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Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby reflect on lockdown and working through the pandemic

As the country edges nearer to lockdown lifting, Phillip and Holly took a moment to reflect on the most challenging year in This Morning's 33-year history, and discuss how it has changed them.

How do you think this year has changed you? 

Phillip: “It’s made me appreciate work and friendship. It’s also made me appreciate the small things in life that when we can get them all back, I don’t think I’ll ever take them for granted again - the fact that I could actually get in my car and drive to see my mum, go and see mates or have mates round. Those simple, simple things. I’m not even fussed about vast international holidays and things like that, I just want to sit in my garden with some mates.”

Holly: “I agree. I think it’s those small things, those small liberties that you take for granted that you never thought that anybody would take away from you ever. You couldn’t even see that as a possibility. ‘How has that happened?’ which was exactly how we felt as it was happening. You know, that kind of panic and fear and, ‘God, what is this?’ 

“I’ve learnt so much and I hope a lot of the things that I’ve learnt will stay with me. It’s funny, because I can see it with the kids as well, I think all generations are going through it.”

What supported you most during this past year?

Holly: “The viewers. I think knowing what you were doing was being well received made all the difference, otherwise why else would you do it? We’ve been told by viewers we were like the nation’s comfort blanket, which is just amazing.”

Phillip: “And the viewers were our comfort blanket too! It’s the core things. I mean we’re lucky because of the job that we do with that extended family, so you have support from viewers and then you shrink down into what everybody had at that time hopefully, you have either your friends or your family, and that was what we all suddenly needed the most. You needed someone to be there if you were struggling or they were struggling and you were there. It’s the simple things in life, the fundamental support of friends and family. And then we were lucky to have the extended work colleagues that we could see, and beyond that, this enormous team or family of people who were going through it with us as well.”

What has made you laugh?

Holly: “Milking a horse! That’s probably up there with making me laugh and making me feel sick in equal measure.”

Phillip: “On one particular moment, there was someone that we were talking to over a Skype or a Zoom call - and it was quite a prominent person - and their phone was sitting by the side of the monitor, you couldn’t see it, and at a very unfortunate moment the phone vibrated and the person had also just shifted sideways, and it sounded like the most extraordinary fart you've ever heard in your life on the telly! They couldn’t cut back to either of us. Thankfully, that person was giving a long answer. It meant that mics were out - cut the mics - we were helpless with our hands on the desk screaming with laughter. This was in the darkest of times and we had to get ourselves together before they finished their answer.”

What else have you been grateful for on the show this year?

Phillip: “We were so lucky to have had a bar and a Guinness on the show!”

Holly: “So lucky and also, practically being in a restaurant every day - we get food cooked and plonked in front of us.”

Phillip: “When a Spin to Win winner says, ‘Oh my God, you’ve been amazing. I’ve entered since the start’, that kind of thing. You’ve got to be quite careful because I think we’re all on the edge, you could cry at the drop of a hat. It’s so hard sometimes and you think, ‘You have to centre yourself’. What we don’t have now is the luxury of the live view behind, because what I used to do is get up, look outside, watch the world go by and think, ‘Calm down.’ We are all on the brink of tears all the time, so it doesn’t take much to push.”

What’s the one change you’ve made in lockdown that you’re determined to keep?

Holly: “I think organising my time, I think I’ve got better at that. There’s no reason why you have to go across town for a meeting. You can do those things on Zoom within your house and then you’re there when the kids get back from school. That type of thing, that real home time. The kids have really enjoyed me being back in the afternoons a lot more and most afternoons I am, because This Morning is in the morning, but quite often I’ll have bits and bobs to do. So for me, just having that time at home, I don’t want to give too much of that back now.”

Phillip: “I’ve got very protective of local produce and local shops. So for me, whereas there’s no question that I would have probably been in big supermarket shops, I now love getting on my bike and going to the butchers and going to the greengrocers and going to the fishmongers. And you suddenly look at all these people, we’ve had a lot of them on the show, whose livelihood is mussels but they’re just throwing them back into the sea - they can’t sell them, people aren’t buying them. And so for me, what I’ll take from this is a little bit more artisan, less of the big world, more of the small world. More locally produced, smaller industries if you can - small butter makers, small cheese makers. Also, the whole Buy British thing. We’ve got to shop local because we’re in a slightly different economic environment and so right, let's hunker down because all of our local shops and services have all suffered enormously and so I will certainly continue to cycle to the butchers.”

You both experienced lockdown birthdays, how was that? Are you planning to celebrate again once lockdown is lifted and if so, how?

Phillip: “I hate them anyway, so it doesn’t make any difference where they are - lockdown or otherwise. The quieter the better, as far as I’m concerned!”

Holly: “I had the best birthday ever! I had the best time. I don’t actually think it could’ve been any better. I got spoiled rotten. I had such a fuss made over me. I think because everybody feels sorry for you for having a birthday in lockdown, which we’ve all done now.  It was lovely. We’re lucky we’re able to see faces pop up on screen, like having my friends pop up and all that stuff, so I felt very lucky. I did have a party planned and then obviously cancelled it quite early doors because I was like, ‘That’s just not going to happen’ and then when I cancelled it in my head, I thought, ‘Oh it’s fine, because I’ll just do it later’ but actually it was so perfect my birthday, I don’t feel any need to do it anymore. I couldn’t have wished for more.”

What are some of the positives you'll always treasure about this experience?

Phillip: “The ability to work with friends. Telly is quite a transient thing, we're not frontline workers, we’re not the NHS, we’re not saving lives, we’re not doing any of those sort of things, but to be able to do this show makes you think, ‘Do you know what? I think we might actually be doing a bit of good here.’ And that was important.”

Holly: “There’s nothing more important than that, that’s exactly why we came in every day.”

How has the pandemic changed your friendship, has it made it stronger in any way? 

Holly: “Definitely. I think the thing about friendship is that as the years go on they deepen and if you’re the bestest of friends there’s always another layer added and this has definitely cemented a layer on. And it will continue to grow, but I think this is definitely a big old foundation of a layer that has gone in.”

Phillip: “God, we’ve always been mates and always been close mates and always seen each other socially, and then suddenly for the best part of a year we’re getting ready for a two and a half hour show in the morning on our own, doing our own make up. The first time I did my own make up - it was all left out for me - I got it all wrong and went on air looking like a mahogany wardrobe! You get things wrong, but we just sat and talked every morning. We talked about everything, what was going on in the world, what was happening in our heads, how we felt. There was a lot to talk about.”

Holly: “Phil’s really the only one who has gone through a mirrored image experience that I’ve gone through, so he’s the only one who when we look back I’ll be able to go, ‘God, do you remember that?’ That bonds you.”

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