Nick Knowles: 'People think I don't cry on DIY SOS, but I do'

Interview Michael Segalov
·4 min read

Your TV guilty pleasure

Star Trek Discovery on Netflix. I’m a bit of a Trekkie – I’ve watched all the episodes of the original series and every movie, and I loved the JJ Abrams revisiting and The Next Generation. There’s something weird about its creator, Eugene Wesley Roddenberry: sliding doors didn’t exist when he wrote them into the bridge; neither did their touch screen communications systems. Nasa is looking to it for inspiration for space travel technology; today’s scientists were nerds like me watching it. And no, I don’t wear the outfits or go to conventions, before you ask.

The last show you loved

American Gods on Amazon Prime. It’s written by Neil Gaiman, one of my favourites, and the concept is just incredible. It’s based on the idea that over thousands of years there have been so many gods worshipped on this planet, but they’re only ever as powerful as the number of people who pray to them. In this series they’re all personified, vying for control. Ian McShane’s and Ricky Whittle’s performances are amazing, Pablo Schreiber, too. The whole thing is oddly strange, and shot beautifully.

Your TV turn-offs

Anything where people fall out. There was a period when we just shoved people into spaces in the hope of seeing shouting. There are enough problems in the world, I don’t see why we look to take comfort in confrontation. When I did I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, I was keen to see if we could all get on and support each other, and we did. When we came out we thought it might not have been a particularly successful series because of it, but the viewing figures were huge. Good TV doesn’t need arguments.

Your favourite show when you were 10

Catweazle. It’s about a Merlin-style druid wizard from around the fifth century. Pursued by a king’s troops he casts a spell, and jumps into a pond to get away from them. When he surfaces, it’s the 1970s and chaos ensues. I think it sparked my interest in history and archaeology as a kid, and made me think about how what’s considered normal now would, during another time, be otherworldly and magical.

The show you love that might surprise people

Ella Al-Shamahi’s Neanderthal. I don’t think people know how much of a history nerd I am; I volunteer at archeological digs, I’ve a real thing for the ancient. The more I learned about Neanderthals, the more I was fascinated. She looked into where they came from and the societies they lived in: their abilities, tools, communication.

The last show that made you cry

It’s honestly DIY SOS. Once an episode is edited I go to a studio to record the voiceover, and I often need to take breaks to compose myself. It takes about 50 hours of filming to get our hour. I get to know the people on the show, I hear their stories, and the end results are life-changing. The generosity of all involved reminds you that people are decent – it’s hugely emotional. People ask why I’m never crying at the end like everyone else. In fact I do, just away from the cameras. I don’t think that moment should be about me.

The best TV villain of all time

Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders, played by Tom Hardy. I grew up on a rough council estate in London, and he captures the surly, chirpy, make-a-joke-then-punch-you-in-the-face characters of my childhood perfectly. I’d actually really love to play a London gangster in the show – I’ve already got carried away wearing far too much tweed in preparation.

The role you wish you had never turned down

When I wrote my first film – Golden Years – which came out in 2016, I had the opportunity to take a part in it. I decided not to, thinking – having written and produced it – that would look far too egotistical to see my name so many times in the credits. I regret that now. How often do you get to make a movie and be in it?

DIY SOS: The Big Build is on Thursday at 8pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer