Grant Denyer opens up on 'horrific' family past: 'No reason to pretend'

Beloved TV star Grant Denyer has been on a powerful (and at times heartbreaking) journey of self-discovery of late, and he's taking the rest of Australia along for the ride.

Earlier this year, he opened up about his struggles with addiction following a traumatic rally car accident on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and now he's lifting the lid on his family history on the upcoming season of SBS' Who Do You Think You Are?

Grant Denyer wearing a cowboy hat and a blue plaid shirt in a promo photo for SBS' Who Do You Think You Are?
Grant Denyer uncovers family secrets on SBS' Who Do You Think You Are?. Photo: SBS (supplied).

'Shocked to my core'

It was a leap of faith, Grant, 43, tells Yahoo Lifestyle because he had no idea what skeletons might be hidden in his ancestors' closets.

"I spent my whole life looking forward and never looking back so my family history was a complete mystery," he says.

The former Family Feud host jumped at the chance to 'fill in all the gaps' of his genealogy but admits he was a tad naive and underprepared for what he might uncover.

"You don't know what you're going to find and if you go back far enough everyone's going to have that person or those stories that have been swept under the rug," he explains.

"That's exactly what happened [on the show] and that shocked me to the core [...] I should have stupidly been a little bit more prepared for any outcome but, you know, history is history and we can't change the past."


Grant Denyer walking along a fence on a farm in Victoria in an episode of SBS' Who Do You Think You Are?
Grant explored his Scottish ancestors' Victorian farm. Photo: SBS (supplied).

Grant discovered he's descended from a Scottish clan that migrated to Victoria in the mid-1800s after being violently removed from their farmland during the brutal Highland Clearances.

They arrived with 'nothing in their pockets' and worked as shepherds for 10 years before finally scraping enough money together to purchase their own farm, which Grant was able to visit.

It was a moving experience that saw a lot of things about this own life click into place, he says.

"I just went straight back, you know, I felt like I now know why I have a deep love of the land," he tells us.

"I weirdly have Scottish Highland cows on my own farm right now and I couldn't explain why I love them so much!"

'Horrific acts'

But with the touching moments came some that were hard to swallow. Grant was confronted with a 'harrowing and heartbreaking' account of domestic abuse in his family's past that he found very difficult to process.

"You want to be proud of who you are and be proud of your lineage but when you find someone who's committed horrific acts, it makes it very hard to be proud of," he says.

For Gold Logie-winner Grant, it was necessary to face these tough truths for his own personal growth.

"I think turning 40, you start going 'Okay, these personality traits aren't working for me anymore', you clean house a little bit," he explains.

"How do I feel about life and love and who I am and my place in the world? They're questions that everyone arrives at at some point in their life and it just happens to be happening to me right now."

Grant Denyer celebrates winning the Gold Logie at the 60th Annual Logie Awards at The Star Gold Coast on July 1, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia
Gold Logie-winner Grant is ready to let Australia see the 'real' man behind the 'glossy' TV persona. Photo: Getty Images.

After decades making what he describes as 'smiley game shows' like Game Of Games and Million Dollar Minute, Grant's ready to let people see the real man behind the on-screen persona.

"I've been glossy for too long and that doesn't really interest me anymore because that's only part of who I am, so it's kind of nice to be warts and all. That's how healing happens," she says.

"It's nice to do I'm A Celebrity and Who Do You Think You Are? where you're not pretending, you're not trying to give away cash or a car. You're just letting the wrinkles of life form on your face and as uncomfortable as some of those discoveries can be... there's no reason to pretend that it's not happening."

Grant admits that he might not have been so open if he was back in the early 2000s when he just beginning his TV career as a weatherman on Sunrise.

"But I've had a really fortunate run in my career and I feel like I can stop and be still for a moment. And I don't have to think that just because I say something that's silly or embarrassing that my whole career will collapse," he says.

Who Do You Think You Are? premieres 7.30pm Tuesday, 8 June on SBS and SBS On Demand.

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