It's Strictly war! Amanda Abbington brands Giovanni 'nasty' and reveals to KATIE HIND that SHE demanded rehearsals were recorded because of his 'awful' behaviour – but his friends hit back and say: 'She wants to finish him off'! SuperNayr

The voice on the other end of the phone was indignant, coming from a woman with an awful lot to say – and who couldn’t have been angrier.

Last Sunday, I took a call from the actress and former Strictly star Amanda Abbington, who has launched legal action against the BBC and her professional dance partner, Giovanni Pernice, over her torrid time on the show. Her voice raised, she was clearly feeling a huge sense of injustice.

The purpose of her call was to put across her side of the story in the saga surrounding the Italian heartthrob’s teaching methods and whether his behaviour had ever crossed a line.

Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing last year. The actress clearly feels a huge sense of injustice about what happened

Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing last year. The actress clearly feels a huge sense of injustice about what happened

Ms Abbington, pictured in Strictly rehearsals, is one of three women who have hired £700-an-hour lawyers at leading London law firm Carter Ruck to pursue claims against Giovanni and the BBC

Ms Abbington, pictured in Strictly rehearsals, is one of three women who have hired £700-an-hour lawyers at leading London law firm Carter Ruck to pursue claims against Giovanni and the BBC

The latest twist had been over who had asked the BBC to record their rehearsal sessions. Last week, I had reported how Giovanni made the request as he grew concerned about Amanda’s behaviour – an assertion the actress was now taking strong objection to. ‘You’re wrong!’ she shouted. ‘I asked for them to be recorded, it was me. Giovanni is nasty. He was awful to a few of us, a group of us.’

had reported how Giovanni made the request as he grew concerned about Amanda’s behaviou

Amanda went on to describe how her life had been devastated by the experience, which has exploded since she quit the show abruptly in the middle of the last series. In January, she claimed she had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after working with Giovanni, and later complained of sustaining a bruised foot in training.

Last month, it was confirmed that three women, including Amanda, had hired £700-an-hour lawyers at leading London law firm Carter Ruck to pursue claims against Giovanni and the BBC.

‘You don’t understand how awful this all is,’ Amanda told me.

‘Giovanni’s fans have started trolling me now. I have had to come off social media and I’m getting death threats.’

The call, which lasted seven-and-a-half minutes, was significant. After months of merely hinting that Giovanni was to blame for her early exit, this was the first time that Amanda had been so candid on the record.

What’s more, the actress also insisted to me that she had complained of Giovanni’s behaviour soon into the series. ‘I went to producers early on and told them about Giovanni,’ she said.

And she lamented of the fallout: ‘All of this because I didn’t enjoy a television programme. I didn’t enjoy it because of all of this.’

No details of how Giovanni is alleged to have behaved have yet been released. But days after her phone call, the BBC put out an unprecedented statement about the dispute. After weeks of silence, when their press office would either ignore my questions or simply reply ‘no comment’, a spokesman vowed that the broadcaster would carry out its investigation with ‘care, fairness and sensitivity to everyone concerned’.

The spokesman said: ‘If a complaint is made to the BBC, we assess and take any necessary steps to establish the facts, whether there is a case to answer, and, if appropriate, what action should be taken.

‘This is all within the context of the BBC having duties of care to everyone linked to a complaint – that applies to those that have raised the complaint and to those that have been complained about.

The actress also insisted to Katie Hind that she had complained of Giovanni’s behaviour soon into the series

The actress also insisted to Katie Hind that she had complained of Giovanni’s behaviour soon into the series

The dancer, who quit Strictly in April, has launched a fightback by hiring rival law firm Schillings

The dancer, who quit Strictly in April, has launched a fightback by hiring rival law firm Schillings

‘Whilst we know our shows have been positive experiences for many of those who have taken part, we will always look at any issues raised with care, fairness and sensitivity to everyone concerned.’

Sources familiar with the situation say the BBC came under pressure from Amanda’s team to say publicly that it was she who asked for the rehearsals to be taped.

A source said: ‘It’s terrible, really. Amanda wanted the BBC to set her record straight, to confirm her version of events. But of course they can’t. It just shows that if she doesn’t like what is being said, she shouts loudly about it.’

But in what is fast becoming a ‘he-said, she-said’ in sequins, Team Giovanni still insist it was he who asked for the rehearsals to be filmed, not her, and say the footage was reviewed on a daily basis.

One friend tells me: ‘Why should everyone believe her and nobody believe Gio? It feels like she wants to finish him off and ensure the BBC is on her side. Giovanni wants a fair hearing. He has said all along that he will take part in any investigation when asked.’

Ten days ago, the dancer, who quit Strictly in April, launched a fightback by hiring rival law firm Schillings. His case is being handled by Joelle Rich, 39, who represented Johnny Depp in his libel trial in 2020.

Whatever the outcome, the next few months are likely to be heated.

As for her phone call to me, Amanda sent a follow-up message 20 minutes afterwards saying: ‘I must apologise again for getting cross, I’m very sorry.’

Of course the main loser in this affair is the show itself. Later this year, Strictly will mark its 20th anniversary – a landmark producers will want to be a celebration, not mired in controversy. But with Giovanni, 33, now absent, some of the show’s 10 million viewers feel the show has been tarnished.

Even some senior insiders at the BBC are dismayed that the dancer is no longer part of the line-up after nine years. As one put it to me: ‘Everything would be so much better if Gio was in it.’

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