Try as you might, it’s impossible to talk to Bobby Brazier without thinking of his mum. The model, EastEnders actor and eldest son of the late reality TV superstar Jade Goody, has that same megawatt energy – and is all cherubic features, soft brown eyes, white teeth and carefree attitude. As he appears on my laptop, he’s literally dancing in his seat. “I’m gooood!” he says, his accent carrying a playful, Essex edge, as he beams in from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House. “I’ve got my peppermint tea with me, got two lovely people with me.” He gestures to the publicists off-screen, then peers cartoonishly into the camera, trying to get a closer look at the cookbooks in my kitchen. “Ottolenghi? Sounds like a pasta!”
Brazier is palpably young, our points of reference very much at odds. He’s so young, in fact, that he’s the youngest person getting dunked in glitter for Strictly Come Dancing this year, and I would love to be a fly on the wall when he does small talk with fellow contestant and proper grown-up Channel 4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy, and septuagenarian Angela Rippon. Brazier tells me he was cast on Strictly after “begging” Chris Clenshaw, executive producer on EastEnders, to throw his name in the ring. “My boss mentioned that he’d been in talks with Strictly and it was time to put someone forward,” he says, “so he was checking how the storylines would work around the time, and I just said to him, ‘Let me do it. Please, please let me do it. You won’t regret it.’ And by his grace, I’m now doing it, and I’m really, really, really, really, really, really, really grateful.”
Brazier has a tendency of saying words like “really” and “very” and “many” seven times instead of one. Certainly, it’s an endearing quality. I get a strong sense, too, from the Strictly press team of a need to protect him, with only one vetted question permitted about his mother. But what I really want to ask about, is how is Brazier, this sheltered 20-year-old (the same age Goody was when she went on Big Brother), feeling about potentially becoming very, very famous.
When we speak, it’s a few weeks before the Strictly launch show. The dance training is yet to begin but Brazier is chomping at the bit. “In a sense, my whole life has been a kind of training towards this moment,” he says. “I’m always dancing around the house and what not.” Is he any good? “People do actually say that I’ve got a little bit of rhythm,” he says, shimmying his shoulders and cackling. “People can tell that I’m having a good time while I’m doing it. When you see someone doing something they enjoy, it’s attractive. Maybe I’m dancing in a mad, crazy way, but just feeling the music.” Like when Ed Balls danced to “Gangnam Style” on the show, in scenes that the world can never unsee? Brazier looks confused. I feel old. He makes a note to watch the footage after our interview.
He doesn’t think he will suffer from stage fright. “I think I’ll be so buzzing when I’m there, that that will be the main feeling, rather than any kind of angst or nerves, because I’ve not really felt any nerves at all.”
Brazier, I’m slowly realising, has no hesitation about stepping into the spotlight. For years, though, he and his younger brother, Freddy, were kept out of the public eye, after Goody died from cervical cancer on Mother’s Day 2009, aged just 27. Brazier was five. After their mum’s death, the boys were raised by their father, the TV presenter Jeff Brazier, who had risen to fame on the reality show Shipwrecked.
Goody’s life may have been short but she made sure she lived it. She became one of the most famous women in the country – and still remains the biggest celebrity ever produced by reality TV – after her 64-day stint on Big Brother in 2002, where she famously admitted that she thought “East Angular” was abroad. The tabloids loved and relied on her just as intensely as they hated her. First, she was painted as vulgar and ignorant, then she was built back up as a lovable, unpretentious everywoman. A class-war hero. Baby Bobby appeared on the front page of OK! magazine, with his smiling parents, at less than a month old. Then the papers tore her down again: hacking her phone, destroying her marriage. Brazier has previously said in interviews that he doesn’t remember “a whole lot” about his mother, and that he mostly knows her through other people’s memories.
Now he smiles a very Jade Goody smile when her name is brought up. “I think my mum Jade” – he says the last three words with a sort of knowing emphasis, an awareness of her place in the public’s hearts – “would, well, similarly to my dad and my family and my friends, they’d all see how much I enjoy dancing. And she would be happy that I’m doing something that I enjoy. If it was my best friend who was to go and do something that he loved, I’d feel the same.”
