Piers Morgan’s just arrived on the 20th floor of the ITV studios on London’s Southbank, half an hour after Good Morning Britain’s ended.
“By this time I’m normally in bed,” he states. “I just go straight home. I don’t even talk to my wife [writer Celia Walden]. I walk straight through the door, upstairs, back into bed, and pretend it never happened,” quips the 51-year-old.
Following successful guest stints, Morgan joined the breakfast TV show as a permanent fixture in late 2015, but admits the early start “never gets easier, it’s just a killer”.
He sets two alarms. The first is gentle harp music, to rouse him from his slumber. The second is In Da Club by 50 Cent.
“And if that doesn’t work, my driver’s instructed at 4.30am to start hammering on the door,” says the father-of-four [he has three sons from his first marriage and a daughter with Walden]. “We haven’t got to that yet.”
His GMB co-presenter, Susanna Reid, is often left exasperated by the former journalist’s bullish ways.
“My family are incredibly opinionated. I’m probably the shrinking violet out the lot of them,” Morgan retorts.
Does he feel he’s winning Reid over?
“It’s quite a long, painful courtship, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say I’m winning her over but slowly, the Ice Maiden is thawing, a tiny little bit,” he adds, grinning.
And Reid does reprimand him if she feels he’s pushed things too far.
“It’s like being taken into the headmistress’ office,” says the former Daily Mirror editor and CNN anchor. “But it’s a pretty fine line, because obviously people are tuning in to see me go too far.”
Aside from Good Morning Britain, and a new series of Killer Women, Morgan’s been filming more episodes of his chat show Life Stories, which began back in 2009 with Sharon Osbourne.
There’ll be four episodes this time round, including one with Nigel Farage.
He’s yet to film the interview, but Morgan, who thinks it’ll be “fascinating” to see whether the contentious former UKIP leader will let his guard down, reveals: “I heard that members of his entourage are involved in quite high stakes gambling over whether I can make him cry or not.
“It’s going to be a very combative interview. He’s a very smart guy, can be very funny, very charming, he can be very tough too and he has quite polarising opinions, but I think he’s coming ready to play. He sees it as a bit of a joust, and so do I.”
Morgan might not share Farage’s views, but points out “it’s not really about politics, it’s [looking at] who’s the man behind this incredible seismic bombshell, which has ripped this county to pieces.”
Nigel Havers is also taking part. “We’d been trying to get him because he’s the charmer and he’s been in an amazing range of stuff. He’s very funny but [there’s] real tragedy in his life,” says Morgan.
“He lost his second wife to horrendous cancer and he got very emotional talking about that. But now he’s in a good place, to do that without completely losing it. It’s the kind of show my mum would love, and she’s my biggest critic.”
The two other celebs on the line-up are Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb and Boy George, both people who’ve declined to take part in the past.
“They were always on my hit-list,” says Morgan. “Barry Gibb because he’s one of the greatest music icons this country’s ever produced. And in a really weird series of events, he’s lost his three younger brothers. And his wife had never given an interview on television before, so she pops up on the giant screen and he was like, ‘Oh my god!'”
Morgan’s been trying to enlist Boy George since the first series (“because he’s probably the most flamboyant pop icon we’ve ever had”). They’re yet to film his episode, but the host’s “already excited”.
“You know with Boy George you’re going to get all the humour, a lot of raw honesty, an amazing story of great highs, terrible lows; prison time, obviously. He said he’s going to talk for the time about what really happened that led to him going to prison, so it could be very revelatory.”
When looking for guests, he says “it’s not necessarily about them being A-list”.
“Funnily enough, the A-listers often don’t rate anywhere near as well as somebody who’ll have stuff that’s going to be interesting from a human point of view,” he says, noting that the second highest-rated show ever was the revealing interview with Torvill and Dean (Cheryl Cole drew the most viewers, “when she wept about Ashley for two hours”).
The disappointing ones “are very rare”, but it’s typically when the interviewee’s “had too much therapy”.
“The best ones are where they haven’t done an interview like this in their lives, really, and it gets organically very emotional,” Morgan notes. “People say, ‘Oh, you make people cry’. I don’t set out to at all.”
As for future subjects, he’s still waiting to hear from Lady Gaga since she told him she’d take part (“We’re having a little ‘scheduling’ issue”), and he’s currently in discussions with Sir Michael Parkinson to appear.
Donald Trump “would be great” he adds, revealing ITV turned him down when Morgan suggested him years ago.
He’s interviewed the newly inaugurated President “around 30 times”, and has considered him a friend since appearing on Celebrity Apprentice, hosted by Trump, in 2008.
“He follows 41 people on Twitter and there’s one Brit, and that’s me. Even Farage doesn’t get a follow,” states Morgan.
“I always say to people, he’s not the monster you think he is – and he’s not an angel and he’s definitely not a politician. What he is, is a business guy who’s just cracked the biggest deal of his life, and will now turn the whole thing into a business. It’s American Incorporated with the Chief Executive being Donald Trump, and he will, I suspect, surprise people,” he continues.
“He always said to me he wouldn’t use diplomats to make deals, he’d use Wall Street killers and that’s what he’s got, some of the top brains in America.”
He, for one, is “actually quite excited” to see Trump at work.
“Everyone’s a bit fed up with politicians and their robotic PC stuff, and might quite like someone coming out and saying exactly what he thinks,” Morgan observes.
“It’s unfiltered, it’s sometimes offensive, it’s not always what everybody likes to hear, but sometimes, a bit of straight-talking is not a bad thing.”