IT IS A strange and sparkly world in which Joe McFadden finds himself these days. Knee-deep in sequins and fake tan, the Glasgow-born actor is touring Britain with Strictly Live, the massive arena-filling version of the hit TV show which rolls into his home town next weekend.

McFadden and his professional partner Katya Jones picked up the glitterball trophy in the final in December – the first Scot to do so since the series began 14 years ago.

He never faced the dance-off, never endured a complete roasting from the judges, never really scored THAT badly – and he managed to avoid the worst of Strictly silly season, when all kinds of rubbish is written about the stars and their off-screen lives.

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Interest in the remaining celebrities including Alexandra Burke, Debbie McGee, Mollie King and Gemma Atkinson had reached stratospheric levels by finals week, with rumours of diva behaviour, marriage breakdowns and romances spinning around the dance floor.

“It’s quite depressing, to be honest,” McFadden told me, earlier in the run, as he prepared for the semi-finals.

“Everyone loves the show, so it’s no surprise people want to talk about it. It’s just a shame there is so much written that really isn’t true.”

Fast forward a few weeks and one glitterball trophy later, and McFadden and Jones are relaxed and chatty backstage at the tour rehearsals in London’s Primrose Hill.

Winning the show was really not on his radar, he says, when he took his first tentative steps in the training room back in the summer.

“Absolutely not,” he laughs out loud. “I spent the first fortnight thinking, ‘please just don’t be the worst, please don’t be first to get voted off.’

“And then it’s all about the milestones. You want to get to movies week, and then musicals week, and then Blackpool.

“Blackpool is a massive one. Everyone wants to make it there.”

He smiles: “And eventually, you just don’t want it to end.”

Jones cuts in.

“What I realised about Joe, is that he doesn’t like to do something unless he knows he can do it well,” she says.

“This makes for a very good student, of course, but it means he is very hard on himself.”

This cheerful, easy-going, down-to-earth Glaswegian – he grew up in Govanhill, on the city’s south side – won the hearts and minds of the Strictly faithful precisely because he WAS a very good student.

He did everything right. He took Strictly seriously, without taking it TOO seriously – “this is light entertainment, after all – it’s not life or death,” he said, amidst all the fever-pitch excitement of the final – and he was just the right mix of cheeky and charming; the heartthrob-next-door. Oh, and he could dance, of course.

“I was genuinely surprised to win – people had started to say I might, and I was the bookies’ favourite, but in the past the favourite hasn’t always gone on to win,” McFadden points out. “I just took every week as it came and hoped for the best.

“I was in such pain at the start – it was unbelievable how much I hurt. First my shoulders, then my hips, then my feet – every week it was some new level of pain, some new way to punish me...”

After a few weeks off at Christmas to “decompress”, catching up with his family and friends, McFadden threw himself right back into dance training again to prepare for the tour.

“It’s been a shock to the system,” he sighs. “Learning all the new group dances has been tough.”

He brightens. “But it’s fun. And I can’t wait to get to Glasgow. The other pros have told me Glasgow audiences are absolutely crazy, the loudest on the tour.

“It’s great that people can come and see what is essentially the same show as the TV version, just on a bigger scale. So many people love Strictly and can’t get to the studios, it’s just lovely that they get the chance to see the show.”

He pauses. “I’ve felt all along that you have a bit of responsibility to what has really become an institution. You have to be a good ambassador for it. It gives people joy, takes them out of their own lives for a while. I was really proud to be chosen to do it.”

He adds, with a grimace: “Although I was so worried I was going to be the one to ruin it..But I think this year has been just as popular as ever.”

It was Camille Skilling, McFadden’s drama teacher at Holyrood Secondary School, who suggested her promising young student try out for a part on crime drama Taggart, aged 12.

“I didn’t mean to be an actor – it was just a happy accident,” he recalls. “My teacher was amazing – she really believed in me. But I didn’t really plan to do it, it just kind of happened.”

After Taggart, McFadden joined Scottish soap Take the High Road, before landing a variety of stage and screen roles in everything from cult Glasgow gang film Small Faces, alongside Laura Fraser and Iain Robertson, to period drama Cranford, with Judi Dench and Michael Gambon. He also loves theatre, and has performed in West End shows such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Rent, plus a plethora of Scottish productions.

“I’ve been really lucky to be able to do such a variety of work,” he nods.

“I was in my early 20s before I started wondering – what do people learn at drama school for three years?

“I was working at Theatre Clwyd at the time, so I did a bit of rebooting and took some acting lessons – I was trying to catch up with everyone else, I suppose.

“I felt like I was making it up as I went along. But it was the perfect way for me to do it, I think. I would never have had the resolve to go to drama school when I was younger.”

He corrects himself. “I’d never have had the self-belief to think I could do it.”

His parents, he says, were supportive but “a little bemused” by his decision to pursue acting as a career.

