James Corden knew that in order to find success in late night he would have to approach it differently. At the center of his strategy: a broadcast optimized to spread virally across the internet. Hear how Corden executed his plan in his Tell Me More conversation with PBS’ Kelly Corrigan.
I don't think I'm extrovert.
Corrigan: Really? I don't.
I think it's all sort of acted away.
I enjoy performing.
And I find as I'm getting older
that I need less and less.
I don't feel that need anymore
to be the loudest voice at a party,
but I know that I did.
And I'm well aware of how annoying that was
for quite a lot of people. Ha ha ha!
I think it can be hard to feel your life
as it's happening.
Most people enjoy things more in retrospect
than they do in real time,
which is why presence is such an elusive super power.
And then there's the problem of valuing the experience
based entirely on the outcome.
Like, if you worked on a product or a project
and it flopped, was it still worthwhile?
Over the course of his career,
James Corden figured something out.
The joy is in the making.
He works hard every day to put on "The Late, Late Show,"
writing and editing and performing
with some of his favorite people.
He works just as hard on memorizing
the feeling of the experience as it unfolds.
I'm Kelly Corrigan. This is "Tell Me More,"
and here's my conversation with James Corden.
So you get offered "The Late, Late Show"
at a point where you had never done
stand up in your life, right?
And you'd never even been a guest
on a talk show. Not in America, no.
What happened? Like, how did that come together?
I don't know. I--
Is it so crazy to you still?
Well, I was in this play in New York
called "One Man, Two Guvnors."
It's probably the best time of my life professionally.
So we did it in the National Theater,
then we did a short tour, then we went to Broadway
for 6 months.
There were moments doing that play in New York,
particularly, where sometimes I would think,
"If I could just...stay here in this moment forever,
What I didn't know is that my boss at the time
Les Moonves and the president of the network
Nina Tassler had seen me in this play
and had said, "We would like him to be on the network."
And Stephen Colbert had just been announced
as taking over from Letterman.
And I was telling him how I just thought
that was the smartest appointment.
And Craig Ferguson had said that he was gonna step down.
And I said, "What are you gonna do with that 12:30 slot?
I was like, "I don't understand that 12:30 slot
unless you are going to try and embrace the Internet."
And I was like, "It makes no sense
"to have the same two shows back to back.
"And nowhere else in TV would they go,
"'From 8:00 till 9:00, we're gonna have a hospital drama.
"'and 9:00 till 10:00, we're gonna have
another hospital drama with the same diseases.'"
I thought we were just chatting.
I promise you, I did.
I got this offer to host the show.
And I said, "I don't really want to do it."
I said, "You're asking me to give up
everything I've worked for to host a show."
And then I went to South Africa.
I'd written a show for the BBC called "The Wrong Mans."
And I was in South Africa
Skypeing my family on my birthday.
Jules, my wife, was pregnant
with our second child at the time.
And Jules really was just like,
"I would love any job where you come home every day."
"Like, that would be great."
And I was like, "What am I doing?"
Like, this is only gonna get harder.
And now genuinely my reason was I would rather regret
doing something than not doing something,
safe in the knowledge that this would be
an abject failure.
Ha ha ha!
I thought, "Let's jump."
When it got announced that I was doing it,
trending on Twitter was like "Who is James Corden?"
Like--and I get it.
And it was a really funny moment
'cause for about 5 weeks,
I was, like, "We are starting below zero.
Yeah, you're starting with like this.
Yeah. I was like, "No one knows who I am.
"No one knows what I can do.
No one knows what this show could be."
6 weeks in, I suddenly had a moment where I went,
"No one knows who I am."
"No one knows what I can do.
No one knows what this show could be."
And all of the things that were negatives
suddenly became positives.
Historically, all I knew what to say is like,
"These shows start bad and they get better.
It takes you 6 months to find your feet."
But we knew that we didn't have 6 months.
We knew that we would be judged instantly.
You know, two bits we did in that first week
we're still doing on the show today.
OK, so let's talk about both those things.
The first show, you have Tom Hanks?
And you're gonna do this thing,
which is his whole career in 7 minutes.
Like, is every actor in Hollywood game
for putting that much effort and preparation
into a segment?
Not straightaway, no.
but that's why he's the greatest person
on planet Earth.
He flew in a day early to rehearse it.
And I just kept saying to Tom the whole time,
"Thank you so much for this.
"Thank you so much for doing this.
I thank you so much."
And he said-- I'll never forget it.
I will never forget it.
He said, "James, this is show business.
And the harder you work, the quicker you can forget it."
He said, "Because the things you think about
"when you lie in bed and you stare at the ceiling,
"you only think about your successes.
"You think about the things you could have done better
and worked harder."
And he said, "And that is the trick to show business.
"The harder you work,
the quicker you can carry on with your life."
Corrigan: Tell me about trying to get somebody
to do Carpool Karaoke with you.
Well, that was just an up-at-dawn,
Corrigan: Did you have to convince people
that you can sing?
'Cause, like, when you're doing the Carpool Karaoke
with Adele, which I have watched
I'm gonna say a dozen times...
James and Adele: ♪ ...who we used to be
Corrigan: and you start harmonizing,
and her face is like...
[James harmonizing] ♪ ...that the both of us
♪ are running out of time
That was amazing.
♪ So hello from the outside
Corrigan: Like, do they know you can sing?
'Cause it's an important part of it.
I mean, certainly David Letterman's
not gonna do that,
and Stephen Colbert can't do that.
Like, you can sing.
Well, I think we thought that it was important
that it sounded good.
These are people's hits, you know.
You're really going back into a back catalogue
of people's stuff.
I think it's more about the interview
than it is about the music.
I think it's the intimacy of it.
Look, this chat we're doing now.
would be very, very different if there were 200 people here.
It would just be very different.
You're talking about the most famous people
on planet Earth.
And they are constantly surrounded by people--
security, managers, press, makeup, hair, everything.
And suddenly, they're just on their own.
Hey, man. Hi, James. Yeah, man.
Aw, thank you so much for this.
Oh, man, I'm happy to help.
I don't know Liverpool that well, see.
I'll show you around.
Corden: And very slowly, people just start to lean into it,
and they relax and they start to talk openly.
McCartney: I had a dream in the sixties
where my mum who died came to me in the dream
and was reassuring me, saying, "It's gonna be OK.
Just let it be."
So I wrote the song "Let It Be,"
but it was that positivity.
That's the most beautiful story I've ever heard.
Corden: There's something wonderful about when you
see a human being in somebody.
[James and Paul] ♪ ...Mother Mary comes to me
♪ Speaking words of wisdom, "Let it be" ♪
Corrigan: There's something about
being in a car that's sort of disarming.
Like, when you were talking to Paul McCartney
about melancholy and nostalgia
and going back into that house
after so many years, it was so moving.
Well, that was a really special...thing.
OK, this is Forthlin Road.
Corden: And this is number 20 here.
McCartney: That's it, yeah.
Corden: So how old were you when you lived in that house?
Probably 12, 13, I think.
Corden: He said to me on the morning--
we're in this hotel room in Liverpool.
And he said, "James, can I have a word?"
And I said, "Yeah, yeah, sure."
And we went into this, like, walk-in closet.
And he shut the door, and he said, "Look, I'm...
"I've been thinking about it.
I don't want to go in my house."
And he said, "I haven't been in there.
"Since I've walked out of the door,
I've not been in there."
And he said, "I just feel a bit uneasy about it.
And I was like, "Paul, the only thing that matters today
"is that you and me have a great time.
"And if there's anything you feel uncomfortable with,
we're never gonna do it."
I said, "But don't rule anything out now.
"Just see how you feel, and we'll put up outside.
"You just give me a look if you don't want to go in,
and we'll drive on and I'll take the blame for it."
I said, "But don't rule it out today."
He's like, "OK. Good enough."
And what has happened to my life,
I'm giving Paul McCartney a pep talk in a wardrobe
Ha ha ha! You know?
But anyway, we get there
and we drive up outside the house.
And as we drive up, I suddenly thought
we should have used a code word,
'cause what if he's giving me a look
and I don't know, and I'm looking at him going, "So..."
And he's like... and in the end, I--
and it's on the thing. I go, "Should we go inside?"
And he goes, "Yeah, let's do it."
Let's get in there. Let's have a look.
Corden: Go on. You should lead the way.
Hello. Is Paul McCartney in?
McCartney: Is it OK if we have a look around?
Corden: It's an amazing thing, when you think.
Paul McCartney has all of the same feelings
and insecurities that I do.
And that day--I just never expected it
to be quite so moving.
If my granddad was here right now,
he'd get an absolute kick out of this.
Corden: I feel like the last 5 years of my life
have been a sequence of me just thinking
"You can't forget this.
"You cannot forget this.
You cannot forget what you're doing now."
So much of your stuff has gone viral,
and a big part of our show is trying
to have a shout out to the people in your life
who you find kind of inspiring.
And you picked for one of your Plus Twos
Yeah, well, I think he's so much more than that.
It's a guy called Julian Bass who...
Someone I know, Matthew A. Cherry--
he's a brilliant director-- posted one of Julian's films.
And I was like, "Oh, man, this guy is so creative."
And I'm just a fan of anybody who is that creative
for the sake of being creative.
So let's get to know Julian.
I met James when one of my videos went viral.
Got into contact with him and began to talk.
You know, I thought it was a joke.
And then it just began to hit me, you know.
It's like all of this is real, and it's all crazy.
I'm a junior at Georgia State.
I live with my family. It's just me, my mom and my dad.
I'm probably known for a viral video I made
with my favorite heroes, from Jedis to Spiderman,
in a tweet asking simply if people could retweet it enough
can Disney call me.
And they called. Ha ha!
I, you know, finished this video.
I'm like, "Mom, Dad, look."
And they're watching and they're like, "Oh, yeah, that's cool.
Yeah, you know, go do your laundry" or whatever.
And at the time when I had put that up,
I had maybe...not even 100 followers on Twitter.
So I expected, you know, 2 people to see it.
For 24 million to see that,
it's hard to explain
the feelings behind that.
I'd say the biggest thing for me is that
I just have creative freedom.
I get to see ideas and things come to fruition,
and then I also get to portray in these characters
that I look up to.
I mean, I'm the biggest Spiderman fan
that anybody could find.
Miles Morales is an alternate Spiderman
introduced at the comics in 2011.
He's the first ever Afro-Latino Spiderman that exists.
You can see that it was just real.
You know, they didn't do it to be like, "Well, he's black
and that's like what it is about him."
It's like, "No, he's a person," and that's sort of how I feel.
I understand that there was a disparity
in people who looked like me
being the hero of the story, right.
All the people I looked up to,
there was not a single black person, not one,
who was doing visual effects
at least early when I was starting to learn about it.
I decided, you know, that's not gonna stop me,
because I can be that for people.
You build your own doors.
It really comes down to finding something that you love to do.
I think he's going to be incredibly successful
whichever path he might choose.
So beyond the show, what are you reading,
what are you watching, what are you protesting,
what are you learning? Wow...
That's a deep list.
Like I assume that you're having
deep conversations about race in your family
with your kids.
Yeah. It's been strange, yet helpful...
the notion of trying to educate children.
How old are your kids?
My son is 9, my daughter's 5, another daughter's 2.
So the 5 and the 2, we've talked a bit,
but they don't even understand racism
to begin with.
They don't understand homophobia to begin with.
They don't understand hate to begin with.
So, essentially, what you end up with
is when you're trying to explain...
When I'm talking to my son Max
about the murder-- let's call it what it is--
of George Floyd, what I'm faced with
is "But why?" Right.
"Yeah, but why?"
You don't have to understand the struggle
because you can't.
It would be absurd for me to even think I could.
How can you?
Talking about the fundamental truth
that if you stand on someone's back for 100 years
and then you take your foot off,
no one gets up and goes, "Thank you so much
for taking your foot off." They stand up and go,
"Why did you stand on my back for 100 years?"
The only thing you can do is be open
to hearing the truth of it
and try to educate your children
so that hopefully, hopefully, hopefully
that won't be the case.
But that is the longest road,
and none of these things are instant.
You can make change today, but the changes today
will be more impactful down the road.
You've got to understand the bad thing--
and then go--what I'm saying is carry on
with what you're doing. Corrigan: Right.
Do you know what I mean?
I mean, I remember telling my daughters
about the Holocaust.
And I couldn't even get through
the conversation without crying.
They were like, "What happened?"
And I was like...
"I can't say it."
Well, that's where film-- Cannot say the words.
That's where film and music and all those things
and books are really, really useful.
Yes. They're really useful.
There's so many great websites that are free--
about how to talk about these things,
how to listen to these things.
Yeah. Surely, it's never been easier
to self-educate. In the history of humanity.
But then it's also never been easier to...
just find what you think and believe
and see someone reaffirm that you might be right.
Yeah, that's like media literacy, right?
That's the problem with the way that certainly
social media and the algorithm of it is the problem.
If you're, like me, a supporter of
West Ham United Football Club,
you'll get sent 10 different sites of
"Ah, these people are into West Ham.
This is a podcast. This is that."
If you're a racist, it's very, very easy
to fall into white supremacy.
And that's where that online world of social media
has got to course-correct itself.
'Cause I think there is an absolute correlation
between hate crimes and hate speech.
And I think when Mark Zuckerberg says,
"89% of the time we get it right,"
I understand what-- "89%, our algor--
our censorship works for removing hate speech."
I get it, and I understand his point of view,
but 89%--if you were given a box of condoms,
and they said, "89% of the time they work."
You'd be like, "Well, these are terrible condoms."
'Cause I need this to be 100%.
If your air bags on your car--
they said, "89% of the time those air bags will work,"
you'll go, "Well, I'm gonna get a different car."
So we have to hold those companies
to the same standards that we hold big industries.
And look, we're all-- it's all still
figuring itself out.
Right. I mean, I guess what you're saying
is we're two clicks away from anything.
So you could be two clicks away from
watching Ava DuVernay's "13th",
or you could be two clicks away from a website
that's gonna tell you that every racist thought
you've ever had is absolutely squarely on point
and you should have more of them.
But love and acceptance is the key.
But then everybody has to learn that.
I just interviewed Bryan Stevenson.
Do you know who that is? Yeah, yeah.
And I said, "Do you still love America?"
And he paused and said, "I love the vision.
I love the hope."
Well, this is my theory on America,
and this is what I've realized.
And this, I think, will help. I think.
And this is--I know nothing. I cannot stress that enough.
Essentially, what you realize is,
when we went back at Christmas,
my family and I--you don't have to use this in the show.
This is quite boring.
My family and I, we stayed in this house
out in the country.
And the house was built in 1776.
My son, who loves "Hamilton,"
is like, "That's in 'Hamilton.'"
And then you go, "Oh, my God,
that's how young America is."
Right, right. And what you realize is,
actually America's a teenager.
And behaving accordingly!
And it's behaving like one.
It's like "Everything's great!"
or "[Bleep] you!"
And that. And you go, "Oh, it's a teenager."
Yeah, that's interesting.
And it's still figuring itself out.
Corrigan: Yes, and it's also like getting
to know itself, like-- Yeah!
And that's what teenagers do.
They go, "[Bleep] it.
I'm gonna be a goth."
And then they go, "No, I'm gonna do this.
And now I'm gonna do this,"
which is why we just got like Bush, Obama...
That, I think is where it's at.
And so, once you realize that,
once you go, "Oh..." Right.
It's just-- It's growing pains.
It's figuring it out.
You do work in the context of a society
that is perhaps in dire straits,
and you've changed a little bit.
I feel like recently, you've been having
different kinds of guests.
Like you had Michael Eric Dyson--
Yeah, who I really-- the professor from Georgetown.
I'd have him every day if I could.
If I could change anything immediately,
it would be the immediate cessation of policemen,
whom we need in many instances,
using and deploying their legal authority
to hurt and be violent against black and brown people.
And you had Gayle King and you had a long,
like 17-minute conversation about race in America.
You're broadcasting the news every day live.
