Long Lost Family returns: 'My wife and I went through an entire box of tissues watching the first episode'

LONG_LOST_FAMILY, nicky campbell, davina mccall

As Long Lost Family finally returns to ITV, Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell preview the stories that will be making us sob this time!

It's time for Long Lost Family 2017 and even though the show has been on ITV for six series, we still can’t watch the heart-wrenching family reunion show without dissolving into tears. Luckily, Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell are always a reassuring presence on screen, there to guide us through the labyrinth of emotions.

Although the presenters are rarely seen on screen together, the pair are united by a genuine interest and affection for the contributors, whom they stay in touch with long after the cameras stop rolling.

"I always text Nicky for updates about the people I’m meeting," said Davina. "I just say, 'Tell me everything!'’’

This year’s series features the show’s first divorced couple searching for a child and also the only deaf contributor the show has helped.

Here, Davina and Nicky tell us what to expect about Long Lost Family 2017 and how the show has touched the nation…

Will this series be as emotional as ever? Davina: "Yes, we’ve had a few stories where the mothers people are searching for haven’t been alive any more, and that’s so hard. We always tell them off camera, but then I go in the next day with a photo of their mum, which is really sad. Often we can reunite them with a sibling, but that’s always really poignant for me – I always think how amazingly fortuitous it is to find a sister, because I had mine taken away [Davina’s sister Caroline passed away in 2012]. I always want to tell them to cherish that relationship because it’s the most precious thing ever." Nicky: "I’m adopted myself, and for me tracing my family wasn’t a massive emotional thing, I did it out of intense curiosity. But what I get completely is the things people say like, 'I didn’t want to trace my birth mother because I had such a good adoption and I don’t want to be disloyal to my parents'. Or 'I was worried I might be rejected', or 'I didn’t know what was on the other side of the door; I didn’t want to disrupt another family.' Inside I’m always thinking, 'Yep, that’s my life!'"

Marion and James with their son, Simon

Marion and James with their son, Simon

There’s a lovely story in the first episode of a divorced couple, Marion and James, who team up to find their son… Davina: "It was a really beautiful thing because that’s never happened on the show before. They met when they were just seven and were madly in love as teenagers, but nobody would help them when they had their son. They’re still such good friends and it’s an amazing story, you really empathise with them." Nicky: "When Davina told them their son had been found they cuddled each other – this massive thing in both their lives has still been something that they’ve shared, that’s so important to both of them. I watched a preview of that episode last night with my wife and we went through an entire box of tissues…"

It’s the show that makes the nation cry – do you find it hard not to shed a tear during filming? Davina: "I often hear sniffles from the cameramen when we’re filming reunions, but I’d rather stab myself with a Biro than cry in front of the contributors. How awful would it be if one of them had to ask me if I was OK? I cry when I read the notes beforehand because they can be heartbreaking, and I can’t talk at the end of a day’s filming. I get in the car on my own and if my husband calls me I have to call him back in half an hour or so." Nicky: "I haven’t sobbed, but I’ve had to hold my emotions back. There are some bits they’ve cut out of episode one where I’m reading a mother’s diary and every year she has written in the birthday of the daughter she had to give up, I was so choked up. But the beauty of this programme is that it’s not about us, it’s about the families. I work in news on the radio most of the time and with all the terrible things happening recently Long Lost Family has been a sanctuary of loveliness – it shows everything that’s good about humanity."

What’s been the most difficult reunion to facilitate this year? Davina: "We had one case this series that took the team 18 months. The contributor applied for last series and we couldn’t find their relative in time, but our team are like little terriers, they just won’t give up. We all get very invested in our contributors – I still get texts from people on past shows. Sometimes the team ends up knocking door to door to find their family."

Do people talk to you about the show on the street? Nicky: "A lot of people come up and tell us their stories about the father they never knew, and estranged family members." Davina: "Sometimes they tell us the programme inspired them to find their relatives. Actually I was at the swimming pool the other day, taking a little break in between lengths and somebody came up to me and said, 'Do you think you could help me find my dad?' I said, 'Yes I think we probably could, but you’ve got to apply to the show!'"

Can you see this series still being on air for years to come? Davina: "I can’t see why not. There are always people looking for family members." Nicky: "As long as it goes on, we’ll be there because we love it, it’s the most extraordinary show to be part of. We could do it on our mobility scooters!"

Long Lost Family returns to ITV on Wednesday, July 26

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.