‘No one in showbiz is as kind as me’
He quit TOWIE for superstardom and swears it hasn’t gone to his head. But there is one downside for Mark Wright – finding Miss Right
Photography by Hamish Brown
One suspects that if Mark Wright were a piece of chocolate (probably a Ferrero Rocher – smooth, showy and expensively packaged), he’d have a grand old time eating himself.
“I just knew,” he says of his post-The Only Way Is Essex success, “that I only had to be given the chance and I’d prove myself. And I’m doing that. As we speak.”
It’s certainly true that TOWIE’s Mr Lover Lover has surprised his critics by carving out a promising TV career all on his lonesome.
He quit the reality show last year after three series for a stint in the I’m A Celebrity! jungle. Since then, the 25 year old has co-hosted Take Me Out spin-off The Gossip and been named as Melanie Sykes’ sidekick on new ITV1 prime-time couples game show My Man Can, which launches this winter. Plus next month sees him kick off his own reality programme over on ITV2.
“My agent said to me that never in 25 years has he seen someone in the space of 18 months leave a reality show and bag their own ITV1 prime-time-presenting job,” he says.
“I know there are a lot of presenters out there who are still on ITV2 waiting for their big break to prime time. And I’ve gone and got it straight away. But I’ve worked hard and I’m going to grab it with both hands and do it to the best of my ability.”
It all sounds terribly exciting. But according to Mark, life at the top is tough, especially when it comes to love. His fame means he’s struggling to meet his Mrs Wright, having split with fiancée Lauren Goodger, 25, last August and then walking away from TOWIE for good.
Girls, girls, girls
Telling the girls who genuinely like him apart from the ones who want a slice of his fortune is proving quite tricky.
“Since I’ve been famous people say: ‘Ahh, you must be s******g so many girls.’ But I don’t s**g about,” says Mark. “If I did, the kiss-and-tells would be all over the papers because girls can earn money from that sort of thing.
“Wanting to sleep with different girls stopped before I was in the public eye. Especially now. It’s nerve-wracking meeting new girls because you’re not sure what they’re there for.
“Back in the day, I’d go into a club and if a girl was giving me a few smiles, I’d go and chat her up.
“Now quite a lot of girls look at me, and you can’t tell which are the genuine ones. It’s hard to suss it. I can see why celebrities go out with other celebrities because they’re on the same wavelength.”
So he’s single? Bearing in mind that in the past Mark’s definition of “single” has seemingly involved sleeping with multiple girls at the same time.
“I’m totally single. Absolutely. I can’t wait for the day that I’m married with kids and have a family. When I find the right girl I’ll be ready. At the moment I’m enjoying my life.”
When was the last time he had a snog?
“I can’t remember. A month ago, maybe. I can’t even remember who it was.”
The last time he had sex?
Replying “no comment” to questions he dislikes is a curious habit of Mark’s. It’s a get-out clause, but a clumsy one, which makes it sound more like he’s being interrogated by the FBI, rather than chatting to lil’ old Fabulous magazine.
Presumably he’s hoping for a less volatile relationship than the decade-long one he had with Lauren. It must have been exhausting fighting a constant battle.
“It’s a relief to not have to go through all that. I’d like something straightforward and one day I’ll get it. I’m looking forward to that.
“But I don’t want someone who’s going to pussyfoot around me or be stamped all over. I want someone to be firm. And I’m 100 per cent capable of staying faithful.”
Has he noticed a change in Lauren’s behaviour since TOWIE began? Rumours of diva strops have led to speculation that producers are considering axing her from the show.
“I’m not going to comment on that. I don’t think they’ve got the guts to axe her,” he says.
Does he miss her?
Then perhaps sensing that he might be coming across as obstructive, he adds: “No, I don’t. Let’s just say if I missed her, I would be with her.
“We left it on happy terms so it’s good. But look, I’m not allowed to dwell on Lauren…” He doesn’t specify why.
“We’re not in contact and our paths never cross because we don’t really go to the same clubs.”
What sort of girl is he looking for?
A long pause.
“Looks-wise? Do you want me to name celebrities?”
If you want.
“Well, I’m not going to tell you.”
Mark takes a mouthful of the chicken salad he’s brought along in a Tupperware, part of a strict healthy-eating plan ahead of a trip to LA to film his new “dramality” show, Mark Wright’s Hollywood Nights.
In a nutshell, he’s taking a gang of his closest Essex-boy mates out to the States where their escapades will be filmed for your televisual pleasure. A kind of modern-day Calum, Fran And Dangerous Danan if you will (YouTube it).
“Every episode there will always be a major wind-up, so basically I’m punking my friends all the way through,” says Mark. “And I’ll be giving the audience Alfie moments [a reference to the Michael Caine film] by talking to them all the way through.
“So imagine me as Alfie with my own entourage from Essex who I punk while on an LA adventure. I created the show – I’ll be creator in the titles because I invented it.”
The gang is made up of various friends and family who all seem to be on the Wright payroll.
“With me will be my PA Neil, my cousin Georgie, who is also my driver, my best friend Nick, who’s also my minder, and my little cousin Tommy who’s chubby and tags along for the ride and basically just ponces off me.”
While he’s over in the States, Mark will meet with his new LA-based manager to discuss launching a career in Hollywood. Mark attended London’s Sylvia Young Theatre School, which also produced Emma Bunton, Billie Piper and Amy Winehouse, and is keen to break into movies.