How do you keep your composure?
There are some days, because you're not a robot,
that it just hits you and it--
How much freedom do you have to explore
whatever you want to explore on the show?
And how important is it for you to
sort of evolve your conversations
in the heavier material?
Look, the trick to these shows is to try and evolve
fractionally before your audience, I think.
I am incredibly conscious of I've lived in America
for 5 1/2 years.
And when I say "America," I mean Los Angeles, California,
which the more I stay here, seems unreflective
of a lot of America.
I'm always very, very conscious
of knowing my place and to only talk
when we absolutely feel we have something
very definite to say.
Our job is to be some light in the corner of your room
before or most likely whilst you fall asleep.
That's our job is to just be some light
and some joy, but at the same time,
we'll never ever ignore anything
that we want to talk about.
And if we're gonna talk about something,
we'll really do it.
I feel like the first time you stepped out
of your sort of standard presentation
was in response to Bill Maher.
So Bill Maher had done this thing about
"Bring back fat shaming."
Yeah. And you took several days
to sort of craft a response
that was very funny, very endearing,
and pretty poignant.
Corden: We know that being overweight
isn't good for us,
and I've struggled my entire life
trying to manage my weight and I suck at it, right.
I've had good days and bad months.
But in the meantime, Bill,
please hear me when I say this.
While you're encouraging people to think about
what goes into their mouths,
just think a little harder about what comes out of yours.
[Cheering and applause] We'll be right back.
Corden: The important thing to say,
which we really did try to say in the piece--
and I think it's there-- is that...
Bill Maher makes some brilliant points
in what he's saying
about weight and obesity,
but I just took umbrage with the notion
that shame is a good way to do it.
You've got to be very careful
if you encourage people to shame other people,
'cause I wonder where that ends.
And I've nothing but-- I said on the air--
I have nothing but respect for Bill Maher.
Anytime I've met him, he's been incredibly nice to me.
I just think you've got to think.
If I'm telling somebody that fat-shaming
needs to make a comeback, where does that end up?
Someone leaves and thinks,
"Yeah, Bill Maher's right"
and shouts out of a car window,
as people have shouted at me,
"You fat [bleep]."
And then what that does to me is that
and what I don't think Bill Maher understands--
'cause you only understand if you're big--
what you do in that moment is you don't go,
"I'm getting on a treadmill right now
so that doesn't happen again."
You go and you eat your feelings,
because you feel kind of worthless.
And the truth is, the absolute truth is,
it is only with education, support,
and a greater understanding that so much of this
is about the economic situation of families.
That's it. Like--
Like bad food's cheap.
I think people have got to be really, really careful
when they're being very, very snooty or snobby
about the quality of food at McDonald's.
And I understand that the quality of food is not great,
but you've also got to understand
that that high-calorie intake food
might be the only sustenance that child gets that day,
because I grew up in a house that was not rich.
And if my mum can buy 200 frozen chicken nuggets
or a chicken broth, which is good for that day,
it's gonna be the nu-- you know.
And so I just think it's really important
to understand that this is a complex issue
as all of these things are.
So you were a theater kid.
Yeah, I still am.
I don't consider myself
to be anything other than that, really.
Yeah. I don't really remember
a time in my life where I wanted to do anything
other than perform.
That's all I wanted to do.
I can very much remember
I was at my younger sister's christening.
I would have been about 4.
And we all went up onto the platform to--
and my mum's holding my little sister,
and my dad's there,
and my aunties and uncles are there and things.
And the vicar said, "Well, James, you can't see.
Let's get a chair." And they stood me on a chair.
And I could look--I looked at this congregation.
I could see it today.
In High Wycombe Salvation Army Hall,
there must have been probably--
I bet there was tops 30 people.
It looked like 1,000.
Yeah, in my mind, yeah, I added...
In my mind, it was 1,000.
And I started pulling funny faces
and doing things and turning round
and looking through my legs
and people were giggling.
I remember thinking, this is amazing.
And from then on, really,
it became just an absolute quest to just want to perform
in any capacity.
I would start to go up for auditions,
and I probably auditioned, I would say, once a week
throughout my whole time in school, from 10 to 16.
And I would just do all of these things,
and I would never, ever get a part.
I mean, surely, your parents must have
said to you, "James, how much longer?"
Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, my dad remembers
a time I auditioned for "The Sound of Music"
at Sadler's Wells Theatre.
It's an amazing theater in London.
We knew that they were looking for 2 kids
for every part,
'cause you do alternate shows.
I must have been 12 or 13 at the time.
But I still was so used to not getting things.
I was so used to--like,
I, actually at this point, I didn't ever really believe
that anyone got the--
Like, I just thought this was the experience.
And the director, who's name I don't--
I forget right now--read out the names of the kids
that could go home.
"Thank you so much."
And I was like, "Oh, OK, cool," you know.
And as I left, I remembered like the 7--
I was getting my bag and stuff. Some kids had gone,
and I was putting my script back in this bag
and my snack that my parents had got for me
back at the--and as I'm zipping up,
and all I could hear in this room was just
all of these people going "Yay!"
And I could hear this director going,
"We're just gonna have the greatest time.
You guys are amazing."
And I was walking down the stairs,
and my dad's here--I looked like I was gonna cry.
And he said I didn't talk. We got in the car.
And my dad said, "You know, you don't have to do this.
"This is meant to be fun.
"You don't have to.
"You can still go to the after-school stage clubs.
"You can still do the shows.
