While the Strictly Come Dancing line-up is introduced in August each year ahead of the show's return in September, there is actually a surprisingly long process that goes on behind-the-scenes to curate the perfect mix of celebrity contestants - starting some six months in advance.
The show's talent exec, Stefania Alexander, revealed all about the booking process in a new interview on the Strictly Come Dancing podcast, explaining that they start approaching potential competitors as early as February. And although they have a huge array of would-be contestants to choose from, the team put careful consideration into who will make the final 15.
Strictly bosses approach potential contestants in February
Speaking about her role and how the process begins, Stefania explained the team start by sharing ideas of who they would love to see on the show. "I mean the list is endless, there are so many amazing people and so many famous faces, so we come up with ideas together and we approach people and go after people we would love to see on the show," she said. "Then we meet them and have a chat with them about what the show's all about, the commitment, and find out how much they want to learn to dance."
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The team will then go through a lengthy casting process to whittle people down to reach the final line-up. "It's not as simple as saying 'Hey I wanna do Strictly' and we go 'OK you're booked', coz you've got to represent for the family audience and so we want to make sure for everyone from five years old who stays up as a treat and watches it all, through to your nana at 90-odd, we want everyone to sit down and make it appointment viewing," she confessed. "It's a nice family show so choosing and booking the celebs is quite a long process, it starts back in February."
The team try to make some surprise bookings - like YouTube star Joe Sugg
Stefania revealed the team also try to choose quite different people each year, so the line-up doesn't become formulaic. She said: "It's quite a mixed bag you so you don't want to replicate it every year, Like last year there were two from Holby City so you probably wouldn't do another Holby City. I think it's all about the surprises for me, when the announcements come out I don't want everyone going 'oh yeah I knew they'd be booked', I want them to go 'Oh I didn’t expect that.'"
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The team also go to great lengths to ensure that celebrity contestants aren't leaked in advance, so use code names for each of the stars - this time using names of varieties of cheese. "They loved it, I need it short, snappy and something that I am passionate about so it's either gonna be cheese or wine so this year we will go with the cheese," Stefania said, adding: "And they love it, I think Stacey Dooley had a party thrown a surprise party thrown by her mate and in helium balloons was the word 'cheddar' because that was her code name. So it's really sweet and they loved it, and there is a loose link to what cheese they were."
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