Joanna Page’s three young children are overjoyed at the approaching clatter of little feet. However, will they be disappointed if they find out we’re talking about human feet? “They really want more pets,” admits Gavin & Stacey actress Joanna, whose children are eight, six and four years old, and whose fourth is due in December.
“Eva insists on a third dog, but also wants guinea pigs and a rabbit. Kit wants a turtle and Noah wants a rat and two mice. I’m waiting because I know I’m going to do the whole cleanup eventually.’
However, she has brought this upon herself by presenting The Pet Show, basically a Top Gear for pets, which kicks off on ITV this week. For the pilot show, Joanna cared for a chinchilla, a South American rodent, for a week, which sealed her fate.
Joanna Page, 44, has teamed up with Dermot O’Leary to host ITV’s The Pet Show as the number of pets in Britain rises to 52 million. Pictured: Joanna with her dog, Bess
“The kids thought it was the best thing ever, but I tried all the time to keep our cocker spaniel Bess from getting hold of him. It was the most stressful week of my life.’
The Pet Show is a nod to the fact that we all went crazy during the pandemic and there are now a whopping 52 million pets in Britain. Joanna is best known as an actress, but since becoming a mother, she has done more presenting, making it more compatible with family life. She’s teamed up with Dermot O’Leary – who describes herself as a ‘proud cat dad/servant’ – for this show, and it can get pretty messy.
Joanna tells me that one of her favorite “guests” was a 30th tortoise who “peeed” at her feet. “It was like a dam broke,” she screams.
There were also other furry movie moments. “A nine-year-old girl came into the studio with 82 tarantulas in her bedroom! I’m terrified of spiders, but Dermot managed to pick one up.’
The Pet Show offers practical advice from veterinarians and animal behaviorists, as well as telling heartwarming stories about pets that have saved lives. There are also wacky segments, most notably Ready Pet Go, where celebrities bring their dogs in to try a Crufts-style agility course.
In the first show, actor Ben Miller takes the trail with Jet, his black Russian terrier, who looks more like a bear than a dog. They are unlikely to qualify for Crufts.
RADA-trained actress Joanna, who is best known for her starring role in Gavin & Stacey, said presenting suits her as she is quite talkative and can be with her kids. Pictured: Joanna with co-star Mathew Horne in Gavin & Stacey
Joanna confides that she was ten weeks pregnant when she filmed her first segment. The programmers didn’t know she was pregnant again – but she finally had to tell them after a very eventful journey.
“I flew to Scotland to meet a woman who rescues sheep, pigs, goats and chickens,” she explains. “I decided that because I was coming back the same day, I didn’t need any other clothes, so I just wore my dungarees.”
Big mistake. “I had terrible morning sickness, and with that and wearing a mask, by the time I arrived I was such a sweaty mess that I had to tell the director I was pregnant. I ended up in a field with about 30 sheep.
One body slammed me into some barbed wire, leaving sheep poop all over my dungarees, and I had to fly right back, sitting between two people. It certainly helped with social distancing!’
Joanna (pictured, with Dermot) said The Pet Show isn’t like work and added that with animals you never know what’s coming
She tells the story with pleasure. ‘The performance is fascinating. It’s not like work. It’s fun. You never know what’s coming with animals. But it’s not glamorous.’
It’s a curious career departure for a RADA-trained actress. But Joanna, 44, says she doesn’t like presenting. ‘I’m quite talkative. I find people fascinating. And a lot of acting jobs take me out for a long time, but I can do this and be with my kids.”
Joanna made her name in Gavin & Stacey, where she played the bubbly Stacey Shipman in three series. The return for the 2019 Christmas special was joyous.
“Everyone was exactly the same, although James Corden had a more expensive vest,” she says. “It was like a family reunion. If they ever made another one, I think we’d all want to.”
The Pet Show starts tomorrow at 5.35pm on ITV.