Inside Simon Gregsons post-Im A Celeb family reunion: My youngest son ran into my arms!

When Simon Gregson joined the I'm A Celebrity…. Get Me Out Of Here! camp last month, he didn’t expect to make it to the final. In fact, the Coronation Street icon tells OK! VIP members he only signed up to the show because his wife Emma, 38, and sons Alfie, 14, Harry, 12, and five-year-old Henry have been begging him to do it for years.

Still, the actor, who has played Steve McDonald on the Cobbles since 1989, admitted he hoped the public would get to know the real him. And while the bubbly star kept us laughing in the camp with his cheeky comments, Simon concedes it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.

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"It's a very psychological, physical game," he tells us as we join him and his family at their home for a Christmas shoot.

"It was freezing cold. It's literally a game of survival. I had no preconceptions about it being easy. It is what it says on the tin!"

We saw Simon, 47, open up on screen about wanting to get fitter and healthier after realising he struggled with some of the challenges, and he tells OK! he actually lost over a stone in the castle thanks to the rice and beans diet. Now he’s hoping to continue his health kick – bar the odd Chinese takeaway – into the New Year.

Here, Simon and Emma fill us in on their reunion, plans for Christmas and why being in the camp has brought their family even closer…

Hi Simon, what was it like being reunited with your family?

Simon: It was amazing. It's the longest we’ve ever been apart. My boys just jumped on me and they did not let go. I was able to go and pick Henry up from school and he ran straight into my arms. It was gorgeous and so happy.

Before we get into the show, we must ask – what are your plans for Christmas?

Emma: We'll do what we do every year. We've got my family coming over, including my grandma. We all make Christmas dinner, shut and lock the door and don’t move for a couple of days.

Who does the cooking?

Emma: It's me usually, but after seeing Simon's cooking skills in the camp he'll be helping me this year!

Simon: We used to have goose, turkey and guinea fowl, but now we just do a traditional turkey. We might have a gammon which we'll do overnight and cook in Coca-Cola so we can have a buffet on Boxing Day.

Do the kids get excited?

Simon: The youngest does, we'll see what time he wakes up! Luckily the older boys are just like their father and are lazy pigs. So they don't usually get up before about 9am – we had to wake them up once!

Speaking of the boys, what was their reaction to having you back home from the castle?

Simon: They kept telling me they loved me and gave me huge hugs.

Emma: They wanted to know which camp mates you were best friends with and who will be coming round to the house.

Simon: They liked Danny and adored David.

What was the first thing you ate and drank after the show, Simon?

Simon: They put us up in this beautiful resort. I only had a cheese and ham sandwich! I could have had anything I wanted but your stomach shrinks. I lost over a stone, so any kind of big meal made me feel poorly! I had a sandwich and copious amounts of lovely red wine.

Was it a different experience from what you expected?

Simon: I knew it would be difficult. But that's the game! It's a very psychological, physical game. It was freezing cold. It's literally a game of survival. I had no preconceptions about it being easy. It is what it says on the tin!

Did you expect to make it to the final?

Simon: I didn't at all! It was nice to get there though. Me, Danny and Frankie became really good friends. Danny's got a tiny little baby boy, so it's nice he was able to take the crown home.

You said you wanted to show the real you behind Steve – do you feel like you've had the chance to do that?

Simon: I think I did. The only time people really ever see you is when you're on game shows and things like that, which are so quick. We're massive fans of Ant and Dec in this house, so it was nice to be able to have a laugh with them. It's nice for people to see how silly and stupid I really am!

Did Simon make you all proud?

Emma: Super proud. Simon doesn't really do social media, so I took it over and I was saying to him the other day that I didn't read a single bad comment the whole time he was in there. Everyone was loving him.

What were yours and the boys' favourite parts of the show?

Emma: We were desperate for him to do the cyclone. We were desperate for him to do a trial too, and the boys were shouting at the screen, "Dad, take on a trial!" When we knew he was doing one, they had all their friends over and made a night of it with popcorn. They absolutely loved the experience.

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There was a bit of tension in there, Simon – how did you avoid it?

Simon: I don't really get into conflict with people. To be honest, I was always late to the party. I always seemed to be out of the room!

What made you want to do I'm A Celeb?

Simon: Emma and the boys have been on at me for years to do it. I wanted them to shut up about it!

What was the best and worst part of the show for you?

Simon: The best part was meeting new people. The bad parts were how much you miss your family and friends. It's absolutely mindblowing how long a day is in there! Time goes so slowly.

Who will you keep in touch with?

Simon: I've definitely made friends for life. Obviously me and Adam are very similar in our lives and jobs. Danny, of course. I got on brilliantly with Frankie, she's very funny. Me and Louise got really close, too.

