On Valentine’s Day, CBeebies sent mums and dads everywhere into a tizzy when Hollywood hunk, Tom Hardy, read the bedtime story at 6.50pm – his second bedtime story in recent months.
Tom follows in the footsteps of James McAvoy, David Hasselhoff and even astronaut Tim Peake, who read viewers a story from space.
Now CBeebies Bedtime Stories producer, Claire Taylor, has spilled all of the behind-the-scenes secrets from the popular segment, which has been airing since 2007, revealing her celeb wishlist, who chooses the stories that the stars read, and everything inbetween.
Here are the 6 most fascinating things that we learned:
1. They Like To Keep Things Topical
Speaking about filling the seven-minute slot, Claire explained: “We currently have a library of 589 recorded stories going back to 2007. So, we are able to schedule a mix of repeated and new stories depending on topical themes.
“We always aim to support new CBeebies shows, so a story about pirates might be scheduled to support Swashbuckle; stories read by Brian Cox and Tim Peake would be scheduled to support Stargazing and of course, we think about the special occasions too.”
2. Celebs Can Choose Which Books They Read
Claire then explained that she categorises the books by theme so that if a musician, Olympian or a dog-lover (hiya, Tom Hardy) is coming in then they know where to look for a book, although the production team always ask the celebs if there are any family favourites that they would prefer to read.
She added: “If they have not been read previously and rights are clearable, we would always strive to make this possible, as personal choices tend to be read from the heart.
“Often, however, they leave the choices up to us and that’s when research into the reader is really important. For instance, we knew that Tom Hardy was a dog lover.
“So, when choosing his books, we kept this in mind and three of the five stories he read were dog-themed books. To our delight, Tom brought his dog Woody along for the filming.
“The stories are chosen with the reader in mind, and to spark a conversation about who that reader is and what they’re famous for. For instance, we recently recorded Jessica Ennis-Hill reading a story called The Frog Olympics whilst wearing her gold medal. How better to inspire future Olympians?”
3. The Stars Are In Awe Of The CBeebies House
Each celeb reads five stories on camera over three to four hours, often travelling to the CBeebies House studio in Salford where they admit to being pretty starstruck at the sight of the famous studio.
Claire revealed: “The CBeebies House is such a recognisable place in many of their own family homes that often they’re thrilled to be there. One reader recently described it as their ‘Glastonbury moment’.”
4. Even Huge Stars Get Nervous
And speaking about working with the stars, she continued: “We have lots of ‘one-take wonders’ but it’s amazing how nervous even the biggest of stars are at first. They are totally out of their comfort zone so we tell them to imagine they’re reading to one child, perhaps their own.
“We want the experience to be as intimate as possible for the viewer.
“You have to be able to adapt to the variety of personalities we work with. You learn to judge if you can ask for another take, suggest they go that bit further with their performance or encourage readers to put on voices.
“I remember pinching myself asking David Hasselhoff to make a ‘brum brum’ noise when playing with a toy tractor, asking Tom Hardy if he would mind cuddling up to a fluffy toy dog and getting Jessica Ennis Hill to say: ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ It can be very surreal.”
5. The Celebs Approach CBeebies, Not The Other Way Round
And, rather unsurprisingly, many celebs are approaching CBeebies to read the story, even asking to come back after filming their first five, Claire shared: “The show is a respected, safe and much-loved brand and we find we don’t have to negotiate very hard at all. Lately, I’d say that more agents are coming to us than us having to go to them.
“Often celebrity parents really want to read. I think they feel it’s their chance to give something back to their children.
“I know that Damian Lewis and Tom Hardy were both very keen to feature in something that was safe for their children to watch. It tends to be more about availability than anything.”
Unfortunately, the BBC only have enough budget to record 10 readers a year, with all of the stars being paid the same fee – although Claire clarified that it’s usual for the celebrities to ask for their fee to be donated to charity instead.
6. There Are Some Exciting Names Coming Up…
Speaking about the channel’s celeb wish list, Claire concluded with: “A sample of our current wish list would include the likes of Idris Elba, Eddie Redmayne, Thandie Newton, Thierry Henry and Helena Bonham Carter.
“We have a couple of very surprising readers on the cards – from rock stars to more Hollywood celebs, so watch this space.”
Needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited to find out who the upcoming celebs are.