Summer 2020 has been a danceless, joyless season. But Cat Deeley, the always joyful host of So You Think You Can Dance, is back to bring some joy to our lives. No, the show is still on hiatus. She’s published her first book, a children’s tome titled The Joy In You.
The mother of two and four year old boys has been quarantining with the fam in London. Considering that conversations with a pair of preschoolers only goes so far, I got the feeling she was happy to talk with another adult, even if it was over computer. “Me talking to you like this is like the normal way of doing things right now. It feels nice to be back and nice to be chatting with people. Like sometimes I get very carried away, I’m like ‘oh really another human being I can chat to!’”
Like most of us, the seriousness of the Covid Crisis hit Cat over a few days or weeks. “Yes, absolutely. It was kinda crazy. When the pandemic kind of hit in the U.S., I was shooting a for Disney, I was right in the middle of it. And then I was thinking what we’re gonna do is we’ll relocate to London but have a base (in Los Angeles) for me to fly back to the U.S. if I needed to.” As we know, the “temporary delays” have turned into indefinite hiatus for many shows.
“I thought this is great. I was going there to do this Disney show and it’s during the summertime which will be great because when the kids are out of school we can take them all over back to the states and they can go to Disneyland and they can do everything and it’s going to be so much fun. Aaaannnnddd: global pandemic hits. All of a sudden it doesn’t matter how many duck’s I’ve got in a row, you just have to go with the flow, don’t you? And I feel like everybody’s doing the same thing. Everybody’s just trying to do their best right now and kind of get on with it.”
So Cat ended up adding ‘author’ to her resumé. Now, she had been working on this long before the pandemic, but this was an opportunity to really focus, considering this was her first summer off in like 15 years. “I was working on this for a long time. This children’s book took me like a year or so to write. You have to think about everything that you want to say and then pare it down. There was lots to think about.”
And the kids she spent teaching to speak and ride a bike were her omnipresent inspiration. “The reason I wanted to do it now was I got the boys, and like any other mom, when it comes to last thing at night when you’re reading them bedtime stories, I’m so exhausted, I can barely string a sentence together, I’m completely inarticulate, which is really good for a TV host, right? What do I want to say to my boys when I can’t find the words? What is it that I think is important and what do I want to tell them and how do I want them to feel? The book is a collection of thoughts and feelings and emotions.”
I’ve interviewed Cat a lot through the years, and she is always a joy to talk with. But during this interview, I picked up on a different vibe. A calmer vibe, maybe more centered. She always exudes excitement and accessibility, but there was a warmth about her. Maybe it’s being around her kids constantly, maybe the pandemic put things in a new perspective. Whatever it was, you could tell she was happy not only with her book, but life. This was a truly refreshing experience for me.
And while Joy is technically a children’s book, there is plenty in there for adults, and the thing we need more than ever, besides a socially-distant cocktail, is joy. “I think so often it’s easy as an adult to get distracted by life. I mean there’s so much going on in our lives right now. We’ve go so many responsibilities. We’ve got to-do lists this long. We’ve got bills to pay, things to do, people to take care of. I think it’s just important every once in awhile to remind ourselves of things we love to do, and also to try new things. I think as an adult, I know this to be true for myself, you get in a rut. You go ‘okay I like that, I don’t like that, I like that and I don’t like that.’”
Cat says we need only look at the true world-changers to appreciate what we have. “But what about trying something new? For me it’s what if Stevie Wonder had never played the piano? What if Tiger Woods had never picked up a golf club? Or Gene Kelly had never put on a pair of tap shoes? The world would be not as joyful, not as great a place if they hadn’t. So I think we still have to keep doing that, even as adults.”
Of course, the reason Cat’s had the summer free is because So You Think You Can Dance had to cancel this season. While some competition shows have made their way back, she says their format makes it impossible right now. “We were in production and there was no way of making the show, unfortunately. We’ve got to get kids in to audition them. We’ve got to put them together. There’s no way of doing that without quarantining them.” The physicality makes it impossible. “We can’t make this show it’s not a drama where we have a cast, you know. We need to audition everybody. We had to say look, it’s not gonna work this season.”
So now we hope for a solution, a vaccine, or something to get us dancing next year. “We seem to go three steps forward, five steps back. It’s progressing so slowly, and we just want everyone to stay safe. It’s much more important that everyone stays healthy.”
But for now, Cat’s content “I’ve actually had a lovely time in lockdown. It’s been really nice.”
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A meme I saw said ‘forget about it’s five o’clock somewhere, it’s 2020 everywhere.’ So that said I’m opening a Mad Dog 2020. I’ll put the Excedrin on standby.