The secret to Gaby Roslin’s boundless positivity? No more drinking…

Gaby Roslin has just met a woman with a distressing problem. It happened on her way to this interview. Roslin was walking along (she walks a minimum of six miles a day, a regime she holds partly responsible for the fact she looks a good decade younger than her 55 years) when she saw the woman sitting alone on a bench. She asked if she was OK and within a couple of moments the woman, who recognised her, had revealed that she had just discovered her husband was having an affair.

‘It happens all the time. Every day, people I’ve never met before tell me their innermost secrets,’ says Roslin. ‘People talk to me because I listen,’ she reckons. ‘When you’re an interviewer, it has to be about the person you’re interviewing, not about you. Plus I’m very nosey. I want to know everything about everybody. And they tell me.’

After three decades in the business, Gaby Roslin is still working constantly, still wearing her trademark grin

It has been like that ever since she first burst to national prominence fronting Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast with Chris Evans in 1992. The public was immediately drawn to the show’s apparent anarchy, driven by the pair’s enthusiasm. ‘Chris and I hit it off from the moment we first worked together,’ she recalls. ‘He was incredible to work with – he’s thinking all the time. We never had a script, we just bounced off each other, making stuff up as we went along.’

Being on The Big Breakfast was the culmination of a childhood dream. As a girl, she used to sit alongside the screen during broadcasts of Blue Peter, taking on the role of an imagined fourth presenter, getting her father (former BBC newsreader Clive Roslin) to pretend to film her. ‘I can still remember that moment when I heard in my earpiece “Ten seconds to live” the first time. It was everything I hoped it would be. I’ve loved every moment since.’

Warm, generous and unfailingly upbeat (‘I don’t have a secret, I just smile’), Roslin achieved a rare trick in broadcasting: everybody liked her – cast, crew and audience alike. And she liked everybody.

‘In my whole career there’s only one person I interviewed who I didn’t like and was rude to me,’ she says, before anticipating the next question. ‘And no, I won’t tell you who it was!’

After three decades in the business, Roslin – who is married to published David Osman and his two daughters, Libbi-Jack, 18, and Amelie, 12 – is still working constantly, still wearing her trademark grin. ‘My kids always say my job comes first and they come second. It’s not true. They’re joint first. No, no, no, I’m kidding.’

Now, together with the impressionists Ronni Ancona and Alistair McGowan, plus a series of celebrity guests, Roslin is about to take Gaby’s Talking Pictures, her BBC Radio 4 quiz show about the movies, on stage. Typically, she is full of enthusiasm about what lies ahead. ‘Oh my God,’ she says. ‘You’ll never guess who has just said they will come on the show as a guest. Only Stephen Fry. I’ve come up with an entire round just for him.’

Warm, generous and unfailingly upbeat (‘I don’t have a secret, I just smile’), Roslin achieved a rare trick in broadcasting: everybody liked her

Warm, generous and unfailingly upbeat (‘I don’t have a secret, I just smile’), Roslin achieved a rare trick in broadcasting: everybody liked her

This is what Roslin does: she has ideas.

‘I never stop. I don’t sleep well, five hours max, mainly because I’m thinking up things. I dream ideas. Not that they are always usable. The next morning I’ll ring my agent and say, What about a show of us standing on our heads on the Moon? and he’ll go, “Yes dear.” ’

Some, however, do work out.

The idea for Gaby’s Talking Pictures was hers, dreamed up over dinner with McGowan in 2018. ‘He quoted a famous line from Thelma And Louise but in a politician’s voice. I thought, imagine a new show revoicing movies. You know, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ann Widdecombe doing the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally. I went home and was up all night writing the idea.’

That was in 2018. The quiz has proven so popular it is now heading out on the road. It is an unusual comedy panel show in its gender balance: its presenter and several cast members are women. ‘It’s thrilling people are noticing it because it has women in it. But there are women in it because they are the right people for the job.’

Listening to Roslin enthuse, it is impossible not to wonder how she keeps it up. Does she have to recharge her positivity batteries overnight? Is there a vitamin we could all take?

‘It drives my husband mad that the moment I get up I sing a musical theatre song,’ she says. ‘One thing that helps, I don’t drink. I gave up two years ago. I used to think I couldn’t be me without a glass in my hand. Then I decided I love life too much to have a hangover. I did dry January, which merged into dry February, then dry March. I haven’t touched a drop since. I have far more confidence since not drinking.’

Though she admits, despite it all, there have been dark moments. She lost her mother to lung cancer in 2007, about the time her father was stricken by a stroke. He survived – she hosts a family lunch with him every weekend – which she reckons was down to a characteristic she inherited from him.

‘Positivity gets people through. It got my dad through his strokes,’ she says. ‘For years I would say to people, “I’m so sorry I’m really happy.” Then when my mum died I decided that I’d never say sorry again for being happy.’

As she told the distressed woman on the bench, for Gaby Roslin, being happy is the most important thing in life. 

‘Gaby’s Talking Pictures Live’ returns to the Leicester Square Theatre on March 22,