Loose Women, in association with tombola, is back this week on ITV. In between rehearsals on Saturday morning, anchor Ruth Langsford sat down with us for an exclusive chat about what viewers can expect. She also gave us the lowdown on what happens behind the scenes at our favourite daytime television programme.
We are sure you won’t be surprised to learn that in real life, Ruth is as charming and unflappable as she is on-screen. Although staying calm under pressure comes easily to Ruth, she told us that for the Loose Women presenters, the biggest challenge is remembering to think twice about what they say and share with the nation…
tombola: Loose Women is such a popular programme: what do you think is the secret of its appeal?
Ruth Langsford: Women like to talk! I think four women discussing everything from their families and relationships, to the news and programmes they are watching on television has an appeal. Interestingly, the viewers aren’t all women: men enjoy watching Loose Women too.
Even as a presenter, over the years I have often come onto Loose Women with one opinion – and by the end of the discussion, changed my mind after hearing different perspectives. This doesn’t happen often, because I have some strong opinions, but it isn’t unknown. Likewise, I think our viewers enjoy a good discussion and different views on the same subject. The Loose Women presenters are all very different, and the dynamic changes depending on which women are on the panel on any given day.
tombola: That’s true. So what are you looking forward to most with the new series? There are quite a few changes, aren’t there?
Ruth Langsford: Well, there is going to be a different feel but the essence of the show hasn’t changed. On Loose Women, women discuss the issues of the day and everyday life. For the new series, we have a new set, our studio audience is going to be within touching distance and they are also going to be more closely involved in the show. Viewers never used to see the audience that much – but that is about to change. Our audience members are going to be voting on questions and we will also be asking their opinions. The show is about to become much more interactive and I am looking forward to that. That, and seeing all the girls again.
Interestingly, the viewers aren’t all women: men enjoy watching Loose Women too.
tombola: As Loose Women fans, we were excited to hear about the new additions to the presenting team.
Ruth Langsford: Me too! I am thrilled that Judy Finnigan is coming on the show. I know Judy: she previously said she wasn’t going to do much television anymore. I think it says a lot about Loose Women that Judy wants to come and join us. She is going to be a wonderful addition to our team.
Gloria Hunniford is also going to be great: she is a very intelligent and glamorous woman, but she is also very funny. Sharon Osbourne is another favourite. Sharon has been on the show before – and has an opinion about everything.
As for Penny Lancaster: because she is married to Rod Stewart, people often forget that she is also a successful and talented photographer. The first time I met Penny was when she took pictures of me for a magazine, when I was pregnant with my son. Penny is friendly and charming. She also has the longest legs I have ever seen in my life!
tombola: Ah yes, legs. Is it true that with the new set design, the Loose Women are no longer going to be tucked away behind that big desk?
Ruth Langsford: Yes, the desk is smaller and there will be more of you on view if you sit on the end of the row, as I do. I have just been discussing this with our wardrobe department. I told them: “You cannot put me in anything short!” We will all be sitting on tall stool-type chairs, so I shall have to sit more elegantly. Sometimes I become so engrossed in the conversation on Loose Women, I lean on the desk and forget about holding my stomach in.
I think it says a lot about Loose Women that Judy wants to come and join us. She is going to be a wonderful addition to our team.
tombola: Loose Women, along with your other television commitments, must keep you very busy. And you are also a mum! What is your secret to balancing a successful career with motherhood? Any advice for other working mums?
Ruth Langsford: I juggle the two, just like every other working parent I know. It is no different for me because I am on TV. You simply have to be organised, you have to have good childcare in place and you have to plan your diary. I am not sure what other advice I can hand out. I have one child, but I know working mums who have four, even five. How they get themselves out of the house to school and to work every day, I have no idea!
I enjoy doing both: being a mum and having a job that I absolutely adore. It is a balancing act, but then life is really, isn’t it?
At home, we have an au pair. Our son, Jack, is 12 now. He doesn’t need a nanny, but the fact is that Eamonn [Holmes, Ruth’s husband] is gone at 4:30 in the morning, then I am gone at 6:30. So we have somebody who comes in, who can take him to school and pick him up if we’re not there.
She also has the longest legs I have ever seen in my life!
tombola: Does it get easier, by the way, when the kids get older?
Ruth Langsford: Yes, it does. I have worked since Jack was little. If he had a little moment and complained about it, I would say, “Do you know that PlayStation game you want? Yes, that one. If Mummy didn’t work, you wouldn’t have that. Do you remember the holiday we have just been on? You wouldn’t have that if Mummy didn’t work.” He would say “Fine.” I expect most kids would be the same.
With my work, I am very lucky because a lot of the time, I can be home in time to pick him up from school. We can go swimming. I also take him to school when I can. I think it is good for children to see you working and to know that things don’t just come easily. Our lifestyle hasn’t been handed to us on a plate: we have worked very hard for everything we have. Our son needs to know that.
tombola: What is the best thing about being in Loose Women? What do you enjoy most?
Ruth Langsford: I spend my days with women who are interesting and funny. We chat, find out about one another’s lives, talk about the issues of the day – and get paid for it. It’s a dream job, isn’t it?
I think it is good for children to see you working and to know that things don’t just come easily. Our lifestyle hasn’t been handed to us on a plate: we have worked very hard for everything we have. Our son needs to know that.
tombola: What is the biggest challenge when you are a Loose Woman?
