James Corden has struck it big in Hollywood, having taken over hosting duties on chat show the Late Late Show last March, but he hasn’t forgotten his friends or his roots.
Back in the UK for Sky 1 sports panel show A League of Their Own, the comedian and actor is once again throwing himself into the programme’s stunts with mates Jack Whitehall, Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp.
His celebrity guests in the US may have included Tom Hanks and Matt Damon and his ‘Car Pool Karaoke’ sketches with Stevie Wonder and Justin Bieber may have gone viral around the world but today, Corden is sitting in full fencing attire, waving a foil threateningly at Whitehall.
“He has a show in the US?” jokes Whitehall. “No, seriously he hasn’t changed one bit. Same old James. Very nice to see our friend again – we’ve missed him.”
Has Corden missed the UK?
“I’m not living in Kenya!” snorts the 37 year-old, who relocated to LA with his wife and two young children at the beginning of the year. “People always ask me if I’m missing marmite – no, I’m not! There’s a British shop two minutes away from my house. I go in and they’re holding a bag of Wotsits for me. What I miss is my family and friends. Its so nice coming back for this show – I love the banter with the guys.
“And we’ve moved into a new studio which fits over twice as many in the audience, so it’s getting even bigger and better. I’m constantly amazed by the scale of the show – last night Sir Chris Hoy was on a floating step machine cum treadmill ten metres in the air!”
The Sky flagship show has a budget to match its big name stars, but Corden and Whitehall made their names on much more frugal productions on BBC3, which is about to be taken off terrestrial TV and moved online. Gavin and Stacey and Bad Education established Corden and Whitehall respectively, as young acting and writing talent. How do they feel about the channel’s fortunes?
“It’s not about whether the channel is closed,” says Corden who has obviously been following the story from the States, “that is blurring the issue – it’s not does it exist on television or does it not exist on television. It’s, ‘Is there still the budget and funds to make television shows and support new writers’.
“House of cards has never been on terrestrial television and it’s amazing – soon you won’t be able to tell where your computer or handheld device stops and your television begins. But the worry is, will the channel still have the resources to support young writers, directors and performers like jack, like myself? It’s a wonderful place to learn your craft and make shows that might be elevated to BBC1 or BBC2.”
“It’s my personal opinion,” interjects Whitehall, “that there’s probably enough money at the BBC going in to making big dramas with white people walking around in bonnets – they have that covered – it’s important that they keep enough money in their pot to support young writers, directors and producers as well. It needs to be distributed across the board and not all weighted towards BBC1 dramas aimed at an older audience.”
“The future of the BBC is the next generation,” adds Corden. “I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for the BBC – it’s incredible – I just hope there’s a plan in place to maintain an outlet for new young voices to be heard.”