It’s not just the 12 new contestants who will be taking their first steps into the Love Island villa when the new series kicks off this weekend, as new host Laura Whitmore is sharing those same nerves as she prepares to take the helm of the show.
Laura is taking over from Caroline Flack, who announced last month that she was standing down for the first-ever winter run, having been charged with assaulting her boyfriend.
While she is no stranger to TV, having hosted I’m A Celebrity spin-off show Get Me Out Of Here Now! and short-lived reality series Survival Of The Fittest, her new role will mark a telly-first for her – working with her other half, the show’s hilarious narrator Iain Stirling.
After jetting out to Cape Town in South Africa earlier this week, Laura spilled all on trying to rein-in her boyfriend’s one liners as we sat down for a chat with her inside the spectacular new Love Island villa...
She’s not looking forward to navigating all the stairs in the new villa when doing the slow-mo walk
“How am I going to make that look nice?!” she says. “I’m not trying to overthink it too much.”
She’s going to be just as protective over the Islanders as Caroline was
“I think you’d have to be very cold to not become attached or protective,” Laura explains. “We forget that they’re real people. We’re watching it as a show, but it’s not Coronation Street – these people are real and their emotions are real.”
She’s also already had some experience of offering comfort to contestants too
“When Amy Hart came out of the villa last year [she left after being unable to watch ex Curtis Pritchard cracking on with other people], I was in Mallorca visiting Ian and I was at the airport flying back and I bumped into her. I was starstruck and went up to her and said, ‘I just want to say what you did was incredible’. But I didn’t realise she hadn’t spoken to anyone since she came out or even really seen the reaction.
“I gave her a hug and when I saw her afterwards she told me I had no idea what that meant. She didn’t know everyone was on her side, and it was nice for her to see that.”
Laura had Caroline’s blessing to host the show before even being asked to
Laura reveals that the show’s former presenter got in touch as soon as she announced she was standing down to tell Laura she was her first choice to get the gig.
“It’s not ideal and Caroline has been incredible,” she says.
“She messaged me before ITV contacted me and said that she really hoped I got the role. She said, ‘I know how much of a fan you are of the show’. I just thought that was so lovely.”
Laura also said she asked bosses if she could speak to Caroline again after being offered the role, so she did not find out the news in the press first.
She adds: “I’m so happy to do the show, but I just wish it was in a different situation.”
And when she was offered the job, she had to have a serious conversation with boyfriend Iain
Laura says that there was some thinking to do when ITV offered her the role, as Love Island has traditionally been her boyfriend Iain’s show, and the pair needed to think about how being seen working together might affect their relationship.
“We’ve always been very private,” she says. “I know we’ve been together a few years and we put stuff up on Instagram, but you can kind of control that, and this is obviously such a big show.
“Love Island is like other TV shows I’ve worked on in the past, it’s working with ITV, so for me, I felt very comfortable with the role in a presenting capacity.
“If we weren’t together, we’d do the show, so we don’t want that to stop us from doing the show.”
She’s now dreading what Iain will say about her in his voice-over
Iain is known for his tongue-in-cheek narration, and while Laura is fully expecting him to be cheeky, she has issued him with a warning.
She says: “The problem is I record my bit doing the coupling up and stuff, then I fly back to London. Then he does his job, so I’m not going to even be in the same country.
“All over Christmas, he was on his phone to Mark who he co-writes with and I asked what he was talking about, and he said, ‘That’s for me to know and you to find out’.
“I just have to pray that he’s scared enough of me not to say anything he shouldn’t.”
However, he has been helping to come up with new names for the Flack Attacks
Caroline’s unannounced visits to the villa had become known as Flack Attacks over the years, but with the presenter no longer on the show, it’s left everyone scratching their heads to come up with a new name – although it seems Iain may already have that covered.
“I know there’s a note in his phone with different ideas of what he’s going to come out with, which I pray is good,” Laura says.
When we suggest the Whitmore Walk-In, she laughs: “That’s good, I’ll take that!”
She won’t meet the Islanders before they go in – but she already has a favourite
“I’ve watched the packages, so I’ve seen them all chatting about themselves, and Siânnise I really like,” she says of the Bristolian beauty consultant. “All of them seem great.
“But it’s when they all get together and those relationships and interaction that really makes the difference and you see their true colours.”
Aftersun is the part of the job she’s most excited about to
“Live television is my favourite thing,” Laura says. “I do a live radio show, I’ve worked on the I’m A Celeb after show which was crazy, I’ve done the Brits red carpet live. If you can interview musicians drunk, live, you can do anything.
“So Aftersun is what I’m really looking forward to, as that’s me in my happy place.”
She’s planning to plant plenty of trees to offset all the flights she will be taking
With Laura taking the 13-hour flight to Cape Town at various points throughout the series, needing to return to London to host her BBC 5Live show each Sunday and Aftersun each Monday, she is going to be racking up those airmiles.
But the environmentally-conscious star will be making up for all that time in the sky.
“I’m going to plant lots of trees to offset my carbon footprint,” she says. “I’ve been looking at this website to see how many trees I need to plant – and it’s a lot!”
The South African heat is going to be tricky for her
With temperatures hitting over 30 degrees as filming began this week, Laura admits she’s not sure how she will be coping in the sun.
“I don’t know how to deal with the heat – I’m Irish!” she says. “I burn a lot, I sweat a lot.”
Better get laying on that factor 50.
And her advice for the contestants?
“Sometimes you find it where you least expect it – it may not be the person who you initially think,” she laughs, as she thinks about her own relationship.
“Me and Iain met a while before we went on a date or anything like that, he was just around and would message me these messages. He texted me once asking me what kind of dog I had, to which I replied a maltipoo, and that was it – that was him flirting.
“Nine months later, I realised. I just thought it was him being weird.”
Love Island begins on Sunday at 9pm on ITV2.