He’s best known as the rugged, all-action star of Mutiny and SAS: Who Dares Wins, but Army veteran Ant Middleton tells Army&You that he’s equally as proud of his starring roles as a doting dad and loving husband…
Your military career and television programmes have required extended periods away from loved ones. How have you and your family managed the separation?
It comes down to trust. My wife trusts me not to put myself in danger and I trust that she has full control of the home and family whilst I’m away.
My wife was already used to me being away with the military before the TV work started. She’s a very headstrong person and I am lucky because it takes a certain type of woman to understand that I have to be away for so long. She literally is a super mum – she just gets on with it. She coped when I was away with the Forces and she copes when I am away filming. She was pregnant for the duration of Mutiny being filmed. I had absolutely no communication with home and she was fine with that! I made it home just in time for the birth of my son, Bligh.
I am extremely lucky that I have found someone like that. We know each other inside out, we respect that, trust each other in what we do and respect what needs to be done for our family.
How much does having a family and being a father inspire you?
They are my inspiration – I do it all for them. I want to give my family everything that I didn’t have. If I didn’t have my wife and children, I probably would have taken an easier option.
I want to inspire my children and let them know that if they put their minds to it, anything is possible. If you get your head down and work hard you can achieve great things.
My wife pushes me to be the best I can be and when I look at my children, I want to not only be an inspiration to them but to let them know they can achieve anything. I don’t want them just to struggle on through life, I want them to work hard and believe in themselves and achieve great things.
If I didn’t have my wife and kids I wouldn’t be doing the things I am now, they are my anchors and my motivation. They never put worry on me when I’m away, so if it wasn’t for them then I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
How did the military help you and your family when you deployed?
There is a family community in the military. They hold meetings every now and then to let families know as much as they can about what’s going on. The military looks after our families whilst we are serving as they put a roof over our heads and there is always a welfare officer that the wives, husbands and families can use.
There is good stuff in place for sure and it is also great how the different families stick together and look after one another whilst their loved ones are away.
When you were away, did you try to keep in regular contact with home?
I used to call every couple of weeks, [but] it really depended on how I felt. I obviously wanted to catch up with the kids, but I never wanted them to worry and Emilie didn’t want me to worry about her either. Some people get a lot of comfort out of calling their family, but I liked to keep my head down and focus on what I had to do so didn’t contact home very much. It sounds selfish, but it saved us all a lot of worry. We would reap the benefits of being a family when I got home and we were all together.
How difficult was it to adjust from operational deployments to living a normal family life?
I was very lucky that I never found it a problem. I managed to operate as if I had two heads. I would have my Army operational head on and that would be quite non-emotional, not-there-to-make-friends and just there to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I used to take that head off as I got on the plane home and would have my husband and family head on, which would be completely different to my work head.
So when you see me on SAS or Mutiny, that’s my work head. I’m serious, I don’t mess around and I get the job done, but then when you see me in my social life I’m a completely different person.
How have you coped with becoming a household name and attracting your own army of fans? What does your family think?
It has made me a better person because its gone from being an exciting new venture to being a big responsibility because I receive tons of daily messages from people telling me that I inspire them and they want to be in my position.
They are from all walks of life – eight-to-nine and 50-60-year-olds tell me how I have changed their mindsets and motivated them.
All of that has made me a better person, but I realise it’s a massive responsibility and it has changed my outlook on life and made me want to better myself for them.
I’m just a regular lad who was brought up like anyone else. I’m not Superman, I’m just lucky that I have a mindset that’s full of positivity and I use it to my advantage.
My wife and children have taken it in their stride. We all stay grounded and Emilie now sees the positive effect it has on people. Emilie is fully behind me. At first it took some getting used to for both of us, but after the initial shock we got our heads together and learnt to deal with it. We take all the positives out of it and take it in our stride.
How have your military experiences helped you manage the challenges of filming Mutiny and SAS: Who Dares Wins?
Without my military and Special Forces career I never would have been involved in SAS: Who Dares Wins, so of course that helped me with the challenges for the show. I know how to build the courses and mirror the selection process – albeit a diluted version – and had I not been through it myself then I wouldn’t be able to the job that I do on the show.
When it came to Mutiny, it was a different ball game. The guys in the crew weren’t military men so I couldn’t deal with them in a military manner as it wouldn’t have helped them. The only thing I took from the military was my determination to finish the journey and make sure the job was done. I motivated them in a military manner but without dishing out orders.
They are two such different shows and one is so obviously military and the other is so far removed from the military that it was a whole new challenge that I drew on my other life experiences for.