Earlier this year, Luke Franks released his debut novel with Sean Thorne titled Jamie McFlair Vs The Boyband Generator, which has received great reviews, and they have recently submitted the second book in the series for future release. On screen, Luke presents his own show for Sky Kids – Ultimate Video Skills, and until earlier this year, he was a main host of CITV series Scrambled! at the weekends since it began in 2014. Amongst his other work, Luke has been the online presenter for The Voice and The X Factor, hosted coverage of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and The Brits, and made his TV presenting debut with Pet School on CBBC. Luke made his acting debut last year, working alongside Billie Piper in the Sky Original series I Hate Suzie, and his podcasts consist of Worst Dates on BBC in 2019 and this year, he launched Welcome to the Metaverse. In October, Luke will be starting filming as the host of a new CITV show which is not yet announced and he is regularly uploading to his popular TikTok account. Answering our questions, Luke tells us about his debut novel Jamie McFlair Vs The Boyband Generator, presenting Scrambled! and his Sky Kids series Ultimate Video Skills.
You’ve recently released your debut book with Sean Thorne called Jamie McFlair Vs The Boyband Generator, can you tell us more about it?
Of course! So it’s the origin story of where every famous boyband you’ve ever known has really come from. It turns out they were made in a basement by an evil man called Barry Bigtime, with his secret Boyband Generator machine and then launched to fame on his TV talent show called The Bigtime. Jamie (the main character), with the help of her three best friends and a band they love on YouTube, have to try and stop him. There’s also a giant man-lobster called Flobster and a human rat creature called Slottapus. It is maximum nonsense.
How did the book come about and what was it like to work on?
So the idea actually came from a WhatsApp conversation where we were talking about a band on The X Factor. A member left and then they just replaced them with a member from a different band from a previous show. We were like, ‘it’s as if someone is just making boyband members in a machine… there’s probably a book in that’. Turns out there was!
What’s it been like seeing the readers’ response to the novel?
So fun! I read every single one and it’s so wild to see somebody talk about all the characters, their favourite parts of the story and say they really enjoyed it! Definitely my favourite part of the whole process and thank you to people who have written a review!
Can you tell us about your show Ultimate Video Skills on Sky Kids and what is it like working on your own project?
Yes, so I was making a lot of TikTok videos during the original lockdown and a lot of people were really interested in how the videos were made. The show basically teaches kids how to do fun video effects at home (using green screen, jump cuts to vanish from frames, using perspective and reverse video etc). All you need is a phone and you can do so much cool stuff.
How did you find the experience presenting Scrambled! since it started in 2014?
In lots of ways it was a dream come true, Scrambled! was the flagship kids TV show on ITV every weekend. I remember so clearly watching SMTV:Live with Ant, Dec and Cat and it was made by the same people so it was definitely an amazing thing to have done. Some of the sketches, costumes and just general conversations on set were so ridiculous, I laughed hard a lot of the time. The world is very different now and how kids consume content is completely different, so I made sure to be involved in other projects too but I definitely have very fond memories.
What are some of your favourite highlights from working on the CITV series until it ended earlier this year?
I have a few ridiculous Guinness World Records, I think I still hold the record for stretching slime the furthest. Is that an achievement? I’m not sure, but the certificate is on my wall. Just the complete absolute chaos-based nonsense of the entire show and working with a team of professional idiots (I mean this in a nice way) was a hilarious way to go to work.
Can you say about being the first ever online presenter for The Voice and The X Factor?
So, looking back, this was a really interesting time. For me, they were big gigs, they were two of the biggest shows on TV and I was legitimately part of the presenting team which blew my mind (Dermot O’Leary is still my hero). I had to learn to literally be able to interview every type of person at the drop of the hat so it was a complete baptism of fire. I also think the online side of things was a bit underestimated at the time. The X Factor YouTube channel was doing hundreds of millions of views but people hadn’t really clicked online was the future at that time.
Your first TV presenting job was on Pet School for CBBC, what was this like to do?
