EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ,WITH HUSBAND DANNY MAC, ‘DANCING ON ICE’ STAR CARLEY STENSON ON LOVE, FAMILY LIFE AND SKATING TO MAKE THEIR LITTLE GIRL SKYE PROUD.
Beautiful but bonkers is how actress and West End star Carley Stenson describes her life right now. Over the past few months, she has gone from appearing in the play Dial M for Murder and the musical From Here to Eternity to learning how to skate for her debut in Dancing on Ice, while still spending as much time as she can with Skye, her 19-month-old daughter with her husband Danny Mac. “In all honesty, I thought I might not be able to do Dancing on Ice,” she tells OKUK!. “But we figured it out with the support of our family and friends – and Danny, of course. He is so excited for me. He wants me to embrace every moment of it.” On stage, Danny is starring in Pretty Woman, but in real life, it is his own “Superwoman”, as he describes his wife, in the spotlight as we join the couple for our exclusive photoshoot. Danny is clearly Carley’s biggest cheerleader, telling us: “She went from working full-time, then the pandemic hit, then getting pregnant and having a baby. “It must be so hard for any new mum to regain their independence, go back to work, and she has managed to do it. Now, going into a show like this is mega.”
Carley’s partner on the show is professional skater Mark Hanretty, whom she describes as “incredible”. “All the time, he is telling me to be confident – I know he sees the fear in my eyes,” she says. Her last experience of skating was on New Year’s Eve 2019, “messing around with friends and a glass of wine” at London’s Somerset House. “No wine this time,” says the 40-year-old star, who has already tried lifts on the ice – with bruised ribs to show for her efforts. “It’s the Dancing on Ice injury I should be proud of.” The commitment needed for such a show is something 34-year-old Danny can well understand: he reached the final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2016. “Carley allowed me to give it every ounce of my attention,” he says. “Now she’s doing Dancing on Ice, I want to be sure she can commit to it as much as she can.”
As well as a shared passion for their careers, Carley and Danny, who married in 2017, are both committed to family time. “We want to keep Skye’s life really normal and fun and not chaotic, even though ours will be,” Carley says. “The first time she came to see me skating, she wanted to get on the ice so we put tiny skates on her. But of course, the second she put her feet on the ground, she didn’t like it.” But her mum’s debut could not be better timed for the little girl, who “absolutely loves” the Disney Frozen films. “We fall asleep in her room listening to the first song from Frozen 2,” Carley says. “She likes us to look out of the window as she puts our hands on her face to slide down her nose, like they do on screen. It’s those moments we savour.”
Danny returns to the family home in West Sussex each night after he comes off stage at London’s Savoy Theatre, a good two and a half hours away. “I need to be with my family,” he says. “I want to be a parent who’s there in Skye’s life.” On his Instagram, he describes himself as “Full-time Dad/Part-time actor,” telling us: “That’s exactly how it is. Even when I’m working, I find I have Skye’s hair ties around my wrist. It brings me a bit of comfort when I’m not with her.” Carley agrees. “I feel awful when I’m not with her,” she says. “Mum guilt is real – it’s part of my DNA now. “I remember my first day back at work, when Skye had a rash. I got off the Tube and I could have gone left to work or right to go home and I had to ring my mum and say: ‘Please tell me what to do.’ It was horrible. But I knew Skye was with my motherin- law, who is a nurse, so she could not have been in better hands.”
Carley was not much older than her daughter is now when she started dance classes, going on to perform some of theatre’s most sought-after roles, including Fantine in Les Misérables, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical and Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical. Meanwhile, by nine, Danny had won his first professional role (in Les Misérables in Southampton) before heading to the West End stage a year later.
The couple are also TV regulars: both have appeared in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks and more recently, Carley in BBC1’s Doctors. So is Skye likely to follow in their footsteps? “She loves music, but she doesn’t really like to dance or sing,” Carley says. “She puts her hand over my face if I sing, and if I dance she goes: ‘No, Mum!’ We’ll have to remind her we get paid for this as she gets older.” Danny adds : “She’s already telling me to ‘Shhh’ in the car if ever I start to sing. She was always a fan of Michael Bublé’s When You’re Smiling – that’s what I used to sing to her when she was a baby – but she is definitely on to her Frozen stage now. I hope she will see her mum as queen of the ice.” Even though they are busy, the couple “try to make time for date nights”. However, Carley says: “For Christmas, I bought Danny a date night to a cool pizza place then to go to see a film. But when it came to it, we both said: ‘Shall we just stay in with Skye and spend that time together?’” Their beautiful house is built on the original plot of Danny’s family home of 30 years on the coast at Bognor Regis. Nestled on the same site is a new house built for his mother.
While Wigan-born Carley is a long way from where she grew up, this is now very much home. “Danny literally designed every inch of our house and I love it so much. It’s beautiful,” she says. Danny adds: “It was a semi building site when Skye was born. It’s miraculous how it all worked out.” The house is where they celebrated Christmas and the New Year; and for Carley to win Dancing on Ice must surely come high on their wish list for 2023? “I am competitive, but competitive with myself,” she says. “If I see someone doing well, I’m proud for them. It just makes me want to work harder.” Her fellow contestants on the ITV series include former EastEnders star Patsy Palmer, singer Michelle Heaton, The Wanted’s Siva Kaneswaran and Olympic gymnast Nile Wilson. “There are certainly ones to watch,” Carley tells us, not wanting to single anyone out. “I don’t want to let myself down and I don’t want to let Mark down. I would love for him to skate the Bolero – he’s choreographed it three times now, but never got to skate it in the final.” When Carley met original Bolero ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the show’s head judges, she was in awe. “I turned into an absolute goofball. They are so iconic.” They’re joined on the judging panel by Oti Mabuse, who partnered Danny on Strictly, but Carley tells us Oti has already told her: “‘I’m a friend, but I’m definitely going to be watching out.’ So, she will be putting me through my paces and won’t hold back on her comments.” Not that Carley would want it any other way. “I’m used to auditions where you can sometimes be lucky even to get a no – you just find out someone else got the role,” she tells us. “So, I am all about getting constructive criticism. To learn from it and move forward.”