DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
TV

James Corden interview: "It is insane that this is my life"

Having had an amazing year, James Corden discusses what he misses about the UK – you'll be surprised! – and his duet with Kylie Minogue

James Corden

James Corden is in his office in Los Angeles. And he’s full of the joys of the season. “I’m listening to Christmas music,” he hollers. “It is December 1 – time to get Bublé on!”

The 37-year-old has more reason than most to celebrate. In the past year he has moved to LA with his wife Julia and their children Max, four, and Carey, one. He has taken over as presenter of The Late Late Show on CBS and been presented with an OBE by Princess Anne. Then there’s the cameo Alan Bennett wrote for him in The Lady in the Van, plus a role alongside Nicholas Hoult in Kill Your Friends. Now he’s even released a Christmas single with Kylie Minogue. Phew!

So, we have to ask, James, looking at your achievements this year: where did it all go wrong? All I’ve ever wanted – a career that is varied. I love acting and I love writing. When Ruth Jones and I started writing Gavin and Stacey while I was doing a play called The History Boys, it was because I wanted an element of control over my career. But I never thought I would be a fucking chat show host in America. This is a culmination of all those things. I get to sing a bit, dance a bit, act a bit, write a bit. And the show has been a hit. It is a huge relief. But if you sit and go, ‘Look how well we are doing’ you start to think you are more of a dude than you really are. I realise now how stupid it was to just take someone completely unknown in the US and expect it to work. So I am beyond thrilled by the response.

For my wife to make this move when our daughter was five weeks old is incredible

Was the build-up to The Late Late Show nerve-wracking? It was terrifying. We had to get it together in 10 weeks and there were three of us on staff. There are 90 now. I felt very nervous but was aware that, good or bad, this would be a defining moment in my life. A chapter: ‘And then I went to America and it didn’t work so I came back.’ I made peace with it. I wouldn’t be the last person to try to come here and fail. In my head I played out what that would feel like so many times.

Was it tough to up sticks with a young family? For my wife to make this move when our daughter was five weeks old is incredible. I will always be indebted. We just went for it. I don’t know if we will live here forever. We are a long way from grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends. It is tough. But I am home much more than if I was making a film. I feel very conscious that my children are only going to be young once. And, as far as I can tell, no one ends up on a therapist’s chair saying: “My dad was around too much giving me too many cuddles.”

What do you miss from home? I really miss the architecture of the UK. Which is something I never thought I would say. In London, Leeds or Liverpool you are always rewarded if you look up. You will see a beautiful building. In north London we had a great thing I now realise I took for granted. We could just go out and find our day. Leave the house, potter around, pop in for food. It is all on your doorstep, that element of spontaneity. But LA is like a vast series of disparate towns. Everywhere is a destination. You get in your car.

You are spending lots of time in your car, with various stars for your show’s Carpool Karaoke skits. It is ridiculous to find yourself in a car singing along with Stevie Wonder (above). It is insane that this could be my life. No one wanted to do Carpool Karaoke until I played a tape of me singing in a car with George Michael to someone from Mariah Carey’s label. Mariah is a huge fan of his, so she agreed to do it. I feel very lucky. Rehearsing the bits where we recount a person’s film career, spending an afternoon with Tom Hanks or Matt Damon, is also incredible. Doing an original sketch with Mel Brooks was a highlight. These things are very, very lovely. You don’t ever think that you would be in the presence of those people.

And you got Justin Bieber – so are you a Belieber? Totally! I always was, I always will be. Yes. Absolutely.

You initially found fame hard, didn’t you? It is a big adjustment when those first flushes of fame come around. You can get a bit lost. I had broken up a long relationship and was going out all the time. But I was only ever going out to find someone to stay in with. If you always hoped success would come but were told those things don’t happen to people like you, it’s easy to think, ‘I should enjoy this while it is here.’ But you can either be really good at going out or try to be good at your work. I am lucky. I come from a good family and all manner of people were saying: “What are you doing?” But you only learn by going through it.

You have recorded a Christmas single with Kylie. Another unlikely event. So here is another ridiculous story: Kylie Minogue emailed me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to sing a Christmas duet on her album. Of course I did! We talked about songs, I sent her Only You by Yazoo and she loved it. I recorded my bit here, she sang her bit in London, and you know what? I really like it.

Are you picking up the accent and Americanisms? My big worry is for my daughter. I worry she is not going to know life in Britain. It will just be a place we come to in winter where she is going to be, ‘Oh my god, why is it so cold? Grandma and granddad don’t even have a pool, this is disgusting.’ I really hope that doesn’t happen. My wife is speaking posher and posher around the house to try to keep them British. That said, I’ve been to a couple of basketball games. I might support the Lakers but they’re terrible. And while the Premier League is on my television, there’s no competition.

So you keep up to date with the important stuff – politics, football, telly? Oh yes. I don’t miss a beat. I haven’t missed a minute of TFI Friday since I’ve been here. I love it. When does this interview come out? Okay, I can say I am doing TFI Friday at Christmas. I spent my whole childhood wanting to walk through that crowd to The Riverboat Song. It was a dream of mine.

My big worry is for my daughter. I worry she is not going to know life in Britain

Other than that, are you lost to British audiences for now? No way. I will always come back to do A League of Their Own. But I will be doing The Late Late Show for five years. By then I will be 40, which seems a good time to take stock. I was going to write a new narrative show for HBO this year. And that is a story I would still rather like to tell. All I ever wanted was to write a sitcom for the BBC and do a show in the West End. The two times I have worked at the National Theatre, my life has been enriched. So I would never forgive myself if I didn’t do another play with Nicholas Hytner. Any day with him and Alan Bennett is a great day. Alan wrote parts for the eight original History Boys in The Lady in the Van, which was a joy.

You get a break over Christmas. What are your plans? More Bublé and trying not to eat too much. Then I’ll start the diet on January 1, as has been the way for the last 12 years.

Merry Christmas from The Big Issue, James… And to you. Thank you for putting me in your brilliant magazine. I consider it a huge honour, I truly do. I am touched and humbled.

A League of Their Own returns on January 7 to Sky 1

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
CBeebies star George Webster: 'If we were all the same the world would be very boring'
Letter To My Younger Self

CBeebies star George Webster: 'If we were all the same the world would be very boring'

Line of Duty's Martin Compston: 'I've been dreaming of going to the Euros since I was 14'
Gordon Smart and Martin Compston
Euro 2024

Line of Duty's Martin Compston: 'I've been dreaming of going to the Euros since I was 14'

Furiosa star Tom Burke: 'It stung when someone said I didn't have a face for TV'
Tom Burke.
Letter to my younger self

Furiosa star Tom Burke: 'It stung when someone said I didn't have a face for TV'

Anjana Vasan on We Are Lady Parts season two, Malala and why UK must open its doors to immigrants
Anjana Vasan
TV

Anjana Vasan on We Are Lady Parts season two, Malala and why UK must open its doors to immigrants

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know