He has considered the prospect of fame, and is open to it. “If it’s part of my plan, then it’s part of my plan,” he says, “and if it’s not, then it’s not. But regardless, I can be happy and fulfilled and I don’t think that ever lies in what TV show I’m gonna do or what awards I’m gonna win or whatever. I feel that strongly.”
Has he thought about how fame might impact his day-to-day life? “No, I’ve not thought about that at all, to be honest,” he says, seeming genuinely unbothered and almost tired by the question. “I don’t really think about those things. I don’t really think about anything before it’s kind of happened.” But the people in Brazier’s life do. “There are many, many, many, many, many, many people who are thinking things through more than I am, for my own good,” he says. “It’s good that those people are looking out for me and guiding me. As far as I’m concerned, I take things as they come, but I’m also very open to hearing advice and being guided.”
His father, he says, is “not nervous at all”. “He’s really excited for me to go and do something that he knows I love. He likes to try to advise me when it comes to dancing and stuff, but he lets me do my thing, he trusts that I can take whatever happens in my stride and do it with a smile on my face.”
Although his parents spent much of their lives on TV, and Brazier is following suit, he doesn’t watch much of it. “Not a whole lot,” he says, shrugging. “I just do other things, I guess. I go to the spa with my best friend and meditate. I work. I do things that are probably a little bit better for me than watching TV all the time.”
Brazier left education at 16, after attending a private school, which he has previously declined to name. His mother raised the money for his and his brother’s schooling by working tirelessly up until just two weeks before her death, selling interviews and pictures. She insisted the money go to her sons’ education to give them a start in life she didn’t have. Brazier has described feeling like a “black sheep” in that setting, with his background and his Essex accent. He doesn’t want to talk about school too much – it’s the only time during our conversation that he goes quiet – but he does tell me he did drama there. “Initially, I picked history, geography and RE [for my GCSEs], but that was just far too much writing,” he says, laughing, “so I dropped history and I did drama instead, because drama was the kind of lesson where you could just, you know, not do anything. So that was my acting experience at school, not doing anything and putting an ear pod in.”
Then, on his way to school one day, Brazier was spotted by a model scout. For his first job he was flown to Milan to walk in a Dolce & Gabbana show. He has been modelling since, apart from a break during lockdown. “I didn’t really have much to do, so I spent two years with myself and it was beautiful,” he says. “I learned so much.” Like what? “Something that I thought about recently was that material endeavours, in the hope of happiness, are actually the root of our misery.” He laughs, snapping out of his sincerity. “Kind of deep. Anyway! I love to dance!”
After a couple of years of self-discovery, he got a call from EastEnders. He had no acting experience apart from those distracted drama lessons, but had always wanted to do it. “My first ever day on set was my first ever day acting,” he says, adding that he’s learnt a lot since then (he won the Rising Star NTA for his role this month). “I watch through stuff from a few months ago, and it makes me cringe. But when EastEnders first rang, they said, ‘We’ve come up with this character called Freddie and we think he’s very similar to you.’ For my first acting experience, it’s nice not to do something really, really, really, really, really out there and far away from home.” He is a lot like Freddie [Slater, son of Little Mo]. “Freddie is a cheeky charmer, who is inherently good, but at the same time a little bit dim, and, you know, I have my moments, too,” he says. “He likes to love and be loved, and he’s also a bit of an idiot.”
Despite not exactly being glued to the television, he does watch himself back on EastEnders – “I’ve got to learn somehow, don’t I?” – and he says he has been recognised in the street by fans of the soap. “The other day there was an autograph,” he says, looking around in disbelief. “Who asks for autographs? Old school. That was a nice surprise, something different, I guess.” Does he have a fancy signature? “I kind of just write my name really quickly,” he says with a laugh.
Brazier is keen to continue his acting career after Strictly is over. “I want to do my best at EastEnders for as long as I do, and I’ve always thought a series like Sex Education would be really fun, but Strictly is the pinnacle of my career so far – and maybe even ever.”
He leans into the camera with a giant smile.
“So, you gonna vote for me, Ellie?”