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8 March 2019, 12:56
EXCLUSIVE: The mercurial Australian has been at the centre of several fiery spats during this year's series of Dancing On Ice - but he told Heart he's just doing his job.
Jason Gardiner believes his tough love approach to the Dancing On Ice contestants is what makes winners.
The 47-year-old visited Heart ahead of Sunday's final, to reflect on this year's show and explain how he got involved with Relaxed Performances, a charity that promotes special pantomime performances for autism sufferers and their families.
Since DOI began in January, Jason has been at the centre of a series of ugly rows with Gemma Collins, 38, with the Towie star even accusing him of "bullying" and fat-shaming her.
But Jason thinks that his famously harsh put downs and post-peformance summaries are just him doing his job - and his blunt words actually drive people to succeed.
He said: "I think in terms of the show, you need to have the criticism that pushes them, that motivates them one way or another, to do well or go home.
"That’s what I do and what I‘ve aways done."
Conceeding that 2019 is a different world to when the show launched in 2006, Jason added that he doesn't worry that his controversial comments will see him replaced with a more snowflake-friendly model.
He said: "I never really think about it too much, as I’m there to do my job.
"I’ve been with the show since day one. It rested for four years. They relaunched it, and I am the only original judge still on the show. I must be doing something right.
"The landscape has changed a lot, but at the end of the day it’s me critiquing their performances and that’s all I do.
"That’s why I’m paid to do. I have 35 years of experience in the industry. I know my stuff.
"I think what I bring to the show is an element which helps all the celebrities get further in the competition."
However, despite being TV's current Mr. Nasty, there is a much softer side to Jason.
He is proud to be associated with Relaxed Performances, a new initiative that aims to get more people diagnosed with autism and their families involved in theatre.
The charity ensures that one performance a run is 'autism friendly', with designated safe areas and quiet zones in the front of house of the theatre, an adjusting the show so that there are no pyrotechnics or loud noises that could be disturbing or frightening.
Jason said: "They are allowed to experience how they experience in a loving environment as everyone understands that they need to process things very differently to how we do.
"That could be verbal or running round. The autism spectrum is very large so it could be ADHD or other learning difficulties.
"As a performer it was one of the most moving things I have ever done. Especially at the meet and greet afterwards when I got to meet people and hear their stories."