent years. In June 2017, he spoke about out about depression and addiction and is understood to have checked into a rehabilitation facility.

Reports at the time said Ant would remain there for up to two months for treatment for issues that stemmed from failed knee surgery in 2015. He told the Sun on Sunday: “I feel like I have let a lot of people down and for that I am truly sorry. I want to thank my wife, family and closest friends for helping me through this really difficult time.

“I’ve spoken out because I think it’s important that people ask for help if they’re going through a rough time and get the proper treatment to help their recovery.”

He was widely praised for speaking out and raising awareness - but a year later hit the headlines again after smashing into two cars in south west London while under the influence of alcohol.

The day after the crash, he said he was withdrawing from all television commitments and checking into rehab. He was later charged with drink driving, pleaded guilty and was fined and banned from driving for 20 months.

An enduring partnership

Ant's troubles and drink driving briefly put his partnership with Dec in doubt. And Dec admitted that he had to consider their future together after the scandal.

Asked by the Guardian in 2019 if he had contemplated forging a solo career, he said: “I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. Of course I thought about it. Ant went away, and he had a lot of work to do on himself. He had a lot of thinking to do."

Ultimately, he said "the number one thing I wanted to happen was that Ant came back and he was healthy and happy, and we got our relationship back on track and we carried on". And he told the newspaper: "That’s the thing that makes me the happiest, working together."

Stepping away from Saturday Night Takeaway

Ant and Dec on Saturday Night Takeaway
Ant and Dec on Saturday Night Takeaway -Credit:Kieron McCarron/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

In May 2023 Ant and Dec announced they would be halting popular ITV show Saturday Night Takeaway after the 20th series, which came to an end in April 2024. They told fans that the show takes up a lot of their year and they wanted to "give it a little rest".

In an interview with Fault magazine, Ant said: “Part of the reason we’re pausing Takeaway is we need a break ourselves, and we need to spend some time with our family. We’ve both got children that we need to spend time with for a little bit.”

Byker Grove reboot plans

Ant and Dec at the 10th birthday celebrations for Byker Grove in 1998
Ant and Dec at the 10th birthday celebrations for Byker Grove in 1998 -Credit:NCJ Media

In July 2023 Ant and Dec pair announced plans to reboot the show that started their careers together. They will act as executive producers on a new version of Byker Grove, simply titled "Byker". They said the show will "engage with a new generation of teenagers navigating the different challenges faced by young adults today".

Their production company Mitre Studios will work with producers Fulwell 73 on the project, with Dec joking: "Don't worry, we're not making another album".

In February 2024 they gave an update during an appearance on The One Show. Dec said: "It's very very early days but we are developing it, looking at storylines, looking at characters, looking at the world. It can be whatever we want it to be so there's a lot of possibilities." Ant added: "There's some very juicy roles going in it."

When asked by presenter Roman Kemp whether they'd be making an appearance in the show, Ant said it was still up in the air, teasing: "We haven't decided if we're going to be in it yet, I doubt it though, maybe just a cameo."

Personal life, marriages and baby

Ant McPartlin and Anne-Marie Corbett attending the National Television Awards 2021
Ant McPartlin and Anne-Marie Corbett attending the National Television Awards 2021 -Credit:PA

Ant is married to his former PA, Anne-Marie Corbett after his very public split from first wife Lisa Armstrong. Ant and Lisa, a former singer-turned TV make-up artist, first met at a pop concert at Newcastle City Hall in 1994.

Lisa was performing with pop band Deuce and he was there with Dec as PJ and Duncan. They married in July 2006 in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.

Their relationship is understood to have broken down amid their infertility struggles and Ant's highly publicised battle with drug addiction. The couple parted ways in 2018.

In 2013, Ant opened up about their struggles with conceiving, telling Radio Times: "Lisa and I would love to have kids. We're trying. It's tougher than you think when you get a bit older."

Ant McPartlin welcomed his first child with wife Anne-Marie Corbett in May 2024
Ant McPartlin welcomed his first child with wife Anne-Marie Corbett in May 2024 -Credit:antanddec/Instagram

Following the split Ant found love again with Anne-Marie, with the two first linked romantically in 2018. They married in 2021 and welcomed their son Wilder Patrick McPartlin on May 14, 2024. Anne-Marie has two children from a previous marriage.

They announced the news with a black and white snap on Instagram showing Ant cradling the baby. The caption said: "Welcome to the family. Wilder Patrick Mcpartlin. Born, 14/05/24 at 8.54am. Baby is beautiful, Mummy’s a legend, Sisters are over the moon. Dad’s a mess!"