Why Stephen Mulhern turned down being Ant McPartlin's 'I'm a Celebrity' stand-in

Katie Archer
(Press Association)

He’s got a string of spin-off shows and warm-up gigs under his belt, but Stephen Mulhern says he turned down the chance to be the leading man as Ant McPartlin’s replacement on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!.

Loyal Mulhern told The Sun he couldn’t imagine taking a mate’s job, and felt the show would work better with a female stand-in. “I’m not going to step into a friend’s shoes,”  I couldn’t do as well as him and I’m just pleased he’s back.”

Read more: BGT judges open up about Ant McPartlin’s return

ITV’s favourite presenting line-up of Ant and Dec was thrown into disarray in 2018 when midway through a series of Britain’s Got Talent, Ant McPartlin was involved in a drink-driving crash and immediately left all TV duties to go into rehab.

He ended up taking a year off from his primetime shows, leaving best pal Declan Donnelly to finish BGT and Saturday Night Takeaway alone, and in need of a new co-host for I’m a Celebrity.

The jungle job went to This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby and was a huge success, with McPartlin saying he had approved the stand-in – but things could have looked very different in camp if Mulhern had said yes.

Read more: Ant and Dec’s whopping 2018 pay packets – despite rehab stint

Still, he has no hard feelings as he told The Sun of Willoughby’s casting: “It was the best possible choice, you couldn’t have gone with another guy.

“It had to be a female host and Holly was perfect. Holly and Dec worked a treat.”

Mulhern, who presents segments for Saturday Night Takeaway, said: “When we were in Florida for Takeaway last year there was talk about me doing a lot more stuff on the show.

“But you can’t replace Ant. I’m not going to step into a friend’s shoes. I couldn’t do as well as him and I’m just pleased he’s back.”

Read more: Ant reveals Dec’s anger over drink-driving arrest

However, Mulhern’s patience may have paid off as the popular game he hosts for Saturday Night Takeaway, In for a Penny, is getting its own spin-off.

He said: “When we made the series, Ant phoned me and said: ‘Listen, we’ve both watched it and this could be the best thing on TV.’”