Top guys in gear for new series

The Top Gear presenters are having a discussion: who’s the worst at laughing while filming? Chris Harris admits he struggles because Matt LeBlanc “always sets him off” (LeBlanc jokingly replies his funniest stuff doesn’t make it into the show).

Meanwhile, Rory Reid is being lovingly teased by both his co-stars for the clothes he wears — in this case, a military jacket emblazoned with cartoon-ish badges.

Matt LeBlanc in a tractor (left) and (right) at Burghley House in an Alfa Romeo

“Just when you can’t think it can’t get any funnier, Rory turns up in another outfit,” quips Harris.

One thing’s clear — the trio have definitely grown more confident as they return for a second series at the helm of the BBC Two show.

“The show’s always going to be first and foremost a car show,” notes 50-year-old LeBlanc. “And I think what we’re trying to do is broaden the demographic of the show, so that it’s not just appealing to petrolheads.

“It should be entertaining for the whole family.”

Here, the stars tell us more about steering the show in a new direction.

When a show has been around for as long as Top Gear has — 41 years to be precise — there’s obviously a huge fan base to impress.

But LeBlanc, famous around the world for his role in US sitcom Friends, doesn’t let that faze him.

“In terms of things like the ratings and the comparisons to the other show... you can’t worry about things that are out of your control in life,” he says matter-of-factly, his voice quiet yet distinctive with its Massachusetts accent. “We now understand the show we want to make,” confides 43-year-old motoring journalist Harris.

“The chemistry between the three of us is stronger, so we know how to irritate each other better — we know where the funny bone is.”

And the humour between the three of them also comes naturally, according to London-born Reid.

“These two are hilarious to hang around with on a day-to-day basis anyway,” the YouTuber says of his co-stars. “One of the things that Matt loves to focus on is finding the funny element in any situation.”

Memorably, when Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond were in charge of Top Gear, they made headlines for a couple of high-speed crashes while filming.

Asked if the current presenters are fearless when it comes to the cars, Reid, 38, says: “I think we’re up for anything — the producers enjoy putting us in situations that make us squirm.

“There’s a really good moment in the Moab desert when we were driving up these narrow roads. There’s a two or three hundred foot drop and there’s all these car wreckages where people have obviously come off the side of the cliff.

“And as you’re driving up you think, ‘What happened to the people that were in those cars? They didn’t have an easy time of it’.”

But while it sounds like there’s the odd scary moment, and plenty of fast driving, LeBlanc, who travels to Nasa to film an impressive stunt this series, insists they’re all careful.

“At the end of the day, we’re not teenagers,” he remarks. “It’s not a race, there’s no prize — it’s a television show.

“The prize is standing here and being able to do the next episode.”

The team has especially enjoyed making the Top Gear films together. There’s more sparkle, joy and laughter in them now, says Harris, plus they’ve been “brave” with some of the treatment of cars.

“I know it might just look like a film, but the [Citroen] 2CV is a bit of a departure for Top Gear,” enthuses the presenter, who grew up near Bristol.

“That’s a car that, say, previously might have been ridiculed and blown up or thrown off of something and it hasn’t been — it’s been celebrated as a piece of engineering.”

And as well as the chemistry on-screen, it’s clear the three have a lot of fun behind the scenes together.

Discussing fans approaching them while filming, Harris laughs about LeBlanc’s favourite gag: “Monday morning, the first thing he’ll say to me is, ‘Do you know who was asking about you this weekend?’ I’ll go, ‘Who?’ He’ll go, ‘No-one’,” he says with a chuckle.

Of course, thanks to the enormity of Friends, LeBlanc (who has also been shooting US sitcom, Man With A Plan, while making Top Gear) finds people recognise him wherever he goes.

“It’s strange, I’ve been in the public eye for so long I forget what it’s like to not be, so it’s kind of a norm,” says the star, who portrayed aspiring actor Joey Tribbiani for 10 seasons.

“Luckily, I’m known for playing a character that people like.”

Of fans’ reaction to the adorably dense Joey, an amused Harris chips in: “He [LeBlanc] said the other day, ‘People still occasionally talk slowly to me because they think I’m stupid’.”

While there may have been a weight of pressure when first taking over the show, Harris insists they spend very little time thinking about the past.

But he does make sure to watch The Grand Tour, the new motoring programme from Clarkson et al, which airs on Amazon Prime, stating: “I think it’s great to have something out there to compete against.”

And when it comes to the future of Top Gear, all three seem determined to make it work.

“Ideally, what it should look like from the outside is three guys having a blast,” says LeBlanc.

“And it is, but it’s hard work — there’s a lot of dedication, and a meticulous tone that we adhere to.”

But you can bet they will continue to keep on making the show their own.

“It’s not our thing to go places and put those places down,” the actor elaborates thoughtfully, admitting how it was done before was “a little bit different”.

“We go with wide eyes and anticipation and excitement and hopefully fulfilment; that’s the way we like to travel the world.”

Top Gear returns to BBC Two on Sunday evening.


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