'I've got famous friends... but Jimmy Fallon's in a different league' | Mo Gilligan on taking on the UK version of Fallon's That’s My Jam

'I've got famous friends... but Jimmy Fallon's in a different league'

Mo Gilligan on taking on the UK version of Fallon's That’s My Jam

Mo Gilligan is about to host BBC One’s new music game show, That’s My Jam, based on the US series fronted by Jimmy Fallon as a spin-off from The Tonight Show.  Each week, starting at 9.35pm on Saturday December 17, two new teams of celebrities take on a host of super-challenges such as The Wheel of Impossible Karaoke and Disco Charades.

Here Gilligan talks about hanging out with Fallon, being wowed by Salt N Pepa and getting singled out of a crowd by Beyoncé.

How would you describe That’s My Jam?

The perfect hybrid of musical challenges with game show trivia, all moulded into one show, which is always fun, surprising, and totally energetic.

What does it mean to you to have That’s My Jam launch in a primetime Saturday slot on BBC One?

All the greats of British TV have been in that slot. British culture is weekend television. It’s a big deal. It’s the time when people clock off for the week, this is their weekend and they’re letting you entertain them a little bit.

So having that primetime slot on BBC One is a massive deal and the fact that BBC and [producers] Universal trusted me and wanted me to be on board, I can’t begin to explain how much that means.

But then you’re like OK, now we just need to make the best show possible. Let’s make something really amazing for our audience. We’ve all worked really hard to give them the best possible show we can.

What makes That’s My Jam unique?

It’s such a fun show. I guess the unique point is that people at home can play along too, and you’ll see some of your favourite celebrities do things you’ve never seen before. They’re putting their musical knowledge to the test but also pushing their performance abilities.

The games on That’s My Jam are so simple and yet feel so big. We have really fun games like Slay It Don’t Spray It, which has our celebrity teams try to guess the lyrics of a song - or be sprayed in the face with water. It’s probably the first show I’ve done where everyone’s just having a fun throughout. It’s just non-stop laughing and good vibes.

I think the show is really cool because it’s all about music - and the music is timeless. A new generation will discover the old school and at the same time, the old school discover the new school. That’s the coolest thing – that people can play along at home with friends and family and test their musical knowledge together.

It’s complete escapism at a time when we probably need it the most.

What were your favourite That’s My Jam games?

Probably Wheel of Impossible Karaoke - it really kicks off the show. And I think there are some performances in the series that are absolutely mind-blowing.

The cool thing about this show is that you have actual musicians playing these games and having fun. That allows audiences at home get to see a whole new side to the stars.

Who can people look forward to seeing on the show?

Oh we’ve got some amazing celebrities, man. We’ve got names like Donny Osmond, who’s one of the coolest guys. You’ve got other massive US stars like Jason Derulo, but then you have people from the UK like Alesha Dixon and Becky Hill.

There’s a great range of people - some of my favourites were Chrishell and Mary from Selling Sunset. I discovered Selling Sunset by accident, and I love it, so it was fantastic meeting them as well.

Salt N Pepa, oh my gosh! Salt N Pepa on the show and they were my favourite guests! I’m sorry to anyone else, but I got to meet Salt N Pepa and they were so cool and so funny! The games cross musical genres as well, which makes it feel even more inclusive. I think people are gonna be surprised by Tom Grennan because we do a little musical thing with a keyboard on the floor and he makes up a song - it’s incredible.

The show is based on Jimmy Fallon’s That’s My Jam. How does it feel for the baton to be passed on from him?

It’s a huge honour. This is his project, so it’s amazing - the fact that he’s passed the baton is incredible, but I think the coolest thing is that he was really encouraging and told me to 'do it your own way'.

He said, ‘We have the American version and so we want the UK one to be the UK one. We don’t want you to replicate what we do’. That felt really great to hear, especially from him.

To have someone like Jimmy, who has been in the game for such a long time, say they respect what you do and say 'do it your way man! I wanna see how you do it' is incredible.

The coolest thing is I’ve got one of my own games in the show, which is called Take On Mo. I’m kinda gassed and that’s kinda sick.

Are there any funny moments from filming that stand out?

The funniest moment was Salt N Pepa playing Catch the Mic. I couldn’t stop laughing. Salt N Pepa feel like two of my aunties. But their competitiveness was hilarious and they’re such good sports - I think people are really going to enjoy seeing how competitive they are

What was it like meeting and working with Jimmy? Did you have any pinch-me moments while out in LA?

I think my pinch-me moment was walking out to the audience for the first time. We all worked so long to make this show a possibility with the writing and the incredible production staff - and at that moment, when I got to walk out say 'Hey, That’s My Jam!'... wow.

And yeah, me and Jimmy. He's really cool, we got to film some little fun bits together. He’s a great improviser, and I love improvising. He really gave me his time as well - I think that’s what I really appreciated because he’s a really busy man.

Some of the stories he was telling me, he was like 'I was out for dinner the other night man and Keanu Reeves sent me a drink, and I sent him one back, and it became this funny thing we kept doing...' And I’m like, man is busting jokes with Neo from The Matrix!

And then he says 'Yeah, I’ve got this new song with Dolly Parton', I was like 'Rah, that’s Jolene! That’s so sick!'. But that’s what’s amazing right, that’s his world...  I have a few people who are celebs that I can call friends, but to drop names like Dolly Parton and Keanu Reeves, that’s just different.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

I wanna say I'm three or four years old, and my mum is playing reggae, which she played on a Sunday while she cooked. So she’d be soaking the peas from the night before, and she’s just playing out real revival tunes. Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Sanchez - all that stuff. Then mum would start playing the Motown classics. But we had to do chores  so didn’t really feel all that fun when you’re having to clean skirting boards.

What was the first gig you ever went to?

I’m not sure about my first one, but probably my favourite gig of all time was the Watch The Throne tour with Jay Z and Kanye West. That was just absolutely phenomenal, I was right at the front. I’m talking right at the front to the point where Jay Z was saluting me and my friends.

For me it was one of the best tours I’ve ever seen - the energy, the songs. I feel like I could go on forever but it’s probably up there. One of my favourites that I’ve ever been to.

Another one was going to see Beyonce. Just after she did the Super Bowl, she announced the tour. That show was so sick, and people don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I was wearing a red hoodie that day, and I sat at level one, right bang in the middle, and she was like 'Yo you over there! Everybody put your hands up!'

She pointed at me. I swear to you, she pointed at me. And everyone around us put their hands up and then one girl behind me went 'Oh my god, she’s pointing at me' I’m like 'No no no. That is me. I’m in a bright red hoodie.' So that’s got to be my favourite gig - when Beyonce pointed at me.

What was the first single and album you ever bought?

I think the first single might be MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This and I got that on a cassette with some pocket money. And then the first album might have been Dr Dre’s 2001. My sisters used to listen to a lot of it, but I remember being like, ‘Mum can I buy this one’ and she was like ‘Yeah cool, go on then’ but she didn’t really know the music, so I got away with it.

Who would you consider your musical hero?

My musical hero has gotta be Bob Marley. The man made effortless, timeless music, always stood for a lot and he’s jus one of those musicians that stands the test of time and crosses so many different generations.

Published: 23 Nov 2022

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