You said the trials made you feel unfit. Will you be making changes to your lifestyle?

Simon: I've got home and can see I've lost so much weight. Then I put on the TV to see an episode back and I thought, "Oh my God, I was ginormous." I don't think I've been that heavy before in my life, it was because of lockdown. Now I'd love to keep the weight off. I'm going to try and live a healthier lifestyle, as when I was doing the cyclone I think I was the only one who didn’t enjoy it!

Will it be your New Year's resolution to be a bit healthier?

Simon: Absolutely. Although I say that, I nailed a huge Chinese takeaway last night!

Emma: We do walks with the kids. Isolation and lockdown didn't help, I think everyone's in the same boat. We'll get fit in the New Year though.

Emma, is Simon a hands-on dad?

Emma: Yeah, he is. We do a lot as a family. We watch movies together and are out playing football. When he got back yesterday, he was telling them he's going to make up for lost time over the next few weeks.

Simon: I've gone halves on a jet ski with my neighbour, which we picked up for no money whatsoever, so we're going to strip and rebuild it, which I think the boys will help with. We'll go for nice walks. Alfie and Harry – but especially Alfie – live and breathe football. There's plenty to do in the garden and we’ll have lots of little adventures.

Emma, would you describe Simon as romantic?

Emma: No! There's nothing I can say to that apart from no.

Simon: I did buy you flowers once and you said "what have you done?", so I said well you can get lost then!

You've been together a long time – what’s the secret to a happy relationship?

Simon: I think we just make each other laugh.

Emma: We're best friends. We work through things together. When we were younger we'd argue all the time but now we've got the middle ground and we talk to each other about everything.

Do you have time for date nights?

Simon: No, we don't. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Emma: We've not been on a date for a very long time. He doesn't like the attention, so it's difficult when we go out together, so I tend to go out without him. We have date nights at home.

Has being on the show boosted your confidence?

Simon: Yes. One of the major things that's always hindered me is worrying about what people think of me, which is really not a good thing when you're in the public eye. But going into the castle, you have to put yourself into a very specific mindset of not thinking about anything, just everything day by day and hour by hour in that environment. Now I’m not going to worry too much about stuff.

You've opened up in the past about dealing with anxiety. Did you have any anxious moments in the castle?

Simon: No I didn't, which was great as otherwise it would have been unpleasant. I was fine. I was training my brain not to think at all when I got in there, so that worked well. I actually put it to the back of my mind so much that at times I had to remind myself what I was doing.

Was the anxiety something you worried about before going in?

Simon: I think it's always at the back of your mind it could happen, but it hasn't happened for about six years. That door has been shut there. I was more cautious of the fact I might be bored!

Going into the castle was a positive experience for you, though…

Simon: Yes. You're always worried about being yourself in front of the cameras. In my job, you never really get the opportunity to see that side of you. So it was more a case of just trying to be yourself, relax and not put yourself under any pressure. But because everyone in there was so lovely, it made it easy to be yourself. So it's nice that people have been able to see someone who otherwise they'd only really know as Steve McDonald.

You mentioned you don't always go out with Emma as you get a lot of attention – were you worried I'm A Celeb might ramp that up as it’s such a big show?

Simon: It's a bit more of a different demographic. But to be honest, where we go, people are used to seeing me. We're not massive going out people. We'll go for a meal or go boating, so I'm not too worried. Although I've been working every day since we came out, so I haven't had much chance yet!

How is it to have Simon back, Emma?

Emma: We're getting into the routine of having him back – we had a nice little routine going on.

Do you think it's made you want to do other things in your career, too?

Simon: Yeah, I'd love to do some other things. Hopefully other jobs come with it and I get to meet more people in the industry, do documentaries and things like that.

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You're back to shooting Corrie – what can we expect coming up for Steve?

Simon: I've only got four days left shooting this year. So there's nothing really I can talk about as I haven't got a clue at the moment. It will be nice to see everyone – I'm sure they'll all be lined up in the car park ready to tease me as soon as I turn up! Everyone always takes the mickey, it's just banter with the crew.

How will you look back on 2021?

Simon: It's been a nice year for us as a family, but I suppose for everyone else it's been completely awful!

Emma: It's been a bit of a crazy couple of years.

What are your hopes for 2022?

Emma: I'd like to go on a nice family holiday as we've not done that for a few years. I'd like to take the boys to Lapland.

Simon: We'd love to go whale watching and see a blue whale. Swimming with sharks, and me and the boys want to start scuba diving.

What will you do for New Year's Eve?

Simon: I hate New Year's Eve!

Emma: We're not sure yet, but whatever we end up doing, we'll spend it together as a family.

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