Iraq veteran Melvyn Downes, 55, joins SAS: Who Dares Wins as show's first mixed race officer

ATTENSHUN, fans of SAS: Who Dares Wins – there’s a new recruit to the toughest show on TV.

Melvyn Downes, ex-soldier turned Scout leader, has signed up as the Channel 4 show’s first mixed-race officer and member of the Directing Staff (DS).

He falls in alongside the now-released Ant Middleton, Jason Fox and Mark “Billy” Billingham.

The 55-year-old tough guy led operational tours in Iraq and Northern Ireland during more than two decades in the Armed Forces, which included 12 years in the SAS.

He was drafted in to the show after Ollie Ollerton departed last year amid Channel 4’s “diversity drive”.

Melvyn believes joining the show is an opportunity to “represent the under-represented” — but insists his recruitment is not just a box-ticking exercise.

He says: “I know people are going to say it’s all about race, but I don’t see it that way.

“To be a part of this programme you’ve got to be competent to do the job, that’s number one.

“Because I had 24 years in the British military, got to senior rank as a Warrant Officer and led countless SAS operations, I think I have got the necessary experience first of all to back it up.

“But being the first mixed-race DS is going to be a great opportunity as I can represent the under-represented in life — not just minorities, I’m talking about people from deprived, working-class backgrounds.”

The father of three was raised on a council estate in Stoke and has lived in Dubai for the past decade, working in corporate security and for British Scouting Overseas, the movement’s organisation for British people living abroad.

Former SAS favourite Ollie was fired after the 2020 celebrity series, along with co-star Jay Morton, having featured since the show began in 2015.

He later hit out at the decision in The Sun, saying: “I’d rather have left after doing something wrong, as at least I would have understood it.”

Fans of the show will meet Melvyn for the first time this Sunday in episode one of the new civilian series.

In an original twist, the show will see a new DS go undercover among the 21 recruits taking part in the course on the Scottish island of Raasay.

This series and the forthcoming celebrity version were filmed before Ant was let go in March for alleged “inappropriate behaviour” when four women raised concerns about his “personal conduct” on set.

On his departure, a Channel 4 spokesman said: “It has become clear that our views and values are not aligned and we will not be working with him again.”

It is the perfect time for the show to introduce new blood.

Nina screws up for jail drama

FOR Channel 4’s new prison officer drama to be a hit, casting is key.
And I can reveal that Screw – described as Shameless behind bars – is set for success with Nina Sosanya, star of BBC shows His Dark Materials, Killing Eve and W1A, taking on the lead.

Nina will play Leigh, who keeps the inmates in line but is an enigma to her team. She has her own secrets that, if discovered, could cost her more than her job.

Derry Girls star Jamie-Lee O’Donnell will play trainee officer Rose.

I May Destroy You’s Stephen Wright and Silent Witness’s Faraz Ayub are also among the embattled officers at the fictional Long Marsh Prison.

The six-parter by Rob Williams – Bafta-nominated writer of 2019 Scottish mini-series The Victim – begins production in Glasgow today.

It could be your next guilty pleasure.

Jason's big miss

JASON Manford has opened up about how he was almost crushed by a rampaging Boris Johnson.

The comedian’s close call happened on his 2017 ITV show Bigheads, which involved people taking on challenges in oversized celeb costumes.

Recalling a battle between “Boris” and a Will.i.am, Jason, told That Gaby Roslin Podcast: “They were so boisterous and violent they managed to bring the whole set crashing down.

"And it was heavy. Only when I watched it back did I realise how close I was to this thing landing on my head.”

A second helping of grace

ITV aren’t exactly treating detective drama Grace with much dignity.
In March, it yanked the John Simm show from the schedules after one episode, afraid it would be trounced by BBC’s Line Of Duty.

But yesterday morning, only 12 hours after the sixth and possibly final series of Line Of Duty wrapped, ITV announced Grace would be returning for a second run. That is despite the conclusion to the first remaining unscreened.

We only got the first episode because ITV brought it forward, bumping out the finale of another cop drama, McDonald & Dodds.

Perhaps bosses were being overly cautious as Brighton-based Grace, adapted from Peter James’ novels, did well, with 8.8million viewers.

Its writer Russell Lewis only said the final part of series one was “cued up ready to go” as he celebrated the announcement of series two.

He added: “We’ll be shooting out of our Brighton HQ and all along and around the South Coast from late summer through to very late autumn.”

Davina's 'change' trauma

DAVINA McCall went into a depression and felt past her prime during the menopause.

The TV host and Masked Singer judge said: “I was very embarrassed and it was way too personal to bring up at my job. Somehow menopause is shameful to admit, in a million different ways.

“You’re past your sell-by date. You’re not a baby-maker. What are you?

“It’s so important to change the narrative. It only takes one person and then it’ll be cool.”

Davina, fronted Channel 4 documentary Sex, Myths And The Menopause.

On experiencing “the change”, she told Radio Times: “I was scared about what was going on. My sleep was interrupted two or three times a night and it caused a chain of events in my brain that really frightened me.

“The mental fog and confusion were overwhelming, I went into a bit of a depression.”

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