James Corden talks about ‘Carpool Karaoke,’ ‘Cats’ and that elusive Golden Globe nod (Conclusion)
LOS ANGELES—From the 4-year-old boy who began mugging when he was put on a chair to watch his sister’s christening and relished the laughter he elicited, James Corden has not stopped entertaining people.
In this continuation of my column on James, he talked about his homespun philosophy on staying happy, the success of his late-night TV show (especially its “Carpool Karaoke” segment), landing a role in the film version of “Cats,” and what he thinks of real cats, and the return of his hit UK series, “Gavin & Stacey,” as a TV special this Christmas.
James’ happiness will probably be complete if he finally earns that Golden Globe nod—he talked amusingly about that elusive nomination in Part 1.
Speaking of being happy, how does he stay upbeat? “I could find happiness anywhere,” he answered. “I am at my happiest probably lying on a couch staring at the corner of a rug (laughs). That’s how I feel. The best you can do is just to be present, because what you have to realize is, everything behind you is gone and everything in front of you is unknown. So, the only thing you’ve actually got is this minute right now.
“So if you’re just trying to be the best version of yourself, knowing full well that you will fail at that 50 times a day, but if your intention is to try and be the best version of yourself right here and now, then your life will only be a success.
“Then, when we are going to leave, that’s when I will start thinking about the show. I will think how I will make this show as good as it can be tonight, knowing that it will probably fail and miss the mark a lot. If your intention is to do that, then your life can only really be a picnic.”
On what he attributes the show’s success to, James replied, “On the first week that we aired, we were on in eight countries and today, we are on in 153 countries, give or take. Sometimes, you will get an email saying, oh, they stopped watching in New Zealand, and then six months later, they will go to another network in New Zealand that has bought it (laughs).
“But honestly, I will tell you what it comes down to—two things. No. 1 is, the currency of our show is joy. We just want to make a show that’s joyful, whatever time of day people are consuming it, whether it’s on linear television when we air it at 12:30 at night. Whether it’s on YouTube on someone’s phone or their tablet on their way to work, whatever, we would never want the show to exclude anyone.
“We embrace the visual nature of our show. We are out and about, we are doing things, we are in streets, in cars, we are filming on every corner in every kind of place we can be as opposed to a show of me behind a desk and talking to you like here.”
James credited the show’s popularity to the “Carpool Karaoke” segments. The episodes where James sings along with various performers, from Adele to Paul McCartney, from Madonna to then first lady Michelle Obama, as they drive around have been viewed by millions around the world.
James said, “The ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment is a gateway drug for our show. That is an idea that you have in a Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and you hope that people will respond to it.
“It’s an unbelievable thing that if you tried to manufacture it, to make something with that outcome, you wouldn’t. Without that (karaoke) idea, I don’t know if our show is as popular today as it is.”
“It’s a lot easier now (to invite guests) than it was at the start, I’ll tell you that right now,” James confirmed with a chuckle.
It’s been quite a ride, literally, with music legends from Stevie Wonder to Elton John and other personalities. “You get to meet people and suddenly be in a room with people you thought, this would never be possible. There are very definite moments—driving around the White House with Michelle Obama for an hour is an unforgettable experience.
“Walking down Penny Lane with Paul McCartney. People go, traffic stopped, but I have never really experienced it before until I was on Penny Lane with Paul McCartney. No cars were moving and you can’t hear a horn. It was an amazing thing to experience spending that day with Paul in Liverpool.
“There was something in the air there. Paul was open in a way that I had never seen him before. It was a piece of television which I am beyond proud of.”
In “Cats,” James—a musical-theater fan who first saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running production with his parents when he was 13—relished bringing to the screen Bustopher Jones, a feline gentleman of leisure.
“The thing that made me the most intrigued by the notion of making ‘Cats’ into a film was the idea that it was going to be a human presence,” James said about this cinematic adaptation. “Because when I first met Tom Hooper (director), I thought the musical is a sort of dance spectacular. And to do that somehow in completely computer-generated images, you would lose part of the passion and the spectacle. So, I was going in thinking this is almost an impossible task, really.
“Tom showed me on his laptop a mockup, so there was a dancer dancing in the suit that we were all wearing with the dots and things. Then, he showed it with the fur and the fact that the face was pulled and then the tail and the ears.
“I will never forget—Tom came to my house. My son Max is 8 and a huge fan of live arts, filmed arts. He lives and breathes for it, really. I showed the mockup to Max. He just went, ‘Wow!’ He had really never seen anything like it, then I realized that I had never seen anything like it.”
The film has a talented cast: Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy), Ian McKellen (Gus The Theatre Cat), Taylor Swift (Bombalurina), Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella), English ballerina Francesca Hayward (Victoria), Idris Elba (Macavity), Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots) and Jason Derulo (Rum Tum Tugger).
While James said he currently does not have a feline pet, he stressed with humor, “I am a cat person more than a dog person. I enjoy that cats turn up at your house and demand their own door (laughs). Cats just don’t care. They’re like, ‘This is where I live, I’m going to need my own door, and the food will be where? There? Cool. I’m heading out (laughs). I’ll be back at some point.’
“You never know where they go. They just stroll back in and give you a couple of minutes, then go out again. Whereas dogs just follow you around, like, ‘Should we go for a walk? I can’t really go without you, but it’s up to you or I can just lie here. What do you want?’”
He added, “We all went to cat school to observe cats, and it’s exactly what you think it was (laughs).”
James’ UK fans are excited that his TV series, “Gavin & Stacey,” which was watched by millions of people by the end of its third run, is returning as a Christmas special this year.
“A friend (Ruth Jones) of mine and I wrote a sitcom which started in 2006 on a small cable channel called BBC 3,” James said. “By the time it was done, they said one in four people in Britain was watching the last episode. Ruth and I always talked about maybe doing a special for Christmas one year and then we decided, let’s just do it for ourselves and see if there’s a story there.
“After a few arduous weeks of writing it, while I was doing the show, we came up with what we thought was a good story, satisfying to people and to us as creators. We were all taken aback by the reaction to it.”
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