INTERVIEW: Julia Zemiro (Cover Story)

Published in The Music (VIC, WA, QLD, NSW) and on, May 2015



“There’s so much shit on TV,” says Home Delivery host Julia Zemiro. Daniel Cribb discovers why this TV show’s third season sets it apart.

“I’m in London right now and the sun is out, so it’s a miracle!” a chirpy Julia Zemiro begins. “I’ve just done another series of RocKwiz, and I’m also on my way to Eurovision, so I’m confused,” she adds.

It’s not surprising with such a hectic schedule, but at least she’s over the jetlag. Flying in ten days earlier, Zemiro has been busy filming episodes for the third season of Home Delivery – a show that follows one celebrity per episode as they take a trip down memory lane, revisiting places in which they grew up. As host, it’s Zemiro’s job to steer the talent down avenues that will open them up to honest and revealing conversations about their upbringing, giving viewers a unique insight into their lives. am in London right now and the sun is out, so it’s a miracle!” a chirpy Julia Zemiro begins. “I’ve just done another series of RocKwiz, and I’m also on my way to Eurovision, so I’m confused,” she adds.

Filming episodes with Alan Davies, Jo Brand, Billy Bragg and Matt Lucas (Little Britain) since landing, season three is shaping up quite nicely. “The thing is you want people who know that they have to spend the whole day in a car with me, driving to different places, and are willing to talk sort of from 9am to 5pm, and be a bit playful. We’ve lucked in on all series, I have to say.”

Unlike your standard interview, it’s spending the day together that really allows Zemiro to get the most out of each of her guests. “If I asked you about a childhood memory, just sitting here on the phone, you can think of one. But if I take you back to that place, you will start to remember things that you had forgotten. If you take them somewhere where they’ll feel something – either good or bad – then they’ll talk about it a bit more. There’s no doubt that by the end of the day you’ve relaxed a little bit more into it and you’ve sort of forgotten that there are three cameras following you around.

“We interviewed Ruth Jones in season two – who was in Gavin & Stacey – in her little house in Porthcawl in Wales, and were doing the house tour with her, and then at one point she kind of got all teary in her room. She realised that was the room when she was eight years old that she went and said goodbye to when they moved out of the house, and how important it was. Again, we would never have got that if we’d been in a studio.”

The circumstances in which the interviews go down sometimes even bring up things that surprise the interviewee. QI’s Alan Davies features in season three, and revisiting his youth was always going to be an intimate experience for him and viewers. As Davies has discussed in the past, his mother passed away of cancer when he was only six years old, and he later found out that his father and doctors knew she was dying, but decided not to tell her. Instead of asking the same questions he’s heard before, a different approach was taken for Home Delivery. “We managed to get his favourite primary school teacher. Mrs. Thorogood is her name – of course her name is Mrs. Thorogood, ‘cause she was thoroughly good. She actually broke a holiday to come and film the episode. As soon as she walked in the room we all could see why he had loved her as a teacher.

“He didn’t know this and we didn’t know this, but she said, ‘Oh, but you know, my father died when I was six, so I really related to Alan’s situation.’ And he was like ‘What?!’ So it was quite extraordinary to kind of get that sort of revelation. She was just a beautiful human.”

While seasons one and two focused on comedians, the third round is a mixed talent pool, with episode one shining a spotlight on Olympic gold medal swimmer Ian Thorpe. “I think a year ago with Parkinson, that was the big reveal, in terms of coming out and all of that,” Zemiro points out, “but it’s a year later and we were interested in seeing how he is a year later after having made that big announcement – which of course no one should ever have to make in such a public way. No person should have to say what their sexuality is. No one ever asks me if I’m straight, you know; that’s just bullshit.

“But he did it on his terms and that’s what was important. He’s looking so good, he’s so relaxed – he really is the most incredible specimen of humanity. He’s in a really good place, and it was great to go back to his home turf to see where he’s from, to see the first pool he ever swam in when he was a kid; it was fantastic.”

It’s not surprising that Home Delivery is a show Zemiro is proud to be a part of. “There’s so much shit on TV that either is competitive or abusive. What I love about our show is that we’re not trying to get anything out of these people or abuse them or trick them; we’re actually trying to find out what it is that makes the person who they are.”

Ultimately, she sees Home Delivery as a show that will hopefully go further than merely being an entertaining insight into a celebrity’s life. By getting a detailed, first-hand account of how and where they grew up, its third season continues the show’s trend of inspiring hope and bringing important subjects – such as mental health – into the forefront of the discussion.

“What interests me is watching how someone continues in life – keeps going in life. I think that’s a great thing to watch. And also, these people, they know what’s expected of them. We’ve asked people to do the show and they’ve said no because they don’t want to talk about their childhood, and that’s absolutely fair enough. But once they’re there on the day they know that we’ll be talking about that and they’re always really generous.

“I think teenagers can watch the show and go, ‘Alright, so year twelve isn’t the end of the world.’ You know, other things can happen. You can find other ways and other pathways to find what you love and do it. And that takes resilience and you’ve got to be tough. And all these episodes, all of them, you see a resilience in the people.”