“Why not?” he says, deadly serious. “In the space of a year and a half I’ve bagged myself an ITV1 prime-time show – who would’ve thought it? So who’s to say in two years I won’t be in Hollywood? Jason Statham did it, Russell Brand did it.
“I just reach for the stars. My manager also looks after Ryan Seacrest and Piers Morgan. Anything could happen.”
When (and if) it does, Mark won’t go changing. He’s determined to remain the same humble, down-to-earth, unassuming chap he’s always been.
“I’ve seen people change,” he says authoritatively. “I won’t mention any names, but I’ve seen people from TOWIE and in the public eye change.
“With me, I like to think that I’m over-nice to the public. That’s all I ever get feedback-wise anyway. My old agent Neil, who has worked with a lot of celebrities, said to me – and you can ask him this and he’ll quote it for you – he’s never met anyone in this industry who is so kind, polite and has so much time for the public.
“That’s the one thing I love being said about me – I’m polite. It’s the way I’ve been brought up, as a gentleman. That’s the way I’ll always be.”
Does he ever worry his tendency to grandstand though, might be misinterpreted as arrogance? It can be a very fine line.
“I don’t think I come across as arrogant with my success since TOWIE. I make sure I’m always quoting that I’m so grateful and so honoured to be making such great progress.”
It’s true he does, although there’s little hint of humour or self-deprecation at any point during our conversation. Just an unwavering, impenetrable self-belief.
Getting The Gossip
Even when it’s suggested his early appearances presenting ITV2 show The Gossip were nervy and a tad wooden, Mark manages to turn that criticism into a ringing endorsement. It’s quite an astonishing skill.
“After episode one of The Gossip everyone actually said: ‘Oh my God, Mark, you’re so natural, you come across really well’. I was nervous but it looked like I knew what I was doing straight away.
“But now when you watch the last episode it’s like: ‘Wow’. When I first started I was nowhere near as good as I am now. Back then, I thought about things too much. I tried to be a presenter rather than being myself. By episode three I decided to be myself and that’s when it all came better.”
Leaving ITV2’s BAFTA-winning TOWIE was a huge decision for Mark, and most fans would concede the show took
a dip in form following his departure. Up until then, everything had revolved around his chequered love life and bromance with best mate Arg, and losing that key alpha-male character left a big gap. Two series on and with two more scheduled for this year, it’s since rallied, but Mark admits it’s no longer the same show.
“I still watch it and I love it as a fan. I think it’s changed a lot and it’s more like a soap with lots of different storylines going on at once,” he says.
Which surely makes it even more engineered than it’s ever been before…
“If I have to be honest, it does look more engineered. People bought into TOWIE because of the characters and I think we were real. Me and Lauren genuinely loved each other, I had a genuine relationship with Lucy and Sam really was my ex. It was all so real. Now there aren’t that many real relationships on there.”
Like – tee hee! – Gemma and Charlie, for example?
“I’m not going to comment on that.”
Going into the jungle for I’m A Celebrity! immediately after TOWIE turned out to be an inspired move. Viewers saw more than just “Mark the ladies’ man” and he came runner-up to McFly’s Dougie Poynter. Off the back of his bolstered popularity, he landed the Gossip job.
“It was the best thing I could have done career-wise and personally,” he says of his I’m A Celebrity! experience.
“I grew into a man. I put myself up for a lot of situations in TOWIE, which at the time made me look like not a very nice person. However, it made for an entertaining show.
“The storylines were based around me and if I hadn’t have put myself forward then maybe TOWIE wouldn’t have got to where it is now. And maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now because the show wouldn’t have been so good.”
Go figure. His parents Mark Snr and Carol (who still star in the show) worried about the womanising and how he was being portrayed. But Mark himself did not. It was always part of a bigger plan, you see.
“I used to tell my mum and dad not to worry – I was going to do this for a year. Then I was always going to do something like the jungle before going into presenting, so I could show the real me. I’m a nice, loving person rather than what was shown on TOWIE. That wasn’t me.”
As a nightclub promoter, Mark was already comfortably off before TOWIE. He doesn’t want to talk figures waddayaknow: “no comment”) but the TV work, promotional campaigns and, um, nightclub PAs all pay well. Nightclub PAs – isn’t that a bit David Brent for someone who wants to crack America?
“When I started I thought PAs were tacky,” confesses Mark. “But my agent and my publicists said it was fine. They’re easy money earners and no one knows you’re doing them. And I was talking to Vernon Kay and he says he still does them. People just don’t realise.”
Outside the pie and mash shop in east London where we’ve been shooting, two Mark Wright devotees have been waiting patiently in the pouring rain for the chance of a photo with their heart-throb. Ever the pro – with time for his public – he obliges, flashing the girls a gleaming white, toothy smile and sending them into such a state of giddy excitement they’re in danger of combusting. The Midas touch.
“If I sit there and think about it,” he says, “of course I’m a celebrity. But sometimes I find it hard to believe. Especially that I’ve come so far so fast.”
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
David Beckham, James Corden, Eva Mendes and Will Smith.
Your best piece of advice?
Be yourself. Be nice, kind and a gentleman.
Who’s the living person you most admire?
David Beckham. He’s a true gent and a great athlete. My hero.
Fancy dress costume of choice?
The Ultimate Warrior so I can just wear a pair of Speedos.
What superpower do you want?
To fly and get to places quickly. I hate traffic.
What does love feel like?
When it’s good it’s the best feeling in the world. When it’s bad it hurts.
That I’m on a photo shoot in a pie and mash shop but I’m on a diet.