He’s one of the most famous faces on Australian breakfast TV alongside co-host Virginia Trioli – with both sharing a very close bond on screen – but Michael Rowland has now revealed that the pair keep their friendship purely work-based.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, the ABC News Breakfast host admitted he doesn’t socialise with his co-star off air as they’re such different people – but insisted that’s what makes their on-air relationship work so well.
He explained: “We actually don’t socialise a lot, if at all. We save our magic for on air. I think if we did socialise a lot we’d lose a lot of our spontaneity that we get on air.
“We are very, very different people with different circles of friends and in many cases we have dramatically different interests. That works on air when we take opposing views and start a feisty conversation.”
Despite their lack of contact off-air, Virginia has previously admitted she spends more time with Michael than she does with her own husband – something he wholeheartedly agrees with.
“We do! It’s fifteen hours a week just on air, plus all the hours before and after the show doing all the preparation,” he added. “In that case, eight years being on air together, you do need to trust and rely on the person you’re with.”
Michael has been happily married to wife Nicky since 2002 and they have two children together, Tom, 15 and Eleanor, 14.
“I’ve taken a conscious decision to keep my private life quite private,” he said when asked about his family. “The kids are entitled to their privacy, as is Nicky, I’m the one in the public eye in that sense.”
Meanwhile, Virginia has been happily married to her husband Russell Skelton since 2003. While she too likes to keep her private life away from the spotlight, she recently made the brave decision to open up about her miscarriage in 2009 – just days after her infamous Barnaby Joyce gaffe.
Virginia made headlines at the time after footage of her interview with Joyce was beamed around the country. She was chatting to the then-Senator when she was caught mocking him on air.
Speaking about the scandal at the Women in Media conference in September, Trioli said her “incredibly risky” joke was brought on by a sense of jubilation. She had just found out that after months of trying, she was pregnant. Feeling elated, Trioli said she spent the morning joking off camera and generating a series of “funny, silly” high jinks.
When she realised footage of her twirling her finger against her temple, implying Joyce was crazy, had been beamed around the country her “heart stopped dead for a full five seconds”.
Devastatingly, the gaffe had even more serious consequences for Trioli, who told the conference that the stress of that day may have contributed to a miscarriage just two days later.
“Now – it is of course highly probable that this tiny precious embryo was never going to take – so many of them don’t,” she said. “But to this day – and for all time – I will always believe that it was my own silliness, and all the drama that followed, that stole away one more hope for a child.”
Asked by Starts at 60 if he knew about Virginia’s miscarriage at the time, Michael admitted he had no idea until his co-star sent him a copy of her speech for the conference beforehand. In fact, he claimed she didn’t tell any of her former colleagues at the time either.
“She was nice enough to send me a copy of the speech before she made it. That was before my time on air, but I read about it and knew about it,” he said.
“It was just a really honest, candid speech. I certainly didn’t know the IVF background, and I can guarantee most, if not all, of Virginia’s colleagues didn’t know the story. So it’s put a nice bit of perspective on that particular moment.”
Both stars are now preparing to celebrate News Breakfast‘s 10th anniversary with a big outdoor bash on the show on Friday, November 2.
“We’re doing the entire show from the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne with lots of special guests, a celebrity chef manning a barbecue, we’ve invited viewers to come along and last time I checked in we had about 400 signed up,” Michael explained.
“We want to make it as festive as possible to mark what is a fantastic milestone.”
News Breakfast‘s anniversary show airs on Friday, November 2 on ABC from 6am.