"You can do all of these things.
You don't need to put yourself through this."
I just said, "I can't, Dad. This is just--
This is what I've got to do."
That was almost-- my entire school life
was just an experience of rejection,
which I'm unbelievably grateful for now.
I actually think it was the single...
greatest thing to happen to me.
So then you got your first gig on West End,
and you had one line?
Yes, I auditioned for a musical in the West End
called "Martin Guerre."
It was an incredible experience.
I had one line. I said, "Roast the meats."
That was it. That was my only bit on my own.
The same way every time, or did you--
Roast the meats. Or did you amuse yourself
and say "Roast the meats!"
There was no real room to--it was so quick.
Ha ha ha!
And, yeah, that was it.
An amazing experience for me, that show.
Even though it was so small.
Well, I was onstage throughout, in the ensemble, and...
The show was a disaster.
It was just a disaster. It just didn't--
Never really worked.
It didn't get reviewed particularly well,
but it stayed on for a year.
At the end of the run, I auditioned for a film,
a Shane Meadows film who's a brilliant director, who I--
it was his first movie; he was 26.
And watching him just take the reins of his career
had an incredible effect on me.
Corrigan: Yeah, he's like a DIY person.
Yeah. The idea that you could
just stop asking permission and just start making things
is so thrilling.
And that didn't happen to me at that point
when I was in "Martin Guerre,"
but it happened to me when I was in this play
called "The History Boys" at the National Theatre.
Corrigan: It's crazy successful.
Corden: It was, without question,
the play to see in London at that point.
Then we did a world tour, we shot a movie of it.
We then went to Broadway.
There was 8 boys in the play, all of us similar age.
I'm sort of early-, mid-20s now.
Every day, like my dearest friend who is my flatmate
who introduced me to my wife--Dominick Cooper--
was coming into our dressing room
with piles of film scripts.
And I remember one day, we're all awaiting this script
for this film that was being made about two young boys
who go backpacking in Thailand
and they get accused of a murder or something like--
I can't really--but we were all like, "Oh, I can't wait.
It's gonna be amazing."
Anyway, we all got our scripts.
And there's two leads for the two boys around our age.
And they both got scripts,
and I just got 4 pages of a scene
for a guy who, like, works at a newsstand
and sells them a magazine before they go off on this trip.
And it was really a moment for me
where I was like...
"Oh, this is because of how I look."
And it felt like people were going,
"Oh, no, we think you're good,
"but you're good for, like,
"you'll play the guy who drops off a TV
for Hugh Grant in a Richard Curtis movie."
Or "When you get older, you'll probably play
a quite sort of bubbly judge." You know?
And I was like, "Oh, no one's gonna...
"just pull up a seat for me at this top table.
I'm gonna have to muscle my way in somehow."
But mainly my thought was,
"I wonder if I could write something."
And thus "Gavin & Stacey."
Yeah, so I was working on a TV show
called "Fat Friends," which was about a group
of people who are overweight who go to a slimming club.
Really good show, written by Kay Mellor.
And each episode focused on a different person,
and I was playing this character called Jamie Rymer
who is a kid who gets bullied so much because he's overweight
that he...tries to commit suicide.
I loved playing that part.
It's kind of the first true, proper part
I'd ever really had.
Did you get bullied a lot?
Like, did you bring the whole history of--
If you were at school and you didn't get bullied at all--
You were probably a bully.
And I'm aware that there's degrees of bullying.
So I never got bullied to the point that
my character did in that.
And I actually would never even say that
I got bullied, 'cause I think it would be disrespectful
to people who really, really--
Yeah, for sure.
do experience true bullying.
But I 100% had days at school where I was
not wanted in my friendship group,
and I don't think it was because I was fat.
But what I do know is, confidence is a really
unnerving thing for bullies.
They don't really like it.
I thought I will be so big in my personality
that it will unnerve you that you will go,
"Oh, I don't like that. He's really--"
Yeah, better pick on someone else.
"He's big and funny, and I'll pick on someone else."
That's a defense mechanism that I think
I've been using my entire life.
I don't think I'm extrovert.
Really? I don't.
I think it's all sort of acted away.
I enjoy performing.
And I find as I'm getting older
that I need less and less.
I just think it's the security of my marriage,
the security of my family,
which I don't feel that need anymore to be
the loudest voice at a party.
but I know that I did, and I'm well aware
of how annoying that was for quite a lot of people.
Corrigan: Ha ha ha!
So you and your friend Ruth wrote this show,
and it was a monster hit.
to this day, I can't believe it.
The nucleus of the show is when two people fall in love,
it's not just their lives that change.
There is a ripple effect, where suddenly
their families change, their friends change,
everything changes because these two people have decided
that they love each other and want to be together.
Gavin and Stacey talk on the phone at work,
because he's in sales and she's in mer--
We never really worked out what they did,
but they had to talk on the phone at work.
They agree one day--this is pre-Facebook, everything.
They agree one day to meet up,
and they both take a friend.
And Gavin and Stacey meet and immediately fall in love.
And their friends Smithy and Nessa--
which is me and Ruth, who wrote the show--
have one filthy night of sex and never
want to see each other again but have to.
It was on a tiny cable channel.
The first episode we launched had 500,000 viewers.
By the time we ended the show 3 seasons later--
it moved to BBC One-- and our last episode had,
I think it was 14 million viewers.
It was a slow start, and when it turned,
it just went--boof!
And it became everything.
It was tabloid and awards.