He laughs: “I think, like me, they thought ach, it’s fine for him just now and it will probably come to an end at some point.

“Once they saw acting had become a viable career option for me, they were nothing but encouraging.”

It is a recurring theme, this lack of confidence, although he makes light of it, and fans of McFadden’s successful spells in long-running dramas such as Heartbeat and Holby City might be surprised he has ever suffered from self-doubt.

He left the latter just before Christmas, after four years as Italian doctor Raf di Lucca. There will be no going back, he admits, given his character was shot in the jugular and bled to death in a lift.

“It was a bit different to what I was going through on Strictly,” he says, cheerfully. “It was hard – I had to keep it secret, of course, so there was a really strange few weeks when I couldn’t let on I was leaving.

“It was good having Strictly to focus on. Holby was a great show to be part of, and I will miss it and the friends I made there, but four years is long enough in any job. You get stuck in your comfort zone and it gets easy. It’s time to move on.”

McFadden is “loosely discussing” several projects, none of which he will reveal, but says nothing is concrete until after the Strictly tour.

“I’d love to do more theatre, especially in Scotland,” he says. “Will I use my newfound dancing skills? I doubt it. Maybe – but only if Katya was there, coaching me, yelling in my ear every day. I don’t think I could do it without her.”

Jones laughs. Like most of the professional dancers, she is fiercely protective of her partner, and is also looking forward to returning to Glasgow with the tour – this time, with the champion on her arm.

“I can’t WAIT,” she laughs. “Joe has an amazing work ethic. We do work hard, but the pressure is not as strong on the tour.

“It’s going really well so far. We are dancing our two favourite dances – the Charleston, and the Argentine tango.”

McFadden smiles: “It’s all coming back to me. What I love about Strictly is it does get people involved. If people see me doing this, and think – maybe I can challenge myself and learn a new skill, then that’s great, isn’t it? It’s aspirational.”

He breaks off with a laugh: “If that isn’t getting too deep.”

The conversation returns to self- confidence. “Doing Strictly has definitely done something for me,” he nods. “I’d have said no to doing different things in the past, because I wouldn’t have had the confidence in myself to try them.

“Having done this, I’m open to new things. I’m much more likely to think – okay, yeah, let’s try it. Maybe I can do this.”

Strictly Come Dancing: The Live Tour is at the SSE Hydro from February 2 to 4. For more information visit www.strictlycomedancinglive.com

STAR TURNS

There’s Kevin on the dance floor, tap-tapping an imaginary cane and raising an invisible top hat; flame-haired newbie dancer Dianne and serious-faced Chloe, in her Train Like an Angel T-shirt practising in the background; and oh look, it’s newly-weds Aljaz and Janette, sharing a kiss, and Oti in her camel coat and bright blue trainers, twirling out of the door…

The impossibly fit, improbably beautiful Strictly professionals are out in force, helping their partners waltz, tango and foxtrot their way through the forthcoming live tour.

In the corner, unassuming in grey joggers and a hoodie, head down over his computer and coffee cup at his side, is Craig Revel Horwood, the Mr Nasty of judges and director of the whole shebang.

He doesn’t even glance at us as we file quietly in and take our seats in the grand rehearsal room, all warm wooden panelling, soft velvet curtains and impressive painted murals around the walls. We – selected press representatives – have done our interviews and taken our photographs, and now we get to see some dancing.

Glasgow writer and comedian Susan Calman and her professional partner Kevin Clifton are doing their thing on the floor, revisiting their Morecambe and Wise-inspired routine, and it’s a delight to watch all over again.

Earlier, Calman revealed that like her fellow Scot on the tour, Joe McFadden, she was very much looking forward to performing in Glasgow.

“I saw Fleetwood Mac at the Hydro, and the idea that I will be dancing there, dressed as Wonder Woman, is just incredible,” she shakes her head.

Calman and Clifton delighted Strictly audiences on the show, although some of the judges took some convincing. Calman is unperturbed.

“Craig isn’t suddenly going to like me just because we are on tour,” she scoffs, referring to Revel Horwood, who gave the duo some harsh criticism along the way. “But I’m not doing it for him. I’m doing it for the audience, for all the lovely people who voted for us and who enjoy the show.”

The duo trained a lot in Glasgow throughout the series, working round Calman’s other filming commitments.

“We worked very, very hard,” says Clifton, seriously. “We were adamant from the beginning that we were going to do it properly.”

Calman agrees: “I never saw myself as any kind of novelty act. I wanted to learn to dance and Kevin taught me.

“There was no hesitation about doing the tour. I love Strictly, and have wanted to do it for a long time, I’ve made no secret of that.”

She deadpans: “I’ve always said I want to do Strictly, and Doctor Who.

“So, when Jodie Whittaker is ready to leave, I’m available. Kevin can be my companion. There can be dancing. It will be wonderful.”