So Cat Deeley doesn’t think she can dance. Actually, she doesn’t just think it; she’s sure of it.
“I’ve been asked that question loads of times, ‘Can you dance?’ And I can’t,” she says, having described herself as “completely uncoordinated.” “But that doesn’t make me not appreciate it when somebody does, and someone does it so brilliantly. I mean, they’re like Greek gods, some of these kids. They just do some of the most incredible things and my mind explodes. I get goose pimples and chills and still — 14 years in — I get quite emotional about it.”
Despite her inability to punish the parquet herself, Deeley has hosted 14 seasons of the hit Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Sitting down for an Emmy Contenders chat in the Los Angeles Times’ video studio, she gives the strong impression of still enjoying the gig.
“I’ve been doing it a very, very, very long time, and I’m very, very grateful,” says the disarmingly ebullient Englishwoman. “’Cause it’s not very often you get to do a job you love, and I go to work and I absolutely love it. I love the people I work with. I thoroughly enjoy the show. I hope it comes across how much I do enjoy it. And also, I love what the kids can do. I’m always amazed and in awe.”
Deeley has received five Emmy nominations for her work. She’s quick to point out with a smile that she has yet to win. But if she hasn’t cleared that hurdle yet, she jokes that being the hurdle herself could get her over the top:
“Last season, I did this thing where I allowed one of the dancers to jump over my head on live TV. Now bear in mind that in a pair of heels, I’m approximately 6-foot-2. This guy was, I think, 5-foot-2,” she says. “In the routine … he presses on [his partner] Lauren’s shoulders and split-jumps over her head. Now, Lauren is approximately 5-foot-1 … I said, ‘Wow, that was amazing.’ And [judge Nigel Lythgoe] said, ‘What I’d really like to see is him do it over your head.’ I was like, ‘OK … maybe this’ll get me an Emmy!’ ”
The statuesque Deeley came from a small town in England, Sutton Coldfield, and claims she was awkward and not considered cool in high school. Perhaps those beginnings contributed to her uncanny knack to chat with just about anyone in a down-to-earth way, as an equal.
“Everybody just wants to be listened to and heard,” she says. “So it doesn’t make any difference, really, who you’re talking to; you just talk to everybody the same. And if you give Beyoncé the same gravitas as you give the normal kid that’s auditioning on the show, then you’re never going to go wrong.”
As a pop-music interviewer early in her career, she sat down with the likes of the aforementioned Queen Bey, Paul McCartney, and the artist who was then the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Despite admonitions from the diminutive Minnesotan’s team to, for instance, avoid eye contact, the self-described “nosy chatter” couldn’t help but engage.
“He sat down, he was being miked up, and I saw he’d got a pair of boots on, like, snakeskin boots. And they must have had a heel on kind of like this,” she says, indicating her 3- or 4-inch heels, “but they were Cuban ... I said, ‘Hey. Did no one tell you you’re not allowed to wear heels higher than me on this show?’ … And he kind of looked at me over the top of [his] sunglasses … and then he laughed. and I was like, ‘OK, this is going to be OK.’ ”
Deeley confesses to failing to get through Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” (she was pregnant; that particular show is probably not the best choice for such a time) and having a terrible crush on Tom Selleck when she was a child. Despite being a former model and a longtime television host, she comes across as anything but posh.
“I’m very rarely shiny and polished,” she says. “My thing is, I actually really love people. I like finding out about them, I like knowing what makes them tick … human beings can be pretty great. Most of the time.”
To see the entire interview, click on the video below.