Exclusive Interview: Alex Jones

Exclusive Interview: Alex Jones


Alex Jones on motherhood, mortifying mistakes and the makings of her TV career.

Photography by Luc Coiffait

Styling by Sarah-Rose Harrison

Hair and make up by Elizabeth Beckett

Shot on location at Royal Lancaster London

It’s hard to believe that Alex Jones, the face of The One Show, was ever anything but the bubbly, easy-going personality viewers have come to love over the past 13 years, but she reveals that she was a “painfully shy and awkward kid”. That didn’t stop her from watching kids’ TV and dreaming of working on the shows she loved. She never voiced those ambitions, though. “I never really said out loud that I wanted to be a broadcaster, because it would have sounded mad,” she tells me, when we sit down to chat.

Enthused by a schoolteacher who succeeded in drawing her out of her shell, she planned to study drama at university. “You know, they always say everybody’s got that one teacher, and that was true for me. Her name is Delyth Nicholas, and she really pulled me out of my shell; gave me loads of confidence to be able to do public speaking and all the things that have led me to where I am now. Otherwise, there’d have just been no way.”

Not everybody was happy with the plan. “Mum and Dad, they really didn’t want me to do a drama degree,” Alex admits, “they said, surely there must be something else… what about law? What about history? What about English?” Undeterred, she got a place to study drama at Aberystwyth. After graduating in 1998 she lent her hand to a series of temping jobs while working out what to do next. “I worked in call centres, worked in the teaching sector, then spent the summers looking after kids in camps. And then I felt, right, I need to crack on here, and I applied to do a masters in journalism at Cardiff.”

“I’m not BORED with it; I never dread going in. If I’m having a BAD day at home, I ALWAYS know when I get there we’ll have a LAUGH and I’ll be better. I LOVE it” ALEX JONES

At the same time, she applied for a post with a local independent television company. “I had no idea really what being a researcher meant. But you know, I thought, it’s in television, that’s great!’ Alex laughs. “The interview happened while the owner of the company was in the bath, I sat on the landing and we chatted through the door, so it was all bonkers from the word go!”

In what she describes as a “sliding doors moment”, she discovered that she had been offered the researcher post at the same time as being told that she had not only been given a place on the course but had also been awarded a scholarship. “I didn’t dare tell my parents, because I knew they would say to definitely do the course. I took a gamble, turned the course down, and went and started off as a runner with the television company.” It was certainly not the glamorous start she was expecting. “For the first, probably three months, I didn’t even have a desk in the office, and I would just sort of sit in the corner reading Smash Hits, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. They’d occasionally send me over to tidy their house up before the cleaner came, or to pick one of the four kids up from school. That’s the kind of jobs I was doing. I was like, dammit, this is not really telly,” she laughs.

Alex Jones Interview Alex wears: dress by Mara Hoffman; rings by Orelia and Ania Haie; and earrings, vintage

Eventually, an opportunity arose within the company to audition for a presenting job, and it was immediately evident that Alex had found her niche. “Before I knew it, I was in Magaluf for a month, hosting a dating game show on a beach. That’s how it all started. And then, from there I went into kids’ television and did that for 10 years. And then I did, oh God, all sorts… holiday shows, extreme sports programmes, a poker programme at one point – I knew nothing about it, I still don’t!”

It was during this period that somebody at the BBC spotted some of Alex’s work online and decided that she might just be what they were looking for. “They called me out of the blue and said, ‘Would you like to come and audition for The One Show?’ And I was like, ‘Wow, yeah, that’d be lovely!’  I assumed they wanted me as a sort of Cardiff reporter.  I said, ‘I’m a bit busy, but yeah, definitely…’ I thought, at least it’s a gateway to national TV!”

Six weeks of auditions and talks followed; when the call finally came offering her the job, she didn’t even answer the phone. “I was filming, and my phone was in my bag, and the then editor, a lovely man called Sandy Smith, left a message, and he said, ‘Jones, do you want this job or not?  Will you answer the phone!’”


The answer was, of course, that, yes, she most certainly did want the job. She was sworn to secrecy until contracts had been signed and official announcements made, but the team agreed she could tell her parents. “I rang my mam at work; she worked as a bank manager for Barclays. And I called her, and I said, ‘You’re never going to believe it, I got the job!’ And she shouted across the banking hall, ‘She got the job!’ So, it wasn’t a particular secret in Wales. Everybody knew!” Alex laughs, remembering the moment she shared the news.

After that, things happened very quickly, she was whisked off to London for a dramatic new haircut courtesy of Richard Ward in Sloane Square and was treated to a new “more grown up” work wardrobe ahead of the inevitable promotional interviews and photoshoots. And then, two weeks later, she moved to London to start work. Recalling her feelings about the move, she tells me: “I was just really excited about it. I thought, I’ll be there for six months, and then they’ll send me back… but, you know, it’ll be lovely. It’ll be a laugh.” She was right about it being fun but could not have been more wrong about the timeline: “Jason Manford was hosting with me, and neither of us knew anybody in London. So, we were both living in a hotel on Sloane Square for the first six weeks, which was bizarre; it was like Pretty Woman. Because we didn’t know anybody, we would go to the cinema every night after the show. I look back really fondly on those early weeks. It was good fun. That was, I guess, coming up to 13 years ago.”

