Michael Barrymore's quest for redemption and rehabilitation took him to the most public place of all - the Big Brother house. He spoke to reporter Emma Brady.
Waiting backstage to be called to rehearsals, Michael Barrymore is worried.
As he prepares to take to the stage as Scrooge in a touring production of the musical based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the producer Bill Kenwright quips that Barrymore can "play it natural".
The 54-year-old entertainer, whose career has enjoyed a resurgence since he took part in Celebrity Big Brother in January, will make his debut as the festive miser at Wolverhampton Grand tonight.
"It's a fantastic part and a great story; it's worrying that I'm now old enough to play Scrooge but it's a great opportunity. In fact Bill said I could play it natural, without make up!
"But it's up to me to come up with the goods on stage and they will judge me on the back of that. I don't mind being judged, as long it's for what I'm doing rather than anything else."
Judged. It's a word that crops up a fair bit during the interview, as are "press" and "tabloid".
It would not be unfair to say the British media have been judging Barrymore ever since factory worker Stuart Lubbock was found floating motionless in a swimming pool during a party at the comedian's Essex home in March 2001.
Many tabloids accused him of having some responsibility for Lubbock's death, but their hounding eventually drove the entertainer to move to New Zealand, to live his life away from the glare of the paparazzi and the press.
Barrymore, who began his career as a Butlin's Redcoat, said: "I've spent all my life making other people happy and after everything that happened I had to take some time for myself, to make myself happy, which is why I went to New Zealand.
"That said, I don't walk around unnoticed down there, because the shows are still on television, so I do get people coming up and saying hello.
"It becomes part of your life and you have to accept that loss of anonymity. You get to a point where you don't know anything else."
He added: "Certain media want to go down a certain route and it doesn't take much for them all to adopt a pack mentality, so if one goes after something they all do.
"While I accept the press have to do what they do, it's all very well saying what they say but I have to live with it as well."
Barrymore was television's Mr Saturday Night for nearly 20 years. He could charm any granny into doing her party piece for millions of viewers, no matter how embarrassing. If the media did not love him, the public did – and still do.
But he admits their love was lost on him, until he entered the Big Brother house in January – after initially turning down the opportunity.
"It was only then I realised how supportive and understanding the British public were," he said. "That's why I was crying so much during the first week, because I was totally overwhelmed.
"Big Brother was something I needed to do, and to be honest, it was the rehabilitation that I needed at the time. It helped me get my confidence back and the only people who could give it back to me were the public.
"I had turned this down at first. I didn't like the idea of being filmed 24-7, but I'm glad they asked me a second time because there's no denying Big Brother was a turning point in my life."
Barrymore's return to 'theatreland' mirrors the fate of another popular television presenter, former Stars In Their Eyes host Matthew Kelly, who was arrested in 2003 amid allegations – subsequently dropped – of child abuse.
He reinvented himself as a serious actor, earning praise for his roles in Of Mice and Men - he won an Olivier award for his performance as Lennie - and the BBC's adaptation of Bleak House.
The Strike It Lucky star admits there are similarities but added: "I am on my journey and Matthew was on his, hopefully we've both bounced back.
"Scrooge has given me the opportunity to come back to where it all began for me, in the theatres when I was doing stand-up.
"Comedians like Shane Ritchie and Bradley Walsh have done it, they've gone into Eastenders and Corrie and shown it's possible for us to play dramatic roles."
As the cast prepare for another run through, Barrymore admits the future is looking rosier than it has for some time.
After a week in Wolverhampton playing Ebeneezer Scrooge, the production will tour Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Sunderland, Liverpool and Oxford until mid-February.
He will also return to New Zealand next year to perform a one-man play, Daylight Atheist by Tom Scott, and maybe tie the knot with long-term partner Shaun Davis.
"Yes I would like us to get married, I think it'll be the right thing to do," said Barrymore.
"I'm looking at various projects - I don't want to do television for the sake of it, but it would be great to do, say, a one-off Strike It Lucky. "I would also like to explore the acting more if the right parts come along. I'm really enjoying the rehearsal process for Scrooge and can't wait to get back on stage."
Scrooge runs at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, from tonight until Saturday. For tickets and more information call the box office on 01902 429212 or visit www.grandtheatre.info