- - Wednesday, February 8, 2017

In just two years, British actor/writer/comedian James Corden has gone from being virtually unknown in the U.S. to the quintessential host, successfully taking over the CBS “Late Late Show” from Craig Ferguson. The show’s viral hit segment, “Carpool Karaoke,” where Mr. Corden sings with A-list stars while driving, has proven so popular, it’s now being spun off into its own series exclusively for Apple Music.

While Mr. Corden is executive producing and will appear on the half-hour series, there won’t be a host; each episode will feature paired celebrities. Alicia Keys, John Legend, Ariana Grande, Blake Shelton, Chelsea Handler, Seth MacFarlane and Will Smith are among those participating.

This Sunday Mr. Corden will host the Grammys. Mr. Corden spoke about the honor at the recent Television Critics Press Tour.

Question: How did you come to love music as you do?

Answer: My father was a musician in the Air Force. His father was a musician, and his father was a musician. And so music for me has always … surrounded me in various moments. It’s made me feel like I’m not on my own in whatever it might be that I’m facing.

If there are moments of heartache or heartbreak or sadness, sometimes there are songs and artists that feel like they reach out a hand to you and say, “You are not on your own with this.” So that’s what it means to me.

Q: You’ve also hosted The Tony Awards. How will that differ from this experience?

A: Well, it’s a completely different show, so they are only similar in the sense that people are getting awards. One is celebrating the biggest recording artists of the last 12 months and one is celebrating the best Broadway shows.

So of course there are similarities in that it’s an awards show, but I’m not approaching it in any way similar at all. I think the Tony Awards is what you would call a “traditional” hosting job, whereas I don’t think the Grammy Awards is. I feel like the Grammy Awards is about the artists who are performing. So mostly what I would like to do is just try and bring a sense of joy and enthusiasm to that show as best I can.

Q: How do you come up with unique sketches for a show?

A: When you’re trying to put together a late night talk show — as we were 18 months ago — you’re searching for the bits that will define your show. If you think of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” you think of “Jaywalking.” Or “Top 10 Lists” and “Stupid Pet Tricks” with David Letterman.

You’re looking for those things. What will be the tentpoles that will hold our show up?

Q: Everyone sings in the car, so what made you realize “Carpool Karaoke” would be a funny piece to do for your “Late Night” show?

A: We had shot a sketch in 2011 for Comic Relief for Red Nose Day with myself and George Michael. It was me playing a character from a TV show I’d done at home. And we had this idea that George and I would be singing in a car. And the whole sketch had a mass of people in it [but] people would [say], “Ah, you and George singing in the car, it was so great.”

So when we were thinking about [“The Late Late Show”], we’re throwing around a million ideas. We said, “We’re relocating to Los Angeles. People talk about the traffic here all the time and carpool lanes. And carpool and maybe a singer and carpool karaoke. Is that a thing? Could it be a thing?”

And then someone’s brave enough, like Mariah Carey was, to say yes. And then you get another person to say yes, and then before you know it, hundreds of millions of people are watching these things.

We’re as blown away by its success as anybody else, really.

Q: How do you choose who is going to sing along with each other?

A: A lot of it comes down to diary and schedule and time. I wish we were in a position where we could go, “Her and him.”

Or in the case of say Chelsea Handler and Blake Shelton, they both came and said, “We’d love to do it together.”

Q: You have had such a great career so far, where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

A: I hope I’m happy. That’s all I really care about.

I always find it strange when anyone’s got another answer to that than, “I hope I’m happy and the people I love are healthy.” I think it’s so strange to go, “Oh, I’d like to be here.” But be careful what you wish for sometimes.

Happiness is all I really care about.

James Corden hosts The Grammys Sunday on CBS.

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