It was a deeply unnerving time in my life.
My entire life just went--whoosh! like that.
Suddenly, I was at that table.
So I was kind of single for the first time in my life,
well-known, famous, I guess, in Britain
for the first time in my life,
and that is a potent mix.
How did you handle it?
I just went out.
I went out for, like, two months.
I was just in it, the whole thing.
I was, like, 27. Yeah.
And I'd never went to university.
I started working at 17.
I'd never had this experience,
never had any real money in my pocket before properly.
I don't regret the going out.
What I regret is trying to work at the same time,
which is not-- I don't recommend that.
I just-- When you see 27-year-olds
in Hollywood kind of going bananas
with their new moment, are you super empathetic?
I'm empathetic for anybody, certainly today, now,
in this current climate of social media.
I'm empathetic to anybody who gets blasted
into a world of recognition.
Bill Murray said, "When anybody becomes well-known,
"when anybody becomes famous,
"you gotta give 'em 12 months of grace,
"because the whole world's changed
and you're the same."
You're getting showered with praise.
People want to talk to you
didn't want to talk to you before.
People want to be around you
who didn't want to be around you before.
People want to spend the night with you
who didn't want to spend the night with you before.
And it's a unnerving mix.
My only regret is the work that I was putting out
at that time just wasn't nearly good enough.
I started making a sketch show with my friend Matt,
who played Gavin in "Gavin & Stacey."
The BBC were like, "You should make a sketch show."
We were, like, "That's a great idea.
Yeah, we can do this."
And we didn't do nearly enough work for it,
and it got judged accordingly.
Kind of half-assed it.
Yeah, and you can't do that. You just can't.
You can't be hungover and think hard thoughts.
Well, you can't take any of it for granted.
You can't think that this is my life now,
because it isn't.
You're only as good as the work that you're doing.
And I've learned way more about myself in criticism
than ever--you learn next to nothing in praise.
Do you look at the criticism?
I have done, yeah, for sure.
Not like online sort of criticism,
because I think that's a whole other thing,
but I mean, yeah, like reviews of work and things.
I do think it's different if you're an actor.
I think being an actor and stuff is
you're at the mercy of a lot of other people.
Right. Like I think stage
is an actor's medium.
I think television is a writer's medium,
and I think film is a director's medium.
Corrigan: Do you like being at the mercy
of a director? I do!
You do. I do. I enjoy...
well, mostly because I just enjoy the doing of it.
Like, you're a team person. You're--
There's two trends of thought.
Some people are in it for the legacy.
They're in it for the legacy
of "What do I leave behind?"
And I have great respect for that.
I'm in it for the experience.
I'm in it for the journey of it.
The doing of it is the thing.
Everything else is a bonus.
The doing of it is the prize.
You said something about "Cats" that I saw
that it wasn't your favorite end product?
Well, I haven't seen it, and I will say this, genuinely.
When I came back from shooting "Cats,"
my friend said, "How was it?"
I was like, "I had the best time.
I have no idea what it's gonna be like."
Ha ha ha!
I was like, "No idea whatsoever."
I just thought it was admirable
that you could separate the doing of the thing
and the joy in working on that set
and whatever outcomes there may be.
Corden: But you have to,
because you cannot judge the success of something
on its success.
It's got to be what it-- Felt like.
did within you,
because if you're only defined by things that
are outside of you, that, I think, is a lost cause.
This is something I struggle with all the time,
but it's something I try to tell myself,
that "You are not your career.
"You are separate to that.
You are here, and your work is here."
And they are linked, but not joined at the hip."
And I try to remind myself of that all the time.
Corrigan: What kind of dad are you?
Are you strict? No.
How similar are you to your dad?
Probably more similar than I think.
But I think that's true of all children and their parents.
I hope I'm OK.
I hope I'm present when I'm there with them.
That's the thing I really want to be.
Are you good about like putting your phone down
and walking away and being in the room?
'Cause it's so hard for me. It must be so hard.
I'm pretty good, 'cause I hate my phone.
So I would happily throw it in the sea--
Yeah. if I had my way.
And I contemplate that daily.
Ha ha ha!
So this is what I heard from my children.
It's funny. My wife and I
went to very, very different schools.
I went to not the worst school in our county--
bottom to lower third, probably.
And my wife went to a private school
where she once showed me a picture of her year,
and I thought it was like her basketball team.
Like, you know, and that was her year.
Like we were 36 in a class.
I think she was 30 students in the entire year.
Oh, sure, sure, sure.
All I think school should be about
is social interaction and finding the thing
that you're good at.
And that could be plumbing.
That could be cross stitch.
That could be baking.
Woodwork, drama, music.
What's the thing that makes you go "Ahh!"
Everyone in the school is a faster runner than me.
She's better at maths. He's better at science.
They're all better at this.
But when the school play comes around...
You're gonna kill it.
I'll be all right.
And the confidence that comes from that is incredible.
And I think you could alleviate
1% of the world's problems
if people just knew what they were good at.
And so that's what I really would love for my kids.
So I don't think I was great the first year of Max's life.
I think I probably--babies really need their mums.
And you'll be like, "You don't need me."
And then, suddenly--bang!
The single greatest love story of your entire life begins,
and if my love for my son keeps going at this rate,
like I'm gonna never let him leave the house,
let alone my daughters. I mean, geez.
Your son has kind of found something
that he loves to do.
When we moved to Los Angeles, we found a really great,
like, after-school drama club.
