Hosts Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Rory Reid ready for new #TopGear
CEETV participated in a roundtable with Top Gear’s new hosts organized by BBC Worldwide last week during the BBC Showcase. Racing driver Sabine Schmitz, YouTube star Chris Harris, motoring journalist Rory Reid were part of the first session which we publish today.
Questions from other media are also used in the interview.
- Why do you think there are not many women in the world of racing?
Sabine Schmitz: I know a lot of racing girls, not many continue for a long time to race. They get married, they have children or even they have a little problem, they stop because it is dangerous and so on.
- This is a great addition to the show because women who are interested in cars and all that surrounds them, they have someone who is easier to relate to…
Sabine: Top Gear is a family show, everybody likes to watch it, children, young men, old men, women.
- There was a cast of three people before and now it is a much bigger cast. Why did they need such a bigger cast and how do they make easier or more complicated for you, having a lot of colleagues?
Rory Reid: I think one of the difficulties that the show had was following the old format with three people. If they replaced those three people with another three people, immediately there will be comparisons and someone would automatically become the new Jeremy Clarkson or the new Richard Hammond and when they decided to reboot Top Gear, I think they wanted to step away from that and do something totally different. So it’s not that we necessarily needed a specific number of presenters but let’s do something a bit different to what came before. Luckily, everyone on the team bring something unique to the table and with such a wider pool of talent you would probably end up with a much better production.
- Do you have disagreements on the set? 7 people, 7 voices, 7 egos?
Chris Harris: if you think about it, it’s a more modular way of approaching the problem of making a TV program. Actually we will all have not specific disciplines but little places we deal with it, we won’t exactly describe them now because it must be a surprise when you all see the program but we will doing things that will allow us to play to our strengths. Chris talked about having a football team and when he wants the best players on the field. If you are not the best person, you sit back on the bench, stay warm and be ready to go when required. It is a quite interesting approach. The show must be interesting to as many people as possible. This process has gone on and we have different voices and different faces and that appeals to a lot of people, huge interest to the more general type of viewer that isn’t that much in cars. There is even more now also about people who are really into cars. They’ve ended up with that quite broad platform.
- Can you tell us more about your different roles in the show?
Rory: we can’t give away the game completely but we will all be driving, I don’t think that each of us will be put in a tiny box; we will be able to step out and do different things. We will be doing films together, we will be doing films solo, there will be some in-studio segments. We don’t quite know how it all will come together still. It is still a thing we are building up and once we get there, we will be in a position, we will show you once it read. It is a mix of the old Top Gear with some new ideas. We haven’t had any disagreements…
Sabine: Not yet (laughing)
Rory: they will come, there is a film that the three of us will be in and there will be some disagreements (laughing)
- How much have you done yet, what is yet to do?
Chris: A lot more has been shot than you think. A lot of what has been reported in the press is not true but will helpful us because it will manage expectations down. Because when the show emerges, a lot of people will be like hang on a minute, this is actually rather good. We’ve been working on it for the past 8 months. A lot of work has been done.
- How many episodes are there per season?
Chris: that’s not on the agenda to talk about. It’s changed during time, they started doing 10 per each block for two blocks per year so that was 20 shows. Killer schedule.
Rory: I think we are allowed to speak about the number of episodes…
Sabine: I think they are eight, 16 per year, two blocks per year.
- Do you know where your segment will be in each episode?
Chris: Don’t think each show has a specific template. We probably won’t be all in each show, because there are seven of us, you can’t fit everyone.
Rory: Matt and Chris will be in every show.
- There are new formats based on cars right now. BBC acquired a new format – The Getaway Car. What do you think about those formats that are kind of children of your format?
Rory: As a fan of cars I think it’s great, I love to see cars, I am looking forward to seeing some of those programs, as a creator of content myself it expires me and entertains me myself.
- Did you watch Top Gear regularly before joining the show? What were your favorite elements of the show?
Chris: Absolutely, it was fantastic. I liked it when it worked, it didn’t always work but the stuff it made you laugh with them and some of the more serious review pieces were fantastic. It is an amazing show and needs to be celebrated and we need to do a better job. We’ve assembled a great team and I don’t think any of us is remotely scared of celebrating how great the other guys were and what a great time to be a car enthusiast because they are going to do their thing so you can watch them if you want and you can watch us as well, it gets double. It is a great time to be a car enthusiast
Rory: what I really liked about the old series was the beauty of it, the visuals , like automotive art, they always captured it very well, these cars looked incredible in these locations. That’s going to continue, that beauty, saying wow, I really want to drive this car on that road. That will follow through.
Sabine: the locations of Top Gear were amazing, very special places. I like the idea of Top Gear of the Stig. This idea was so great – to put a person in a white suit, in a white helmet, white gloves you have no idea who he is. Maybe I am (laughing). To have the Stig on our team is perfect.
- Are you going to compete against the Stig?
Sabine: sure, every day.
- Will you tackle controversial issues like when the VW thing kicked off in the US?
Rory: I don’t know if we are going to make some political statements about VW in particular. We are not afraid of tackling subjects that might be a bit controversial, shall we say. I am definitely not scared of tackling controversial issues.
- Any investigations of your own?
Chris: I think the studio element is still being tied down at the moment, I don’t know what exactly will be in the final, there will be an element of news, it’s a weekly magazine show so it needs to cover off what has been going on in the world. In terms of going out and investigation – I think the world has moved on – there is demand to show the latest, greatest supercar and see someone driving. I am not going this is not going to happen, the great thing about Chris’ approach is that if he thinks it’s gonna work, it is going to be in the show, there is no strict rulebook.
- How did you get on Top Gear?
Chris: I got a text message, the first contact was by a phone call. It was a long way till I got the phone call I got a job on top Gear. I was on a job in Spain and my phone rang and he went – this is Chris Evans and I went: you are joking, right and he said no, it is Chris Evans, you got the job. It was the most surreal conversation in my life. He just phoned me out of the blue.
Rory: I came thru a public audition, I heard on his radio show that anyone could enter the competition to become a Top Gear presenter. Tens of thousands of people sent their 30 second audition tape, I sent mine and forgot about, I got an email inviting me to screen tests, then we got to Top Gear abstracts, then some driving challenges and prove that you can drive and talk and handle the car and also studio stuff. Then it went quiet for a long time and then I got a phone call and they said we want you on the show.
Sabine: I got a message via Facebook messenger (laughing). I said “what do you want” (laughing) and then came from Germany. We had a short chat and I said I am here if you need me.
- Is it your full time job now or do you something else?
Chris: I am not involved in anything outside. I am also working on the other products Top Gear has, i.e. magazine, website; etc.