Matt LeBlanc says he was given no prior warning that Chris Evans was resigning from Top Gear and only found out when he read about it in the papers.
Evans dramatically quit as host of the revamped BBC2 motoring show amid poor viewing figures and tabloid speculation about unease off-screen, despite initially having signed a three-year deal.
“I did not know that was coming,” LeBlanc told RadioTimes.com and other press. “I read it in the paper. I did not know that that was coming. He went and he resigned.”
Asked to clarify that he had no involvement in Evans’s resignation, LeBlanc said: “I read in the paper that I forced him out and that’s not true. I didn’t have anything to do with it.
“He’s got a lot on his plate, so whatever his reasons were… he said in his statements, it was all pretty clear. That was that.”
LeBlanc added that he didn’t think the initial post-Clarkson series of Top Gear was “as bad as people said”.
“I mean, me personally, and this is just my opinion… I thought last season was alright,” he said. “I didn’t think it was as bad as people said. I thought it was pretty good – entertaining, it was fun. The films were good. The studio portion of it I thought was good, people had a good time. I didn’t have a problem with it, really.”
LeBlanc also admitted that throughout all the furore, he didn’t ever consider walking away from the show despite finding himself under fire from viewers – criticism that he said was “unfair”.
“First of all I made a commitment so I honour my commitment, and second of all I believe in the show. I really do,” the 49-year-old actor said of returning for series 24. “I think a lot of the things that were said last year were unfair. I think there were some things said about me last year that were unfair that I didn’t comment on – nor will I now.
“But I like the show. I like being a part of it. I was a fan of the show before I got here and I’m still a fan of the show and if they fire me I’ll continue to be a fan of the show.
“I think we’ve got a good thing going here, we have a lot of fun. In my experience of this business, I’ll call it the entertainment business, if you’re having fun making it, it’s generally fun to watch. Which sounds so spoiled to say but it’s true. If you’re having a good time making it, it’s generally interesting to watch. And that’s what happens here.”
A month or so after meeting LeBlanc, RadioTimes.com spoke to his co-presenters Chris Harris and Rory Reid about Evans’ exit from the BBC2 show.
Although Harris wouldn’t be drawn on questions regarding the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show host, Reid said that himself and Evans had “texted each other very briefly” immediately after the news broke.
“We didn’t really speak about anything other than wishing each other luck,” Reid told RadioTimes.com. “And that was it. I think he’s moved on to other things, and we’re not looking back, we’re looking forward. And that’s about it really.”
After the departure of Evans, BBC bosses decided not to replace him. Instead, they bumped up popular newcomers Harris and Reid to join LeBlanc permanently in the studio.
Eddie Jordan, Sabine Schmitz and The Stig will also remain a part of the Top Gear team, although they will only feature in films rather than appear in the studio.
Top Gear returns to BBC2 on Sunday 5th March at 8pm