And I don't know if my son will perform.
I couldn't care less what he does, if I'm honest,
so long as he's happy.
But what I have seen in him
going to this after-school drama club
is the very same feeling that I had in me,
which is what those after-school drama groups
give you is confidence.
They give you a confidence.
They give you a sense of purpose.
And I see it not only in my son.
I see it in all the kids that go to Janet Adderley's school,
the majority of whom are never gonna go on
and be performers 'cause they don't want to.
But I know if I'd have had a teacher like Janet,
I would have just been in awe of her.
She fills them with confidence.
Those teachers, those after-school stage clubs--
all those people I think are absolute heroes
who don't often get the praise.
This is James' second Plus Two. This is Janet.
I'm little brown girl who grew up in Texas
in the sixties.
My sister, my brother, and I were the first people
to integrate schools in Houston.
That is who I am.
Everything about what I give to all children
comes from that well of experience.
My road to Broadway is a Cinderella story.
I ended up playing the role of Belle the sleeping car
in "Starlight Express."
It was unlike anything I've ever experienced,
to be a part of a community where James Earl Jones
was doing "Fences," and Angela Lansbury
and people that came and saw the show.
It was a dream come true.
Why did I start the Adderley School?
Little did I know that that was going to be the thing
that was going to be my legacy.
I have two daughters.
One is very much like me.
I've always said that if I were a color, I'd be fire-engine red.
My younger daughter, if she were a color,
she'd be lavender.
And so at a point in my life, I had just moved from New York
out to L.A. to pursue film and TV.
My lavender daughter who didn't speak in public
until she was 9 years old,
I started volunteering in her school.
And her teacher, I think it was her 3rd grade teacher,
had always wanted to teach the kids history
through the music of the decades.
So I stepped in and said, "Well, I can help you with that."
And so we created this beautiful revue.
My daughter started talking with her friends.
And I thought, "Well, I need to keep doing this
"to help her, you know, find her voice
and gain some confidence."
And 3 years later, I had 300 students.
And so that's how the Adderley School was started.
I liken what I do to being a mama bird.
In the beginning, I'm chewing up the food
and putting it in the little kids' mouth.
At some point, the child-- the mirrors are reversed
and the child has embraced all of that confidence,
because that's all they know.
And so nurturing is very much about putting up a mirror,
putting up a mirror for a child's best and brightest
and most confident "Hallelujah" self, I like to call it.
I feel like in my life, I've had my moment in the sun,
but this school is a noble act.
I would not be able to face my papa in Heaven
if I didn't figure out a way to inspire and nurture
and mentor inner-city youth
who don't know that this is possible.
If a kid in need wanted to do this
and didn't have the means to do it,
I just said, "Come on. Come one, come all."
I feel like if I've done something to help other people
and to help the world in turn,
then I can die a happy person.
I can say, "Well done, soldier, and be on my way."
There's a song from "Pippin"
that ironically I sang at 15 years old,
and the last verse of that song says
"Oh, it's time to keep livin',
"Time to keep takin' from the world we're given
"You are my time, so I'll throw off my shawl
"And watching your flings be flung all over,
[Voice breaking] "Makes me feel young all over
In just no time at all."
And that's what these kids have taught me.
They are my life source, essentially.
Corden: We're very, very, very grateful
that we found her drama school,
and I think she deserves all the praise in the world.
Tell us about Margaret and Malcolm Corden.
Corden: My mum was a social work assistant.
My dad was a musician in the Royal Air Force.
Corrigan: He played the clarinet?
Clarinet, sax, flute.
My dad left the Royal Air Force
just after he went to the Gulf War,
and he then became a Christian book salesman.
He would sell Christian books, products--
all those annoying fishes you see on the back
of people's cars--
Because he's a man of faith?
Yeah. My dad can be pretty inspiring, actually,
when he talks about faith,
because he talks about faith in a way that I wish
more people in church did,
where he would go, "I don't know.
"I don't know.
"I don't agree with a lot of this stuff in here,
"but I fundamentally agree that my life is better
"for this faith, and I treat people better
because of my faith."
You know, I have lots of friends who act as musicians
who are atheists, really.
And they would challenge my dad around dinner tables
and things, and my dad would go,
"Honestly, I don't know."
He'll go, "I know you think it's impossible
"to believe in God and believe in trust science.
"I know you think that that's impossible,
"but I'm finding it quite easy.
And he will go, "It helps me
"to get through the day.
So for me, that's enough."
My parents went to church every single day.
They're every-day Catholics.
Every day? Yeah.
See, that's too much. Ha ha ha!
That's just too much.
No one needs to go every day.
My dad worked in New York,
and he would-- he sold ad space
in "Good Housekeeping." Right.
And he would zoom to noon mass
at St. Patrick's Cathedral and--
You mean drive, because that means something
very different now. I know, you're right!
Zooming into the church means he never even had to--
No, he would hustle cross town on his--
Yes. on his own feet
and sit down for a 20-minute weekday mass
and then go have, like, a 3-martini lunch
with a client, talk about, like,
Well, it feels like a lot of that
was more about the martini than it was about the mass.
I think. To me, I'm really-- as if he did the mass
he could justify the martinis.
So, in that respect, I think he's bang on.
He's got his priorities absolutely right.
Do you go to church?
I haven't been in quite a while.
Do you go when you're with your parents?
I always go when I'm with my parents.
Well, we grew up in the Salvation Army.
