Back on track?
Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid and Chris Harris return for a second series at the helm of Top Gear – and this time they’re feeling more confident. The trio tell Georgia Humphreys about the future of the show, their on-screen dynamic and upcoming stunts
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 replies his funniest stuff doesn’t make it into the show).
Meanwhile, Rory Reid is being teased by both his co-stars for the clothes he wears – in this case, a military jacket emblazoned with cartoon-ish badges.
“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 of the BBC Two show.
“The show’s always going to be first and foremost a car show,” notes 50-yearold 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.”
When a show has been around for as long as Top Gear has, there’s obviously a huge fan base to impress. But LeBlanc 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.
“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 funnybone is.”
And the humour between the three also comes naturally, according to London-born Reid.
“These two are hilarious to hang around with on a day-to-day basis anyway,” he 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 200-300ft 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 says. “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 have 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.
“The [Citroen] 2CV is a bit of a departure for Top Gear,” enthuses the presenter. “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 onscreen chemistry, 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.’”
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, 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, February 25.