Where Wise seems wryly amused by it all, Thompson, he says, is “thrilled – more excited than I am.” She and their children – Gaia (21) and Tindy (33) – will be cheering him on, either in person or at home. “Em’s looking forward to having a relaxing autumn, with the little beacons every Saturday night of either watching it on the telly with a pile of chums or coming up to Elstree.”
Gaia, he says, is “probably thrilled but, you know, too cool for school”. Tindy, the Rwandan refugee they adopted in 2003, is now a human-rights lawyer and “more bemused than anything – he says I have an African bum, so I might have to use that in a routine.”
Wise’s real motivation, however, is his sister, who died of cancer in 2016. “Clare was the big disco diva. She was cremated in a glitterball coffin, so I’d like to do something with ‘Dancing Queen’ because that was her funeral song. Maybe as a waltz?”
The waltzing started early when, aged five or six, the siblings would put on a Johann Strauss LP and perform for their parents and their parents’ friends. “Terrible, precocious little people,” Wise shudders, shaking his head.
Close from childhood, together they kept their heads down in the face of what he describes as the “reasonably tricky dynamic” of their parents’ marriage. Growing up in Northumberland, Wise followed his mother and father into architecture, studying in Edinburgh before the Damascene experience of performing at the city’s Bedlam Theatre saw him enrol at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
His sister has never been far from his thoughts. Wise became her live-in carer for her final months, and has been more conscious of her than ever in recent months when a family member had a cancer scare which, fortunately, proved a false alarm. And then Strictly called.
“It just stopped me in my tracks and made me think, actually, this has to be done. Clare would have loved Strictly and given me a lot of grief – she will be there somewhere, just above my head, shouting: ‘Get it right, concentrate!’”