In the United Kingdom, James Corden is best known for his BAFTA Award-winning performance in Gavin & Stacey, for which he was co-creator and co-writer, and starred as Smithy. He is also recognized for his accomplishments on stage, including performances in The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors, and for movie roles, including Into The Woods. In England, he is one of the country’s most well known stars.
Now, the accomplished actor and comedian gets a wider introduction to the United States, as he takes to late night as the fourth permanent host of The Late Late Show on CBS, following Craig Ferguson’s nearly ten-year tenure and a succession of guest hosts in recent months. His run begins March 23rd, and it promises an exciting new alternative for weeknights at 12:35am. Earlier this month, Collider visited the CBS Television City offices of The Late Late Show to talk to Corden and learn more about what will make his new show stand out.
Collider: First, can we talk about your location at CBS Television City, which is a centralized part of Hollywood and L.A.? Being in the middle of the action, would you say that it is a perfect place to be launching your show?
JAMES CORDEN: I really do. We are very keen for it to feel like that. Nothing would give me greater joy than if the show does well – touch wood – like a year or two down the line, that some kid would arrive in L.A. and see that billboard and see the building, and go “Oh, that’s where they do The Late Late Show!” We would love it to feel like that, in the same way that when I went to New York, and America, for the first time, when I was 24 or 25 and I was in The History Boys, and I walked past the Ed Sullivan Theater and just stood there like, “Wow, that’s Letterman’s home. Think of all of the great things that have happened in that building.” It would be wonderful. We really wanted to be somewhere that felt like it was the middle of Hollywood.
Did you have any particular late night talk show hosts that you looked to as inspiration, or that you watched growing up?
CORDEN: Well, I didn’t watch them growing up because they’re not on at home. So, no is the answer, but that’s not in any disrespect. They weren’t on television in our country, so I didn’t grow up with Johnny Carson, Letterman or Leno, Dick Cavett, or anyone, really. I grew up with Chris Evans and Michael Parkinson and Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton. I think that is freeing, in many respects. I’m so aware of the tradition of it, and the home comfort of it. If we were making this show at 11:30, then I would be sitting here talking about the tentpoles and home comforts that people want, need and require, in that time slot. There are things that people enjoy with the consistency of those things. I feel that, in our time slot at 12:30, we have a bunch more freedom to maybe make something that feels a little more interesting and a little more organic. You don’t quite know where it’s going to go next.
Is it true that you’re going to be keeping the guests out for the entire show?
CORDEN: Yeah. Well, we hope to. We don’t know if we can yet because we haven’t done the show, but that’s our plan. We would love to bring them all out together. We’re going on after a talk show, so it would just make sense to me to try to make it feel like a freer and more organic conversation.
Your set has a bar in it. Was that your idea or the producers’?
CORDEN: It does, yeah. We want to make it feel like it’s a place where people are hanging out and having fun. That’s often at a bar, right?
Your predecessor used to carry on about Doctor Who a lot, and of course you played Craig Owens in two episodes. Are you going to continue that tradition, maybe having Matt Smith on, at some point?
CORDEN: Oh, if Matt’s in town, I’d love to have him on the show. I had some texts with him the other day, actually. He was in Germany, and I had spent a bit of time in Berlin. I have to say, I love those Whovians so much. There’s a bar here in North Hollywood that I think once a month has a “Doctor Who Night,” where they screen episodes in the bar. It’s great. On my Twitter, I got this barrage of messages saying, “In honor of your arrival in L.A., we’re going to be showing ‘The Lodger’ episode, and we’d love you to come down.” I got loads of messages. I sat with my wife and I said, “I keep getting these messages to go to this Doctor Who thing where they’re screening the episode.” And she was like, “Well, go!” And I did. I loved it so much. I went, and I met these people. I think it’s a wonderful thing when groups of people get really passionate about a TV show. I find it really exciting. I think it’s great fun. Whether that’s Doctor Who, or The Walking Dead, or Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones, I love it. I love how passionate those people are about things, and I’m very touched that I would be included in Doctor Who, in just a tiny way.
On a similar note, a lot of the early guests on The Late Late Show are people that are involved with TV shows and movies that people are very passionate about, like Kerry Washington, for example. Was that passion the reason some of those guests were chosen?
CORDEN: They were picked because they said yes! We have a wonderful booker, Sheila Rogers, who has been the booker on Letterman for 25 years. We’re very grateful to be able to talk to them, but I’m also aware that that won’t be the case, every night. I’m also very excited about being able to introduce people to our audiences, with a discovery about things. I hope we can be a show that gets in, straight away, on [an up-and-coming show]. I hope we can be a show that celebrates that fandom.
Are you hoping that people will see being on The Late Late Show with James Corden as something fun, where they start calling you?
CORDEN: Oh, god, that would be wonderful. I don’t know if we’d ever get there, but I hope people will see it as a fun place to be. We are really going out of our way to try to make it an environment that, from the second people tune in to the second it ends, is a fun place to be. And then, outside of that, from the second the guests arrive to the moment they leave, I want them to feel appreciated and valued by not just me, but everyone who works on our show. I really hope that that’s the case. I really do.
In England you’re very well-known, but here in the U.S., you’re new to a lot of people. Does that make it more intimidating?
CORDEN: Intimidating? No. It’s freeing. I’m really enjoying walking around with my family on a weekend. That’s really great. It’s exciting. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve never interviewed anyone. I’ve never really had a show that, in any sense, resembles this one. And it’s not lost on me what a privilege it is. I hope, so much, that when the day comes and the red light goes on, that I’m able to present myself in a way that American people would want to stick around for, and I hope so much that they do. However long it lasts, the whole thing is an honor to me. It feels like I’m a teddy bear at one of those pick ‘em machines at the fair. It feels like there are so many better teddys around, and I just happened to be the one that the grabbers got. I hope so much that I can be sufficient company to people in that twilight hour of their day.
Do you have any recurring sketches that you have planned?
CORDEN: I don’t know if they’re going to be recurring. We have ideas for stuff. I hope they’re deemed good enough to return. We’ll soon find out.
You’ve got The Lady in the Van coming up. How did that come about, and what was it like to work with Maggie Smith?
CORDEN: I’ll tell you how that came about. It’s directed by Nicholas Hytner and it’s written by Alan Bennett, who wrote and directed The History Boys. Alan thought it would be a nice tip of the hat that all eight of the original History Boys are in the film, in some capacity. Ridiculously, all of my lines are in the trailer. I’m not entirely sure why, but I hope people don’t think that I have some other great role. That’s it. That’s pretty much my entire part. But, they shot the film on the road because it’s a true story. It was a play at the National Theatre that was the biggest play of the year. It was a monster hit. The play is about a woman who lived in a van, and who parked her van on Alan Bennett’s driveway. She was going to stay for two weeks, and she stayed for 15 years. It’s an amazing story. Maggie Smith played it on stage, and is now doing it on film, and I’ve got a hunch that it’s going to be one of her greatest and most iconic performances, which is saying a lot for someone who has done so many great and iconic performances. But she is a hoot, if you ever get to meet her. I just felt so lucky to be in her orbit; to be a satellite revolving her planet for but a few hours. The whole thing was really great.
Hopefully, you could get her on your show.
CORDEN: Oh, man. Could you imagine? We’d give her a special. A Maggie Smith special! But, I don’t know if she’ll ever come out here. We’ll see.
The Late Late Show with James Corden will air weeknights starting Monday, March 23 at 12:35am on CBS.