Giovanni Pernice has caught 'the acting bug' making his movie debut in 'Man & Witch' (exclusive)

Giovanni Pernice in Man & Witch
Giovanni Pernice in Man & Witch (Paper Canoe Company)

Strictly Come Dancing star Giovanni Pernice is fulfilling a childhood dream by making his first movie alongside a stellar cast of Hollywood names.

The popular professional dancer, who recently revealed he is dating Love Island’s Maura Higgins, is one of the stars of new retro fantasy film Man & Witch, shot this summer in Scotland and Los Angeles.

The movie features Lord of the Rings’s Sean Astin, Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd, Daniel Portman of Game of Thrones as well as Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Saunders and Pernice’s former Strictly pal Bill Bailey.

“Acting has always been a dream of mine since I was a kid," Pernice tells Yahoo. "Obviously dancing is what I do for a living and I really love doing it, but I'm a massive fan of movies and theatres, so working on this huge production has been incredible.

“Do you know what, I love acting and I would love to do it more but Strictly has my heart and I can't wait to come back for 2021, my seventh year! But I definitely have the acting bug now, so watch this space.”

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The project sees the return to the screen of 80s icon Tami Stronach, who played the Childlike Empress in 80s fantasy classic The Neverending Story.

Sicilian born Pernice, a firm Strictly favourite for the last six years with three runner up spots, admitted he was petrified to kick off his career working with so many big names.

Giovanni admitted: “I was petrified."

“I think for a first experience in this industry, I couldn’t have asked for a better start. All of the people have been so lovely to me — from cast to crew — they helped me all the way through.

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“I was nervous at the beginning and then I relaxed and just tried to do my best basically.

Strictly Come Dancing's Giovanni Pernice. (BBC/Guy Levy)
Strictly Come Dancing's Giovanni Pernice. (BBC/Guy Levy)

“So much hard work goes into every element of it, so for me, it was getting to see how they make the magic happen.”

Since he joined the dance series in 2015, Giovanni, has partnered with the likes of Georgia May Foote, Ranvir Singh, Michelle Visage, Debbie McGee, Faye Tozer and Laura Whitmore.

Michelle Visage and Giovanni Pernice both have fiery spirits (Credit: BBC)
Giovanni Pernice dancing with Michelle Visage on Strictly Come Dancing (BBC)

But as much as he has loved his acting debut, he’ll definitely be back for his seventh season of Strictly later this year.

Man & Witch stars and was co-produced by 80s child actress Tami Stronach, best known for her role as the Childlike Empress in kids classic The Neverending Story.

She and fellow producer and actor Greg Steinbruner created the film, about a goat-herder on an adventure to find love with the help of a witch and animal puppets created by Muppet makers The Jim Henson Creature Shop, as an homage to 80s style fantasy family hits.

DIE UNENDLICHE GESCHICHTE / The Neverending Story D 1983 / Wolfgang Petersen Bild: Die Kindliche Kaiserin (TAMI STRONACH) / Überschrift: DIE UNENDLICHE GESCHICHTE / D 1983. (Photo by kpa/United Archives via Getty Images)
Tami Stronach in The Neverending Story (kpa/United Archives via Getty Images)

Directed by Michael Hines, it was shot on UK locations like Scotland's Duncarron Medieval Fort, and the cast also includes Still Game’s Greg Hemphill, Father Ted’s Pauline McLynn, Versailles hard man Stuart Bowman, comedians Reginald D Hunter and Rachel Jackson, and former Lost villain Michael Emerson.

And even though he may not have the same acting experience as his co-stars, Giovanni was delighted to use his dancing skills on the film.

He revealed: “My character is called the Dancing Master. Basically he is the guy that knows everything about dancing, but there's a specific dance called the dance of a thousand steps that he isn’t familiar with, so he has to go and search to find it.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18:  Giovanni Pernice is seen backstage at the 'Strictly Come Dancing' Live! dress rehearsal at Arena Birmingham, on January 18, 2018 in Birmingham, England. Ahead of the opening on 19th January 2018, touring the United Kingdom until 11th February 2018.  (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Giovanni Pernice seen backstage at the 'Strictly Come Dancing' Live! dress rehearsal 2018 (Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

“He's quite intimidated by the King, he's a cheeky and fun character so it helps him along (a bit like me really).

“There's a few specific dance moves that the Dancing Master shows the Princess and they were tightly choreographed, so I would say yes my dancing skills were put to good use!”

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His co-star Tami Stronach, acts in and produces the film and said she was thrilled to return to the screen for the retro-fantasy story of magic and witchcraft,

It’s her return to the big screen almost 40 years since The Neverending Story, after spending her career working in dance and theatre, and she was thrilled to gather such a great team for the passion project.

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 19: Tami Stronach attends the premiere of children's show 'Spiel mit der Zeit' at Friedrichstadtpalast on November 19, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)
Tami Stronach attends the premiere of children's show 'Spiel mit der Zeit', 2017 (Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)

Tami developed the film with husband, co-star, fellow producer and screenwriter Greg Steinbruner, and said it was the right time to return to the screen her biggest film role since playing the Childlike Empress in the 80s romp which made her name.

“There’s this huge appetite for those classic films, but also a desire to get back to what made those films so timeless. A sense of wonder, and magic, and fun. A fantasy world that feels real. That we can lose ourselves in and return to over and over as a family.

“Of course I didn’t know how I would feel getting in front of the camera in a big way after all this time. It feels like coming home.”

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