Byline: Jenny Johnston
Who would have thought that Norwegian could be such a seductive language? It turns out Dermot O'Leary is only saying, 'Hello, my name is Dermot' when he gives me a demonstration of his latest language skills, but still, the swoon factor is considerable.
'I've been learning for a month. It's like being back at school,' he admits proudly, throwing in another impressive piece of poetry ('One glass of white wine, please'). Alas, his reasons for all this study are not ones his female fans will want to hear. 'My girlfriend, Dee, is from Norway and, since we've been together for eight years, I thought it was time to learn. Really, I'm doing it so that when we have kids, she can't have a secret language with them where she's smiling at me while saying "Daddy is so stupid" to them.'
In these difficult times, another language always looks good on the CV, too. He jokes about where this one might lead. 'Yep, I'd be up for doing the Norwegian X Factor. In fact, why stop at Norway? With a few more language lessons, I could do the French one, the Spanish, the Brazilian.'
Are you after world domination, Dermot? 'Absolutely.'
His tongue may be firmly in his cheek, but the possibility of packing a suitcase to go to work on The X Factor is a very real one. The presenting job that Dermot really wants is on the American version of the show, due to launch -- with great hoopla -- later this year. The big question among X Factor fans is whether Dermot will be going too. He has made no secret of the fact that he'd love the job and today he tells me that he first started talking to Simon Cowell about it, albeit vaguely, two years ago. 'Have I got it? I still don't know. I've thrown my hat in the ring. I've been over, had a few meetings. I've sat down with Simon. I've made a pitch, but to be honest there's not a lot more I can do. It's all a bit odd. I didn't do any screen tests, which would be normal, because I'm already doing the job here, and they can see exactly what they'd be getting. Now I just have to wait.'
You'd think it would be nerve-racking to wait for the results of a job interview that the whole world knows you are up for and, given how lovely Dermot is, positively cruel to keep him dangling. But with his typically relaxed attitude, he says, 'The up side is it's been so long now that I've had time to prepare myself for what comes. But if I don't get it, I know I have to not take it personally because it will have been about them wanting an American in the role.'
It's more complicated than that, though. Cowell has let it be known that, while he would like to take several of the British X Factor stars with him to the US, he says there is only room for him and one other. Unfortunately, Cheryl Cole's name has been mooted, and she is said to be super-keen to be given the chance to launch herself in America. While they may not do the same job, this sounds like a straight fight between him and Cheryl. And shouldn't the smart telly money always be on the pretty girl with the swishy hair in these circumstances (even if the yanks won't have a hope of understanding her accent)? 'Who knows what factors will come into play? I don't know what they are looking for,' Dermot says, diplomatically. If he were Cowell, though, which one of them would he take? 'I'd have us both. But I get the fact that they might want an American doing the presenting. I'd be miffed if an American came over here and took a presenting job I thought I could do.'
So there won't be fisticuffs if Cheryl gets the equivalent of the chocolate bar with the golden wrapper? 'Oh no,' he grins. 'Well, not with Cheryl.'
Ambitious might not be a word immediately associated with Dermot O'Leary. Perhaps it's the Irish influence -- although he was born and brought up in Colchester, Essex, his parents are from Wexford -- but he has always seemed more laid-back than most telly types. …