Is she surprised to still be hosting the show after so long?  “I can’t even believe it’s 13 years… it really doesn’t feel like I’ve been there that long. I’m not bored with it; I never dread going in. If I’m having a bad day at home, I always know when I get there, we’ll have a laugh and I’ll be better. I love it,” she exclaims. “I still find it really interesting. And of course, the guests every night, they change the dynamics, it’s never the same show. The years fly by, and so much of my life has happened whilst I’ve been there, you know, getting married, having three children, buying a house, moving house, renovating a house… The most significant part of my life, I guess, I’ve spent on that sofa.” Alex may have been doing the job for a long time, but mistakes still happen, she assures me. “I’ve called people by the wrong name so many times,” she admits. “I think the most notable was probably when I called Lady Gaga, ‘Lady Garden’. That was quite a bad moment,” she laughs. “And the political correspondent Nick Robinson, I just got it wrong, and I said, ‘Rick Nobinson’. Nick Grimshaw and I were presenting together, and we just fell apart. We could not… we could not get anything back on track. We were just gone. I think that’s the beauty of a live show, though. You know, it shouldn’t be perfect every night. And it’s a pretty well-oiled machine because the team are incredible but actually, you know, I think people at home like when it goes a little bit wrong. It adds that sort of jeopardy. And that’s why I love doing live telly.”

Alex Jones Alex wears: blazer and trousers by Bayse; bracelet by Olivia & Pearl; rings by Orelia and Accessorize; and earrings by Ania Haie

Alex’s job has meant that she has met some huge names over the years, I wonder if she ever feels nervous before a big interview. “This job has given me such an interest in people, and people of all walks of life. And I think the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that we often put people on pedestals because of who they are and what they do, but actually, close up, everybody’s the same,” she tells me. “I mean, fame… It doesn’t really… I’ve never been a starstruck person, even when I started out. I just think, yeah, you know, good for you. But, you know, everybody is interesting. I don’t think a job defines somebody as being superior to anybody else.”

Proving her point is the story of when, in those very early days, Chris Evans, the then presenter of the Radio Two Breakfast Show, having interviewed her on his show, took her out for Champagne and chips at the Groucho Club to talk her into presenting Friday evenings on The One Show with him  (she had originally been contracted for just the Monday to Thursday shows). “I went, ‘Oh well, the thing about that is, I was just going to go home on the weekend, I was gonna have a long weekend. So, I think probably not.’ And I think he was just shocked that this kid, essentially, from South Wales was kind of going, ‘Nah, I’m alright!’ I said, ‘You know, cos the thing is, I’ve sort of got plans with the girls and stuff on a Saturday.’” He did eventually persuade her to give it a trial run. The shows they presented together are some of Alex’s most memorable, she says, and the pair remain great friends to this day.


Though her priorities have changed, that early desire for work/life balance has stayed strong, particularly since becoming a mother – Alex has three children with husband Charlie Thomson. How does she manage motherhood and work, I wonder. “Oh, God with great difficulty,” she exclaims. “By basically running myself ragged, I’ll be honest. I feel super guilty for leaving them. But I know that I do a job I love and a job that keeps the family afloat. So, I don’t know… I do sort of softplay in the morning and live telly in the afternoon, that’s kind of how my life goes. Literally I’m with them right up until the last minute before I need to hop in the car to come to work. And then I rush home to try and do their last story before they go to sleep. I haven’t got the solution – I just basically try and do it all. Which is my absolute downfall because I always end up late and in a state. But I won’t change it because this is the only way forward I can see.”

Of course, living in London means that Alex wastes no time travelling between Broadcasting House and her home. Would she ever consider moving out? “We’ve done that thing people our age do and talked about ‘should we move out, should we go?’, but we just cannot bring ourselves to do it,” she tells me. “The children were obviously born here. And we just love it. We love that there’s loads of green spaces. We love that it’s really close to lots of good countryside if you want it. There’s endless stuff to do if you embrace living in the Capital – in terms of culture for children, it’s absolutely phenomenal. We make an effort to go and see shows, go to the art galleries, go into all the museums… And, where we are in west London, there’s a real sense of community. You know, if we go to the supermarket or to the park, we’ll see four or five people we know on the way. Our street feels like a proper neighbourhood; we know all our neighbours. And I don’t think you get that everywhere.”

Of course, London’s cultural appeal isn’t just for kids – how would Alex spend her perfect grown-up day off here? “The Affordable Art Fair – that’s my dream day out,” she reveals.  “Brunch, Affordable Art Fair, then dinner, and then to see a show. What have I seen recently… oh tonnes of stuff. I saw The Crown Jewels the other day, with Mel Giedroyc, Neil Morrissey… and that is really, really funny; a brilliant night out. I mean, it is endless, isn’t it? The stuff, you can do here. You couldn’t even do it all in a lifetime I wouldn’t have thought, and I suppose that’s what I just absolutely adore about it.” It goes without saying that I couldn’t agree more.