My mum and dad would put a uniform on on a Sunday,
and we would march through the town
playing brass instruments.
I don't know what it means to be
a Salvation Army family.
Like, you worked for them?
So the Salvation Army is just a church,
and second to that it's a charity.
Bring me your poor, bring me your hungry.
Bring me your starving,
and we will take them in and look after them.
And I just thought that it was completely normal
that you would, you know, play a trumpet,
marching through the town.
And then I got to sort of 15, 16, and became
fractionally disillusioned with it.
And then my parents questioned it in their church.
They were like, "Well, hang on.
"This church is not taking in our hungry.
"Actually, wearing this uniform means that the person
"that walks in the door immediately feels distanced.
I'm not entirely sure this works."
So then they went, "OK, we're gonna leave."
Look, I think they've both struggled with their faith.
I think anybody who says that they're of any faith
who says they haven't questioned it,
haven't struggled with it,
or haven't constructed their own life within it,
I'm deeply suspicious of.
Right. Certainty is absurd, I think someone said.
Yes, in anything! In anything.
So that's where they're at.
And actually, in truth, I look back at it now
retrospectively, and it's where I learned to sing.
I would perform every Sunday.
We would do shows, Christmas carol concerts.
I would, you know-- so it was very...
informative for my life in that sense.
How old were you when your dad
went to the Gulf War?
And why did a clarinet player go to the Gulf War?
I don't know why a clarinet and saxophone player
went to the Gulf War.
Look, you sign up to be-- you're in the military.
That's it. So...
he went as a stretcher bearer to Bahrain.
I think he was away I want to say like 11 or 12 weeks
I think he was away.
I think I was 13 or 14.
I can remember my dad saying to me
when he signed up to join the Royal Air Force
it was inconceivable to him
that he would end up going to war.
And...there he was
And it was hard on my...
really hard on my mum,
forbade talking about it.
Retrospectively--because of course everything was fine
and it wasn't really a war at that point,
but when he went, you didn't know that.
And, like, I'd never seen him in, like, camouflage
army gear before.
I couldn't talk to him on the phone.
So he would call about once a week,
twice a week, and he'd talk to my mum,
he'd talk to my sisters, and I'd just burst into tears.
So we would just write the blue Air Mail letters,
and I so wish I'd kept them.
I just don't know where they are.
But we would always put jokes on the end
and things like that and...
Do you remember when he came home?
Oh, like it was yesterday.
I can remember running alongside this bus
as it pulled in,
just running alongside this bus,
just trying to look up and see where he was.
And then waiting. And, you know, we would all--
We'd stand back, and they were coming off this bus,
and it's just joy everywhere.
Like, imagine the best airport arrivals land
you've ever seen, and...
And for a while, he didn't come out for ages,
and then he came down the steps,
and I just--I jumped.
I remember just jumping on him and like--
and he--I remember he smelt like the beach.
He just--'cause he had sun cream
and as he'd been tanned and...
and I couldn't--and he pulled my sister and my mum in,
It was glorious. It was glorious.
And I--I think all the time now
whenever I see, like, on the news
that this troop's going somewhere or anything like that,
I only think about those kids in those houses
just what those people are doing.
Yeah, it was the best,
the best hug you could wish for, really.
I really love my dad,
so whenever people talk about their dads,
I get all choked up.
My dad said to me when my son was born,
he said, "One way or another,
you'll be wiping this child's ass for 35 years."
And I think he's absolutely right.
And I said to my dad actually once.
I said, "What was your favorite part of...
father--what was the best part?"
And he really thought for a long time.
And he just went, "Right now."
He said, "And if you ask me in 5 years' time,
I'd say, 'Right now.'"
This is the "Tell Me More" speed round.
Are you ready? OK. I'll try.
If your high school did superlatives,
what would you have been most likely to become?
A truck driver.
If I looked at your Spotify play list,
what would be the number-one song?
So I've been listening to Pulp. Do you know Pulp?
You'll love them.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Pretending that I've got to make a work call
and just sitting in the bathroom--
Ha ha ha!
and just staring at the corner of a towel.
I could do a day there, yeah.
That is so good!
If you could say 4 words to anyone,
who would you address and what would you say?
I think I'd talk to Donald Trump, and I'd say,
4 words? I'd say, "Please be more dignified."
What is the last big change of heart you've had?
I just--a change-- on bread, really.
Just... Ha ha ha!
I feel like I've been its biggest fan.
You have to understand, like bread has made a pact somewhere
that it will destroy me, and I've tried about 8 days ago.
I just thought, "Bread, I'm sorry."
I will say in bread's defense,
it said back, "I've heard this all before."
Ha ha ha!
So I don't know if that's true.
Thank you so much for doing this.
It's a pleasure.
It's so fun to talk to you.
Really lovely to speak with you.
He's really thoughtful.
He's a pretty integrated person,
like he's really, uh...
he's his father's son,
which I think is kind of charming.
I was really taken with his ideas
about what stage America's in right now
as a country, and even, I would say,
a little encouraged by his point of view.
It's interesting. We talked about Carpool Karaoke,
of course, because it's such a joyful part of everybody's life.
But it is more. It is more than that.
There is like an intimacy there that he's achieving
time and time again,
and I sort of felt like we got there today, too.
I had a baby, and somewhere in there,
I started to feel like "What do I have a real voice in?"
I kept going back to "Who's helping kids
like the kids I grew up with?"
That is my focus.
I think we all have to find what makes us optimistic
and pay deep attention.