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The 36-year-old British actor/comedian will replace Craig Ferguson at 12:35 a.m., CBS said in a formal announcement Sept. 8, more than a month after the network’s courtship of Corden first surfaced. Though neither a filming locale nor firm dates were provided, Ferguson is set to sign off after a decade with the show in December, with Corden’s CBS-produced show making its debut in 2015.
“James Corden is a rare entertainment force who combines irresistible charm, warmth and originality with a diverse range of creative instincts and performance talent,” said CBS entertainment chairman Nina Tassler. “He is the ultimate multi-hyphenate – a writer, creator and performer who is loved and respected in every medium he touches, including theater, comedy, music, film and television.”
In revealing the hire, Tassler seemed to acknowledge that Corden would appear to be a left-field choice as he’s still largely unknown by U.S. viewers. But having met with several other candidates over the course of several months, Tassler and her team appear confident that the British comic, who won a Tony for his comedic performance in One Man, Two Guvnors, will be able to win over the CBS audience.
“James is already a big star in the U.K. and he’s wowed American audiences on Broadway,” she noted, adding: “We’re very excited to introduce his considerable and very unique talents to our network television audience on a daily basis.”
For CAA-repped Corden, Late Late Show offers a considerably larger platform than he is accustomed. If all goes as the CBS executives hope, he’ll bring to it a unique brand of comedy that’s likely to include sketch and a sizable social media following of nearly 4.4 million on Twitter. That edge could transition CBS’ late-night block to the digital era where it could adequately compete with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers for both viewers and buzz in a way that Ferguson’s iteration had not.
“I can’t describe how thrilled and honored I am to be taking over from the brilliant Craig Ferguson. To be asked to host such a prestigious show on America’s No. 1 network is hugely exciting,” the new host said in a statement. “I can’t wait to get started, and will do my very best to make a show America will enjoy.”
Corden first saw breakout success in the U.K. as the co-creator and co-star of the acclaimed British comedy series Gavin and Stacey in 2007, and has since added a series of different gigs. Among them: He currently hosts the U.K. sports-themed comedy game show, A League of Their Own, on Sky 1, and writes and stars in the comedy thriller The Wrong Mans on the BBC and Hulu. Over on the big screen, he has a sizable part in the Mark Ruffalo-Keira Knightley music indie Begin Again, and will appear opposite Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt in the anticipated Disney film Into the Woods out in December.
The Late Late Show news comes nearly two months after Tassler revealed to the media that internal discussions were being had at CBS about possible format tweaks, hinting that Ferguson’s replacement could either be a comic or someone with political ties. Other names that had been bandied about as possible replacements included Joel McHale, Neil Patrick Harris and The Talk co-host Aisha Tyler. CBS execs likely are anticipating a degree of blow-back from their decision to select yet another white male comic to fill the seat.
For those keeping track, Corden should be the last remaining puzzle piece to fall into place in a year that has seen significant changes to the late night landscape. NBC successfully oversaw a baton toss between Jay Leno and Fallon as well as the introduction of Meyers; Comedy Central announced it will say goodbye to Stephen Colbert, who will replace David Letterman on CBS, and hello to Larry Wilmore, host of its forthcoming The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore; and Chelsea Handler revealed she’d be jumping from E! to digital player Netflix.
For his part, Ferguson is preparing for his next act, a syndicated talk show for Tribune-owned stations. Though details are still being kept under wraps, his Late Late Show follow-up is expected to air as a half-hour at some point in the 7 p.m. block. Additionally, the quirky Scotland native will host long-planned FremantleMedia North America/Debmar-Mercury’s game show Celebrity Name Game.
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Michael K. Williams