Ruth Langsford: Not revealing more than you want to about your private life. It is easy to forget that your husband is not here to defend himself. Being on Loose Women is like sitting round your kitchen table with your girlfriends, chatting like women do. I think we share a lot more than a lot of men would share with their friends. You have to remind yourself that you are on television and need to be careful about what you say and share with the nation.
We chat, find out about one another’s lives, talk about the issues of the day – and get paid for it. It’s a dream job, isn’t it?
tombola: who would be your dream guest on Loose Women?
Ruth Langsford: Oh, Helen Mirren! She would be the perfect Loose Woman: sassy, opinionated and successful, but also a lot of fun. A strong woman, who doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously. In fact, I think she would be a perfect addition to our panel. Helen: if you are reading this, give me a call!
Helen Mirren! She would be the perfect Loose Woman: sassy, opinionated and successful, but also a lot of fun.
tombola: Behind the scenes, how do you prepare for each Loose Women show? On-screen, it all looks so spontaneous. Is that the case, or is there more research and rehearsing than viewers realise?
Ruth Langsford: It’s a live show, so there would be chaos if we didn’t have a plan. We all arrive in the morning and meet in one of the dressing rooms, normally mine. We drink tea, eat breakfast and discuss what we did the night before: everything from what we watched on TV to conversations or arguments with partners. A number of the discussions on Loose Women come from these morning meetings.
For example, I might say, “I had this argument with Eamonn last night.” Someone will ask, “What did you argue about?” and I might reply, “Putting the orange juice away! I said to him, ‘who do you think is clearing up?’” Then we will all talk about it and we could decide that it would be a good one for the show. What makes us argue? Why do we argue about the little things?
Being on Loose Women is like sitting round your kitchen table with your girlfriends, chatting like women do. I think we share a lot more than a lot of men would share with their friends. You have to remind yourself that you are on television and need to be careful about what you say and share with the nation.
We also take the opportunity to catch up with each other. I might not have seen a couple of the Loose Women for a couple of days, because the panel rotates and we don’t all work together every day.
The subjects on Loose Women come from all different quarters. We look at what people are talking about, around the water cooler at work. The producers will say: “Right, have you seen this story in the papers today? What do you think?” We all give our rough opinions. It would be very dull if we all shared the same view, so the producers are sometimes looking for contrasting opinions or any related personal stories. But we aren’t told what to talk about. Instead, it is a very organic process.
When it comes to the live show, it looks spontaneous because a lot of it is. We don’t know what, exactly, the others are going to say. We can discuss a subject on air and fresh perspectives and opinions will come out. Then off we go, down a new avenue. That’s just what happens in conversation, isn’t it?
I might say, “I had this argument with Eamonn last night.” Someone will ask, “What did you argue about?” and I might reply, “Putting the orange juice away! I said to him, ‘who do you think is clearing up?’” Then we will all talk about it and we could decide that it would be a good one for the show. What makes us argue? Why do we argue about the little things?
tombola: What happens when the cameras stop rolling? Do you go for lunch or does the preparation for the next day’s programme begin then?
Ruth Langsford: We have a studio audience, so after the show we will normally spend five minutes saying thank you to everybody. Some of the people in the audience want their pictures taken with you. Others just want to chat. It is all very relaxed. Then we go to a debrief meeting, to talk about what worked and what didn’t. Occasionally we will have lunch, which is very nice, but it doesn’t happen very often because we’re all so busy. A lot of us are working mums or have other jobs, so most people dash off.
tombola: Viewers love to see what you wear on Loose Women – as do we! What do you like to wear on Loose Women?
Ruth Langsford: It is too difficult to pick a favourite outfit, because I have had so many. We do like to have a very relaxed feel to Loose Women, but I don’t believe we should all be wearing jeans and jumpers as we might at home. I think people still like to see that you’ve made an effort on TV. I like dresses because I find them more comfortable than skirts and blouses, which can untuck easily.
We can discuss a subject on air and fresh perspectives and opinions will come out. Then off we go, down a new avenue. That’s just what happens in conversation, isn’t it?
tombola: As one of the programme’s anchors, you are tasked with keeping the peace when opinions clash. What is your number one tip for resolving differences of opinion?
Ruth Langsford: Every woman on this panel has an opinion about everything. That’s why we’re here. A good debate is always fascinating. My job is to make sure that everybody gets their say, rather than keep the peace. I look for my cue to say “What do you think?” or “Let me ask Sharon Osbourne what she thinks.” As an anchor, I see myself as more of a ringmaster than a mediator.
tombola: Are you superstitious? Do you have a lucky number, or a lucky charm?
Ruth Langsford: Not in the slightest! I don’t have a favourite number. I don’t mind Friday the 13th. I’d happily walk under a ladder. I am not superstitious in any shape or form.
As an anchor, I see myself as more of a ringmaster than a mediator.
tombola: Do you believe we make our own luck?
Ruth Langsford: Yes, I do. I believe that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
tombola: Our final question! Tell us a secret, or something we don’t know, about one of your fellow Loose Women.
Ruth Langsford: Well… Did you know that Jane Moore wears Converse sneakers under the desk? She might not be able to anymore: the new desk is glass, so she may decide to put her high heels on.
tombola: Or perhaps she will still stick with her sneakers! Time will tell – and we will be tuning in to find out. Thank you so much for your time, Ruth.
Ruth Langsford: A pleasure.
The new series of Loose Women, in association with tombola, is on ITV every weekday at 12.30pm.
Image credit: Ken McKay/ITV/REX (4102112f)