It became clear over recent weeks that ‘something was brewing’ between Danny John-Jules and his Strictly dance partner Amy Dowden – and now he has been given a ‘final warning’ by the BBC over claims he has been bullying her.
He is said to have left 27-year-old Amy in tears after an outburst in which the actor told her: ‘I’m the star, not you.’
At the outset, the other contestants and professional dancers thought his aloofness and reluctance to engage was caused by nerves. But then – and it was sooner rather than later – the truth dawned.
Danny John-Jules and his Strictly dance partner Amy Dowden – he has been given a ‘final warning’ by the BBC over claims he has been bullying her
It was the old story, alas: Danny was simply an old-fashioned diva, with a fatal tendency, according to an impeccably placed source, to take himself – and his dancing – just that bit too seriously.
So when he fluffed his quickstep last week on Strictly Come Dancing, he didn’t do what contestants usually do, laugh it off and say he’d try to do better next week.
For Danny, his dance disaster struck at the core of his very being. He appeared unable to accept that a star of his magnitude could make such a hash of it.
Amy is said to have fled the studio where they were practising in tears and later told BBC producers that she had had enough and did not know if she could continue, according to The Sun.
‘He gets very angry in the training room and he swears and shouts at her a lot. He also makes a lot of snide comments about him being famous and her not,’ an insider said. Things have been bubbling away for a while and it all came to a head on Wednesday.’
Before he takes the floor for his Friday rehearsal at Elstree Studios, Danny is said to go into full-blown prima donna mode, saying things to the production team like: ‘Please, I need quiet’ as he prepares himself
After weeks of having to try to accommodate Danny’s giant ego, it is alleged the situation between the pair became tenser than ever when he was in the bottom two and had to perform in the dreaded dance-off.
‘He was furious,’ says the source. ‘He thinks he’s a better dancer than Amy.’
It is certainly true that Danny can dance. Viewers who may have been under the impression that the 58-year-old was performing miracles each week – the game older guy managing to pull it off – might be disappointed to learn he has been dancing at theatre school since he was a child.
He even underwent dance training with none other than Strictly judge, Bruno Tonioli, at London’s Dance Centre, in the late Seventies.
He has starred in West End musicals, including Starlight Express, Soul Train and Barnum and once danced in a Wham! video.
Danny takes his dancing – and himself – very seriously indeed.
To those who knew him before Strictly, it is as a cast member of TV’s sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf and as a policeman in murder mystery drama Death In Paradise. A reliable actor, then, who has had a solid – if not spectacular – career.
But Danny sees himself as a true star in a mediocre world of wannabes. Before he takes the floor for his Friday rehearsal at Elstree Studios, Danny is said to go into full-blown prima donna mode, saying things to the production team like: ‘Please, I need quiet’ as he prepares himself.
He often refers to himself in the third person. ‘Danny isn’t happy,’ he sometimes says, for example, when Amy breaks off from giving him her undivided attention.
Or, watching the other contestants during the Friday rehearsal, and seeing some of them dance not too well, he has been heard to say: ‘Danny’s gonna do well.’
He is also said to be unpopular with production staff because of his airs and graces.
Some of the professional dancers also find his standoffish manner annoying and, says the source, have nicknamed him ‘The Grinch’.
An interview he gave last week to The Sun is unlikely to have endeared him, either, to his fellow contestants.
Danny grew up in Paddington, west London, with his mother Veron, father Hyran and brother and sister. He trained at the Anna Scher Theatre, a prestigious stage school for children in Islington, north London
He reportedly claimed some celebrities – seemingly implying that he meant some of his fellow contestants – were ‘an insult’ to genuine entertainers such as George Michael, Cliff Richard and, of course, himself.
‘I’m not a celebrity, I’m an entertainer, that’s the difference,’ he said. ‘I’m a different level.’
Not that Danny sees himself as a miserable prima donna, the source says. If he is demanding in the studio with Amy, it is because that is the way it is with true artists.
‘Danny will say he’s not a bully. He will say he’s a professional, that he has high standards, that if he gets het up it is because he is an artist and has the artistic temperament.’
Perhaps it was this artistic temperament that got the better of Danny when, back in 2008, he attacked two council workers for not emptying his recycling bin.
Brent magistrates heard that he punched father and son Jan and Jaroslaw Lisiecki to the floor when they left the bin outside his terraced house in Kensal Rise, north-west London.
The actor chased them down the street wearing a lime-coloured dressing gown and his wife’s slippers, swore and spat at them, before punching the two men, one of whom fell and cracked his head on the rubbish truck.
Mr Lisiecki snr told how the actor told you: ‘f*** you, you f***ing c***.’ Danny denied assault but was found guilty and was given 120 hours of community service and ordered to pay £35 costs and £75 compensation.
Danny grew up in Paddington, west London, with his mother Veron, father Hyran and brother and sister. He trained at the Anna Scher Theatre, a prestigious stage school for children in Islington, north London.
Danny John-Jules and his wife Petula Langlais at the ITV Gala, London Palladium, November 2017
He said that, as a child, the family had little money. ‘It was about survival,’ he said. ‘I had a paper round when I was a kid, had jobs on a second-hand stall, building site, hospital, warehouse and hair salon before I got into the business.’
In the early days, he worked as dancer on the variety circuit. He appeared in a number of West End musicals before winning the part of Cat in Red Dwarf which first aired in 1988. In the Eighties, he was a regular on the Northern Soul club scene.
One person who knew him at the time says he was ‘a bit of a ladies man, very charming, a dapper dresser and an amazing dancer’.
It was, perhaps, the success of Red Dwarf that led to his ego getting the better of him – the series achieved a cult status among obsessive fans. According to one who knew him at this time, Danny took a ‘method’ approach to his role in the fashion of other acting legends like Brando and De Niro.
A couple of years ago, Danny posted tweets about racial bias on Strictly, but that didn’t hinder his being asked to appear on the show.
And now he’s at the centre of the second storm of the series – following the saga of comic Seann Walsh whose relationship with his girlfriend collapsed after he was photographed kissing his dance partner, Katya Jones.
Danny leaving It Takes Two – he and Amy attempted to present a united front on the Strictly companion show
In the interview he gave last week, Danny admitted having no time for getting to know his fellow contestants. ‘I haven’t focused with any of these people outside the show,’ he said. ‘My focus is my next number.’ Yesterday, the BBC tried to play down the story. ‘It’s been massively overstated,’ a BBC source said.
‘They had a minor dispute over the dance routine on Wednesday but went back to training later that day. They had a full day’s rehearsal at Elstree as usual today. Everything’s fine.’
Danny and Amy also attempted to present a united front on Strictly companion show It Takes Two. Danny said: ‘I’m more than happy; it’s probably the best dancing we have done in the last couple of days. And I’m just happy to go along, she is the boss, she wears the pants.’
Last night, Danny’s partner Petula Langlais criticised the BBC’s handling of the row. She wrote on Twitter: ‘Wow BBC Strictly are really throwing Danny John-Jules under that bus! I’m in shock… why are you trying to destroy him?’
Tonight, when they take to the dance floor, it will, no doubt, be smiles and sequins as usual.