A version of this story about James Corden first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
James Corden isn’t quite as political as many of his late-night colleagues, and you can attribute part of that to the fact that the British actor and comic is a relative newcomer to the United States. “I only moved here three years and four months ago, and my only experience of living in America is living in Los Angeles and New York,” he said. “So to think that I understand this vast country, and to come and start talking about it, I feel would be naïve.
“I know that if an American host came to Britain and started talking about Brexit and what it means to people in Sunderland and Hull or Plymouth or Newcastle, some people in those cities would go, ‘What do you know? You literally just got here.'”
But Corden’s approach to “The Late Late Show,” which this year landed its third consecutive nomination in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category, is also a simple one: “We want our show to be a variety show in its truest sense,” he said. “We would like the show to not ever be one thing only. We want to make a really fun show that is authentic to me and who I am, that can bring some light and levity to the end of people’s days.”
This past season, the best example might be his 23-minute “Carpool Karaoke” segment with Paul McCartney, where Corden and McCartney drove around the ex-Beatle’s hometown of Liverpool, singing songs and dropping in on old haunts. The segment brought Corden to tears and has been watched close to 150 million times.
“It kind of breaks the rules of the internet, that clip, because people aren’t supposed to watch things that are that long on their phones,” he said. “But on the day we made it, we all felt that we might have shot something quite special. I just don’t know that we realized it would mean so much to so many people.”
And in the aftermath, he added, he didn’t really worry about trying to follow up that segment in the future.
“We’re incredibly proud of it, and the reaction to it was something we never could have expected,” he said. “I think we all felt on the day that we might have shot something quite special, but I don’t know that we realized it would mean so much to so many people.
“But doing shows like this, there is sort of an element where you go, ‘Wow, how do we top that?'” he added. “But we’ve felt that throughout the show — from minute one, really. Whether it’s reenacting Tom Hanks’ whole career or doing Carpool Karaoke with Michelle Obama or coming up with an idea like Drop the Mic, which immediately became its own television show, it’s been a constant feeling of, ‘Wow, what do we do now?’ But that’s also the joy of it.”
And the advantage of the current era, he said, is that late-night television is hardly defined by a time slot. “Historically, you could think, ‘This is a 12:30 late-night show on CBS, and these are the parameters,'” he said. “But making a show like this today, if you make something that people want to watch, they’ll find it.
“When we talk about our show, we don’t say, ‘It airs at this time.’ We say, ‘It launches at this time,’ and then people continue to find it whenever it’s convenient for them throughout their day. That’s how people’s viewing habits are right now.”