Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has thrown his support behind contestant Maisie Smith, after she landed in the bottom two twice this series.
The 19-year-old EastEnders star, who is partnered with Gorka Marquez, has narrowly avoided elimination over the past two weeks – despite glowing reviews from judges.
And judge Craig, 55, has shared his belief that the actress may be struggling to soar because she ‘needs to the win the hearts of the nation’, as he compared her to 2007 champ Alesha Dixon.
Support: Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has thrown his support behind contestant Maisie Smith, after she landed in the bottom two twice this series
During an appearance on ITV’s This Morning on Monday, Craig said: ‘Maisie is fantastic, she just needs to win the hearts and minds of the nation.
‘I remember Alesha Dixon was in the bottom a few times and then she ended up winning and becoming a judge. I’m hoping it’s a slow burner and that’s the case. She’s a lovely girl and I really want to see her go through.’
Britain’s Got Talent star Alesha, 42, won the popular BBC ballroom contest with dance partner Matthew Cutler in 2007, before replacing Arlene Phillips as a judge on the show for a single series in 2009.
Saved: Maisie Smith and her partner Gorka Marquez, left, narrowly avoided elimination on Sunday, after landing in the bottom two with Caroline Quentin and Johannes Radebe, right
Elsewhere in his interview, Australian-born Craig admitted that he found life on the Strictly set ‘lonely’ this year, due to stringent COVID-19 rules put in place.
‘It’s quite lonely actually,’ he said. ‘It’s not the experience we are used to. But that’s everyone in the world isn’t it?
‘I’m just so pleased the BBC managed to keep the show on, thank God. It’s happy, it’s fun. I’m not always in that mood but I’m there to do a job.’
Just over a week ago, Maisie narrowly avoided elimination after facing Max George and Dianne Buswell in the dance off, one week before she once again landed in the bottom two alongside Caroline Quentin during Sunday’s results show.
Hearts of the nation: During an appearance on ITV’s This Morning on Monday, Craig said, ‘Maisie is fantastic, she just needs to win the hearts and minds of the nation’
TV interview: Joined by Strictly pro Kevin Clifton (bottom right), the 55-year-old TV personality was interviewed by Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby
The star narrowly avoided the chop again after scoring 27 points out of 30, her highest score yet, for her sizzling salsa to Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancing.
And it was the Blue Murder star, 60, who became the fourth contestant to be eliminated from Strictly this week following the tense dance-off.
Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke – who filled in for Motsi Mabuse while she self-isolates – unanimously chose to save Maisie after awarding her high scores on Saturday.
But Strictly fans were left questioning how the soap actress and her professional partner Gorka Marquez even found themselves in the bottom two in the first place.
Champ: Craig compared Maisie to Alesha Dixon, who won the popular BBC ballroom contest with dance partner Matthew Cutler in 2007, despite landing in the bottom two on occasion
In the judge’s seat: Following her successful run as a contestant, Alesha went on to replace Arlene Phillips as a judge on the show for a single series in 2009
Many outraged viewers took to Twitter to slam her landing in the dance-off for the second week running as ‘unbelievable’ as they claimed she is the ‘best dancer’ in the competition.
The floods of fuming comments come soon after Kevin Clifton claimed that Maisie was a victim of sexism after landing in the dance-off for the first time last Sunday.
Kevin, who danced with Maisie in the 2019 Children In Need special, shared his shock and his theory on why it had happened.
Taking to Twitter last Monday, he wrote: ‘People love a confident/ talented/ successful man but a confident girl gets labelled cocky.’
‘Unbelievable’: Strictly fans were left baffled as Maisie placed in the bottom two for the second week running alongside Caroline Quentin during Sunday’s results show
Last week’s close call reportedly left Maisie feeling shaken and she apparently had to be comforted by her fellow Strictly co-stars after taking the vote ‘to heart’.
A source told The Sun: ‘Poor Maisie has been so upset – she’s been crying all night and has really taken it to heart. She’s young and living away from home for the first time so it’s hard on her.’
The insider went on to say that the young actress had the support of her fellow celebrity contestants and professional dancers as they attempted to cheer her up.
They added: ‘The show’s dancers and the other celebs have been rallying around and trying to lift her spirits.’
Dance-off: The Eastenders actress, 19, narrowly avoided the chop after scoring 27 points out of 30, her highest score yet, for her salsa to Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancing
This week, the actress secured her highest score of the season after last week’s Cha Cha, which scored her a respectable 24 points from the judges.
But unfortunately for Maisie, her professional partner Gorka, 30, nearly dropped her after she backflipped during the salsa.
All three judges pointed out the slip-up, with Craig Revel Horwood saying: ‘It was a bit unfortunate about the bad landing but I’m blaming your partner.’
But Gorka held his hands up and admitted that it was solely his fault.
Anton Du Beke deemed the dance ‘marvellous’ and ‘terrific’ regardless and the judges awarded them a trio of 9s.
Disappointed: Last week’s close call reportedly left Maisie feeling shaken and she apparently had to be comforted by her fellow Strictly co-stars after taking the vote ‘to heart’
After surprisingly landing in the dance-off, Maisie managed to save herself and it was former Jonathan Creek star Caroline, 60, who sadly waved goodbye after dancing the Cha Cha to Fontella Bass’s Rescue Me.
She hailed her professional partner Johannes Radebe as her ‘greatest gift’ as she claimed her five-week stint fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a dancer.
When asked whether she’s accomplished her aims by appearing on the BBC hit, presenter Caroline told hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly: ‘Yeah.
‘In a way slightly more than that because I have had the honour and privilege of working with some of the greatest dancers this country has ever known I mean I really believe it, I think they are absolutely fantastic.
High score: The actress secured her highest score of the series this week, but unfortunately her professional partner Gorka, 30, nearly dropped her after she backflipped during the salsa
‘But of course my greatest gift coming on this show is this man.’
Choreographer Johannes expressed his gratitude towards the axed star as he added: ‘Oh my gosh, what a woman, thank you, thank you again!
‘Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t know what to say, because it was a beautiful one, I had a beautiful journey with you, thank you my darling, thank you.’
Keeping in theme with the Elstree-based ‘Blackpool’ special, the professional dancers showcased their fancy footwork as they danced to Billy Ocean.
Strictly Come Dancing continues next Saturday on BBC One.
Here comes the hotstepper: On Monday, Strictly professional dancer Amy Dowden was seen arriving for Strictly rehearsals in London
Casually cool: She was joined by JJ Chalmers, who looked casually cool in a combination of UK and US military-branded gear
Chic: Amy looked stylishin a black fluffy coat with flowing trousers and chunky platform boots