A DECADE ago, Derek Moran – one fifth of a popular boyband D-Side- blagged his way into a screen test for a children’s TV presenting job.
“A friend of mine said there’s this TV audition tomorrow for Milkshake,” he recalls, his enthusiastic Irish accent unmistakable to anyone with a child under six.
“And I was like what’s Milkshake, you know? So, I just phoned up. They asked me if I had a show reel and I said it was on VHS – which was a little white lie. And they said, ‘oh alright just come in tomorrow and screen test.’
“So, I went in the next day, which was Friday and they put me on the TV on the Monday. It was scary. But it was great.”In the intervening ten years Milkshake has become the number one children’s show on TV in the morning. And Derek is an intrinsic part of it – presenting and producing now. In fact, Milkshake! Live which is at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon tomorrow (Saturday) is totally Derek’s baby. He created it, performs in it – and is show director.
But this isn’t how he thought things would pan out!
“I thought when I signed my first contract I was just doing a show for them. And then I thought to myself, ‘oh this is good, it’s a six-month contract, this will be easy.’ I thought this is going to be the perfect bridge to other things. But then I didn’t want to leave. I was hooked.”
Derek, 32, toured the world with D-Side, while still a teenager, and the Irish group scored a clutch of top 10 hits between 2001 and 2006.
But he’s never been as much of a hit as he is now… albeit with the under-fives.
“It’s great. But it is weird,” he confesses. “I have kids come up to me and they start talking to me and the parents don’t have a clue who I am, and they’re like, ‘stop talking to that man!’
“But then they’ll hear my voice and they’re like, ‘Oh its Derek I’m so sorry.’
“It happens regular. The worst is when you’re on a packed tube or something like that and one of the mums go, ‘oh Derek…’
“I suppose we’re in their living room every single morning, so I think they feel like they know you and just go into a full on conversation with you.
“It’s a lot easier to get around and not get followed though!”
When you get Derek started on Milkshake! Live, his enthusiasm for the show is almost tangible – and pretty infectious. “I love this show,” he says. “We worked on this show for two years to get it right.
“It’s a trip through eight different fairy tales – they’re coming on an adventure with us. I was the creative director – so it was all my concept. Which is amazing.”
But how does he find touring, given that this is the fifth Milkshake tour he’s done – and he lived the popstar lifestyle before that travelling the world and playing gigs like Top of the Pops?
“I love being on tour,” he giggles. “I want to do more dates. I’ve kind of been on tour since I was 16 years old, so I love the whole touring family. There’s like 13 or 14 of us on the road and it’s honestly just like one big happy circus family, you know?
“And I think it makes me a much better presenter. When you’re in a studio, with just cameras there, you can easily forget who your audience is.”
It must be tiring though, I ask?
“Being on tour is exhausting,” he nods. “But as soon as you get the mic and you’ve got your in-ears on and you hear the music and you hear the crowd something kicks in. I don’t know where you get the energy from because backstage you’re like, ‘Oh God I could really do with a coffee.’ But then adrenaline kicks in.”
And does he still get a buzz from it?
“Oh totally. For me it’s when Shimmer and Shine appear. I swear to you, every day I’m on stage I take my in-ears out to hear the sound, it’s like a three-year-olds’ rock concert. That’s a real moment for me when you think, ‘ahhh they love it!’ It’s so great.”
And while he has a better idea of actually where he is in the world now when he is performing than he did while jetting all over the place with D-Side, don’t expect him to be helloing Basildon tomorrow.
“I never say the city name. I’m terrible. I always like the other presenter to say it. As soon as we come out I always say, ‘Hi everyone, welcome to Milkshake! Live’ And then I leave it to them to say where we are.
“That’s just the way the script was written… and I think maybe I had something to do with that if I’m honest. Because I don’t want that pressure. It’s hard! Most of the time of course you do know where you are though.”
When he first started on Milkshake, were the early mornings a struggle for the 22-year-old used to “wonderfully wild” fun with his bandmates?
“Oh, it was horrendous when I started,” he laughs. “Now I find it easy. I find it so, so easy. I used to do that whole thing of going to bed really early, and I’d just lie there awake. Now I just go to bed the same time I always did. When I first started I get styes in my eye, I’d get up at four o’clock in the morning because I was thinking I’ve got to be on time and I was nervous as well I guess.
“I’m an expert at it now. I think the girls get up at around 4am, but I get up at about 5.15am. Girls are allowed an hour in hair and make-up, whereas us guys are like 10 minutes. So, it’s brilliant.”
And, now he’s here in Basildon, why does he think mummies and daddies should bring their little ones to the Towngate tomorrow?
“This is an amazing way to introduce your children to theatre,” he says with genuine enthusiasm.
“It’s a really interactive show for them. When you see your kids having so much fun watching it you’ll be delighted you brought them.
“All the parents say, it’s just so nice to see them up dancing. I think it’s a really nice thing to do this summer for your children.”
Milkshake! Live is on at 11am and 2pm tomorrow at the Towngate, St Martin’s Square, Basildon. Tickets from £13.50. To book, call the box office on 01268 465465.
This feature was first published in the Echo newspaper on Friday, August 18, 2017: www.echo-news.co.uk