The Chase star Shaun 'The Dark Destroyer' Wallace ready to be quizzed at Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature
The chase was on and my editor set the clock ticking on my task of quizzing Shaun 'The Dark Destroyer' Wallace before his appearance at Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature.
I was primed and ready for the blunt quips from the moodiest of experts on the popular ITV teatime quiz show The Chase – "let's do it, Chris".
It was, for me, "just another day at the office", but Shaun was being elusive. Maybe he was still recovering from The Chase losing out to serial winners Ant and Dec's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here at the National Television Awards.
My time was running out and it looked like I, in common with too many contestants on the show, had fallen foul of the Dark Destroyer. Then, with seconds to go (well, three days), Shaun took some time out from filming the latest series of the show to chat and reveal how he came about to be "the world's first Chaser".
After winning the BBC TV quiz Mastermind, Shaun then reached the final of Are You An Egghead? and afterwards he was asked if he wanted to take part in a new quiz show.
He was to be the first Chaser and from the start he knew it would be a success. "I won the first show by two seconds and I knew it was exciting," he said. "Added to that we had a funny host in Bradley [Walsh] and that was a recipe for success."
As a trained barrister, he was originally going to be billed as the Legal Eagle, but Walsh came up with the nickname 'Dark Destroyer'.
The 59-year-old son of Jamaican parents bridled at the suggestion he is just playing a role as the grumpiest Chaser, who appears to enjoy taking down the contestants.
"I often say to Brad 'Just get on with it', but I'm the only Chaser who goes and sees the contestants backstage afterwards," he said. "I'm just an ordinary guy – it's the fans that made me famous."
He is great mates with Walsh. "He's a Watford lad and I'm a Wembley lad – we're just lads, we don't let fame change us."
He says his experience as a barrister stands him in good stead on the show. "It taught me to be calm under pressure, to think on my feet."
A big football fan, he began supporting Chelsea while watching the 1967 FA Cup Final with his cousin, who is a Spurs fan. "I decided to support the team in dark shirts – as it was in black and white – just to annoy him," said Shaun.
That was echoed when he won Mastermind and his specialist subject was FA Cup finals. He doesn't agree with the view that the FA Cup has lost its sparkle, still believing in the magic of the competition.
"It's the oldest football competition in the world," he said and was dismissive of the Champions League. "I'm not interested in it – it's just all about money and prestige." He added the competition was changed to a league format because the likes of Barcelona were losing out to clubs like Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.
Shaun, who is single despite Wikipedia saying he is married, has never visited Bishop's Stortford, but remembered that former Arsenal star John Radford played for the town's club and later managed them.
He is looking forward to the festival, where he will talk about his autobiography Chasing The Dream, but is also relishing the chance to chat with the audience.
Undoubtedly, The Chase will feature heavily, but Shaun has no problem with that. In his 14th season with the show he says: "Quizzing is the new cool!"
* Shaun Wallace will deliver a talk in the Ferguson Lecture Theatre at the Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature this Saturday (Feb 8) from 7.30pm to 9pm. Suitable for ages 14+. Tickets cost £21 from www.bishopsstortfordcollege.org/. Sponsored by HDPrint.