It was amazing. It was my first proper TV show that I presented and for CBBC! I was so nervous but that soon went away because the whole show was about showing kids how to look after animals to prove to their parents that they should be allowed a pet. I remember trying to do a link whilst walking a goat, trying to explain to a kid not to squeeze the ferrets and hamsters so hard and also helping kids realise that animals are awesome. I really loved it.
In 2019, you started your BBC podcast Worst Dates, can you tell us about it?
As with a lot of the best ideas, the name came first ‘Worst Dates’, it was a pretty simple idea, having watched the success of the first couple of seasons of Love Island. A podcast where we got famous guests and listeners on, to tell us about their Worst Dates. I was amazed at how much people opened up and it was definitely hilarious. I presented it with my good mate Arielle Free too which was brilliant. Some of the stories slightly scarred me for life but it was a great series.
What do you enjoy most about hosting coverage at events like Big Weekend and The Brits?
BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and The Brits are probably my two favourite music events of the year, so to be part of them is amazing. There’s such a buzz about them, all the biggest names in the world arriving and the pressure and mayhem of it all happening live is an awesome feeling. You really have to up your game at those sorts of events, put any nerves out the window and then go and have a big party afterwards.
Where does your love of presenting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
It really came from me accidentally hating my university course but finding student radio at Cardiff Uni. I’d done a little bit before but it was just so fun and I always thought somebody has to do this as a job, I’m going to try and do it. It’s a mad world, good and bad parts, of course. Everyone I know has had amazing times and low times but I think that’s the nature of the whole entertainment industry. Ultimately it’s super fun and I feel very fortunate to be part of it. I think deep down I love to create too, so it’s nice to have that part to go along with it.
Do you have a favourite aspect of working as a presenter and what advice would you give someone wanting to get into the industry?
The best part is definitely after you’ve learnt scripts or done your research and you’re in the moment presenting a show. Especially if you’re working with a close team who become your friends. My advice to anyone now would be to make content and be smart with it. Get on social media platforms early and just keep creating, it might feel like nothing is happening at first but keep going and adapt to build an audience. What is the thing that you can offer that gives people value? That way you don’t have to try and make people watch your stuff, they’ll do it anyway. Also, be nice and go and meet everyone.
Having worked with a number of music artists including The Vamps, can you say more about it?
The Vamps are genuinely both my favourite band and some of my favourite people full stop. Professionally they’ve done amazingly, they’re the only band to ever consecutively headline the O2 five years in a row, they have two number one albums, billions of streams etc. More than that though, they are just absolute role models as individuals. They’ve always been so kind and welcoming to everyone I know, work hard, give back (they often do cheaper family tickets so people can afford to come to arena shows) and stand for important things. I honestly can’t speak highly enough of those four lads and their team.
You had your first acting role as Raptor in last year’s Sky Original series I Hate Suzie, how did you find the experience filming and being on set of the TV series?
It was incredible! I’d never really done anything quite like it, just the scale of the whole production was something I’d never witnessed, it was like a hollywood movie set. My scenes were with Billie Piper, who co-wrote it, which was very cool. I’m so glad the show did so well!
What encouraged you to start a TikTok account and what’s it like interacting with the viewers?
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt in this industry is that you have to adapt and getting on stuff early can be massively beneficial. When TikTok first started, the traditional media didn’t pay attention and wrote it off ‘for lip syncing kids’. That always happens with new technology, it happened with YouTube too but it’s usually a sign something big is coming. If you get on a platform early, you can build a following fast because there’s less people making content and people need creators to follow. It’s also just one of the nicest places on the Internet, everyone is generally really positive.
What upcoming career plans do you have?
Yes, so we’ve just submitted book two in the Jamie McFlair series – Jamie McFlair vs The Ultimate Brain Hack – we’re both really excited for that and will be posting some details about it soon. I also started a podcast in May called Welcome to the Metaverse, which is all about the future of NFTs and the future of us existing in virtual worlds like Roblox, Fortnite and Decentraland. I’m confident it’s where the Internet is going next and much like early TikTok days, not many people are paying attention yet, but I think it will change everything. I’m also hosting a new show for CITV, which we start filming in October.
Thank you for having me!
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