Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans talk new #TopGear
CEETV participated in a roundtable with Top Gear’s new hosts organized by BBC Worldwide during the BBC Showcase. Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans will be the new leaders of famous show.
- How did you get the invitation to be part of the new show?
Matt: on the phone. First they asked me to come and do host Top Gear: The Races which is playing in the States, I don’t know if it had aired here. While I was doing that, the producer asked me if I knew Chris and I said yes, I met him while doing the show, we had dinner and I said what are you talking about and they said never mind, kind of kept the cards close to the chest. Then a couple of months later I got the call and they asked me if I want to get involved and I said yes, I would. I love the show, I have been a fan forever and Chris is a great guy and it worked great. We seemed to hit it off, Chris is very collaborative and his philosophy is like mine: you go at the door, you do your job and you take your ego up on the way out.
- Has it been a big step from scripted to non-scripted and how much of it is non-scripted?
Matt: you can kind of bend things a little bit, it is depending on the environment, when we are shooting the film as we did, there is not a lot of control in the environment, there are a lot of variables, the words need to bend to fit that. The producer is great, the crew is great, we’ve come up with some good stuff.
- In a lot of interviews you said “that’s not me, that’s the writers”, when talking about what you do…
Matt: yes, I give a lot of respect to the writers, it’s really a difficult job to start with a blank page and put down something that people care about, it is a miracle to me. There is an outline we are given and it’s well crafted and the idea is there and we don’t go too far off of that. There are story points and we tell it this way or we tell it this way.
- You started with one of the best shows in history, as an anonymous actor and you became very popular. Now you are coming to this show which is known all-over the world. What is the difference between starting something from scratch, building something as you did with Friends and coming as a superstar to a show that is a superstar?
Matt: very flattering, thank you! I don’t consider myself a superstar, I have a very blue collar work ethic. I am a big fan of the original Top Gear, it’s like this giant ship that’s sailing along and presenters come and go and with Chris we will enjoy our time here. It’s fun to come onboard and give a new shape to it now; a new energy about it. It is interesting to be a part of the evolution of the show. I have a voice in it together with some really smart voices and that’s nice, this is what Friends was – I was one of 6 smart voices, together with the writers and producers. Chris is great, the guys on the next table over there (his co-hosts) are really great. The team they’ve assembled feels strong and feels entertaining enough, some really good car experts and Chris is really quick on his feet, he understands the whole car world, he is more involved in the classic stuff, my role is more to find the fun and funny in these films, I am always pitching jokes.
- You have commitments in the States for sctipted, are you going to be based here or?
Matt: I am based in the States, I have still one more season of Episodes to film here, in the UK and I will be doing it while doing Top Gear and then I have a pilot to shoot and if the pilot goes well and it goes picked up by CBS, I will shoot that but that is still in the air, if they wear me up too much and I can’t do the pilot… I can do both, there is time, the schedule on a multi-cam comedy in front of an audience is convenient enough and this schedule is adjustable enough because it is so international I will have time.
- Will you have time for the Friends reunion?
Matt: there is no reunion (laughing), that aired in the US last night and I guess it went pretty good.
- Chris, you are a creator of formats, the Toothbrush and other stuff. What was your role here?
Chris: I could have reinvented it entirely if I wanted to, they said I can do whatever I wanted to. It was up to me to make the decision what to keep, what to go with which wasn’t difficult to be honest. There is so much good in it and remember none of it broken. The show was as good as it has ever been, I thought two, three shows before it was taken off were amongst the best, it was going back to cars. When Hammond went off the dam with the Land Rover, Jeremy did a retro piece, it was all about cars again. But when you’ve been doing a show for 10 years, it’s like the radio shows – you go 2-3 years where people like the music, then someone will pop up and do more speech radio. It’s quite weird to take over, let’s talk about cars… Let’s take a car – the Ferrari 328 GTS which was a great car, you are in the middle of a golden sunset. But the sun just goes down, below the horizon and I got to start again… So they designed the Ferrari 355 and it’s the worst car but the guy who designed the 355 has done his job because he had to take a bullet for the team. A lot of the stuff on the show is not tired so we keep that, and we quietly get the chemistry between us and maybe change the set to make it a little bit more aspirational, even make a few more films per show. The first series is all about the second series. The research and development can only happen when the show is on air. You do a pilot episode and it’s nothing like the 22 episode that follow. We will get the show done, we will try to keep it tight, we’ll try to give everyone what they want and that’s me being completely honest with you.
- Is there a difference between how US audiences look at car shows and how British viewers are looking? Are there any adjustments?
Matt: I think this is an opportunity to broaden the audience of top Gear in the US on BBC America. I don’t know if it is as big there as it is internationally. We have a lot of things to choose from on television. A lot of it is junk and some of it is great and I hope this will be the latter. In my opinion this is the best car show in the world and it is British, that said the differences between the US ones and the British ones – the British ones are better. And as an American saying that, my house is currently set up ablaze right now (laughing).
- How do you enjoy the wonderful sun that we have here in the UK, totally different than California?
Matt: totally different. I’ve been working here a while, I have some friends, I like it here.
Chris: Our first film is based in Britain, on purpose. We came straight from this film to here. Our films have gone all over the world. Some of the films will be in Norway, in Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russian cosmodrome, South Africa. We are going to Cuba, we can go to the sun, if the sun is required, we don’t have to stay and get wet.
- Top Gear is not just a car show, is it?
Matt: Top Gear is an excuse for Chris and I to travel (laughing).
Chris: That’s the point, Matt and I we really still get excited about cars. We’ve got to tell the story and Matt is a great storyteller. Americans tells stories very well.
Matt: With our first piece, we set off from London to Blackpool in Reliant Realtos. The press followed us everywhere, we didn’t do a good job of keeping it quiet by talking about it on your radio show (laughing).
- Did you finish the race?
Matt: my car broke down just out of town, it was a disaster. But even that was fun. I can drive anything, we could race two Ferraris or you could race two Honda Civics, it doesn’t matter, or you could race two skateboards, if they are the same it’s a race, it is on. It was really fun.
- The insurance on you, it must be…
Matt: That’s not in my department (laughing). I am not very valuable
Chris: There is a budget, it’s very generous, it has to be. There are expectations for the films and they are like movies.
Matt: They really are. This is my first, you’ve done a couple of them. It was our first film together and the crew that has been with the old presenters, it seemed they were having a good time, they were laughing, they were friendly.