Top Gear: Host Chris Harris Talks Season 28 Adventure, Chemistry And More!

Fans have been revving their engines for months waiting for the upcoming season 28 premiere of “Top Gear”. Now the wait is almost over and “Top Gear” will be premiering on BBC America on Sunday, August 30th!

We have had the chance to check out several upcoming episodes and without a doubt, fans are in for a treat. The sheer amount of mind-blowing adventures that host Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness, and Freddie Flintoff find themselves in this season is off-the-charts. Just trust us, when we say that Nepal Special was utterly insane, or perhaps bungee-jumping in a car is more your speed. Either way, “Top Gear” provides viewers with some incredibly entertaining TV.

Prior to the premiere, we had a chance to catch up with host Chris Harris to share some insight into season 28, his amazing friendship with fellow hosts, their Nepal adventures and so much more!

KRISTYN CLARKE: What are some moments that you are especially excited for fans to see this coming season? I have adored what I have seen thus far!

CHRIS HARRIS: I don’t know where to start! This particular run is pretty wild … I think Freddie going off the dam with the bungee jump is pretty spectacular and a visual treat. I just want anyone to switch the telly on and not walk away because you want to watch the whole thing to see what happens with his bravery in that one and his performance is fantastic as well. What we all like doing is seeing people who appear absolutely inestimable and they are set up as unbreakable and Freddie is absolutely fearless and to see a fearless man presented with fear is a bloody brilliant process. So, that was great and Nepal had that epic, grand scenery that never, ever seems to become less impressive. I thought it was just massive. The idea of a little 1960’s French car wobbling about in that scenery is just gorgeous and a chance for me to bond with a peaceful old French car is really special. I’m much more passionate about than I am about modern hybrid cars …I like modern hybrid cars and you can drive them really fast, slide them around and do all that stuff for you, but the reality is, you give me a 2 CV or Renault I’m happy, so that was wonderful.

Peru was equally spectacular to look at and I think one of our best films because it had a lovely rhythm to it and some stand-out funny stuff in it and then you have me racing a McLaren Speedtail against an F-35 Lightning. As a menu for what we’ve done for that run, I’m pretty proud of it!

I can imagine! I was on the edge of my seat for the entire Nepal special, as those roads were probably some of the most terrifying I’ve ever seen! 

Yeah, they were pretty bad! About two years ago, we were filming in the States and we decided to drive the car up some mountain in Colorado, not a really big one, but it was high enough and I thought the road there was sketchy, but this was different! It was different gravy and in the UK, of course, we don’t have such big drops, as a really big cliff in the UK is probably only about 250ft and in Nepal, there were single trek roads that could collapse at any point and there was a drop of a mile down. When you look down a mile, I don’t care who you are, you get quite geeky when you look over and there is something awfully magnetic about those edges where your brain goes don’t go to close there and as you get there you start to lose balance and you think I’m a good bipedal I can walk down a road, but why can’t I stand on an edge without wanted to fall off.

What was it like knowing that you were being towed through that? 

First off, you are going to get to know Freddie Flintoff now, but Fred is one of the best cricketers that was ever born and I know that is a weird thought for you guys in the States but it’s a big thing for us and he’s totally fearless, but let’s just say his fearlessness can make him appear clumsy. So, if I had to judge for the people I’d want to tow me at that point, and I love Fred to death and I treat him like a brother, but I would have rather it been someone else, to be honest with you!

At least it worked out!  Speaking of which, you guys have such amazing chemistry together on the show which I think is such an attraction to viewers, as it’s fun to watch. Can you talk about that? 

Yeah, we call it the C-word over here because I’ve been involved in the reboot of “Top Gear” since the “three amigos” left and the media has been very keen to either criticize or highlight what they thought the lack of chemistry and chemistry is such a difficult thing in television because you can’t just throw three people in a room and say ‘alright, have chemistry!’ … it doesn’t happen. It’s impossible because in a show like “Top Gear” you are in a difficult place where you are behaving as yourself, you’re not acting, but you are making television and you’re not running a continuous reality-style show, so how you get on together and how you interact is quite tricky and it just works with us. It really does! We are such good friends, but we’re not in each others pockets the whole time and I think the chemistry you need on television is that you have to get on well enough but you can genuinely poke fun at one another and be quite mean without it causing problems on or off-screen and we are easily in that place. I really enjoy it and it’s great fun and I think that’s the thing … you’ve got a massive sportsman and a very small journalist, you know, big and small, short, fat, thin … you know you need all those things cause you can poke fun at each other and I think it works and certainly the viewers in the UK think it works because it’s doing good numbers.

I think chemistry also on television is something that if it works, you’re not aware of, as you are only aware of chemistry if it’s not working because everyone is talking about it. For us now, it’s just seamless and I’m so grateful because I’ve not always had that luxury throughout my career. In the very beginning, it wasn’t there with the Chris Evans era and it was soul-destroying, to be honest with you but now I’m just enjoying it because it works.

It’s fantastic! You three are so enjoyable to watch, as it like watching three friends go on these adventures. 

Yeah, I think “Top Gear” has a strange spirit, as we are going to go off and do something you probably wouldn’t, but you can come along for the ride and see what happens and something will probably go wrong!

Can you talk a bit about the appeal of the show, as it has gone on now for so many seasons? What do you feel attracts viewers the most? “Top Gear” truly has it all with the speed and thrills but is also a learning experience as well. 

It’s destination television in the UK and that shouldn’t be forgotten and I know that is something that is increasingly popular with the emergence of Netflix and all the streaming services and YouTube and the world is changing, but there’s an old-fashioned demographic in the UK that at 8 o’clock in the evening on a Sunday you sit down with the kids or whoever you’re with and you watch three people go and do stuff that will probably make you laugh out loud or make you think ‘Good, God! That was special’ or make you think that motorcars are a great thing to watch but the raw material of “Top Gear” is incredibly helpful, as the motorcar is the best thing you can film. It’s visceral! It can be peaceful, it can be ugly, it can make you cry, it can make you laugh out loud, but whatever it does it’s going to generate an emotional response in you and the motorcar is very filmic. Our raw material we are very lucky with and then there is the travel element which has been hugely important for “Top Gear”. It is more difficult now because we are in lockdown but we are finding ways to solve it and I think the great thing about “Top Gear” and it’s biggest single strength is that it is a car show that is loved by people who don’t like cars.

You know you are making good television when you can draw people in, as there aren’t many areas in the media, especially in television where a show can draw in an audience almost deliberately doesn’t like its raw material, I would say something similar would be like, Bourdain, as even if you didn’t like food you watched Bourdain because you wanted to hear what he said, and we are similar to that, but we don’t aim to be, but I think so many people watch “Top Gear” even if they don’t like cars because they want to see what are they up to now or we are going somewhere interesting or there is a technology they are quite interest in or all of the above.

Absolutely! With myself not being a huge car enthusiast, but seeing the adventure aspect and seeing the thrills has always drawn me into “Top Gear”. 

That is the difference between us and the internet, and you the internet you can read a review of a car such as the McLaren Speedtail with a ton of technical wording and you would fall asleep, but on television, you can actually see a McLaren Speedtail racing, especially up against a fighter jet and you want to watch it.

Obviously skill in driving plays great importance on “Top Gear” especially with the camera crew involved as well. How does everything come together, as it appears very seamless?

When we are out and about on adventures that doesn’t involve a huge amount of driving skill, you just have to use common sense and just be respectful of your surroundings. One thing we won’t do on “Top Gear” is just arrive in someone’s country and be disrespectful or drive in a manner that’s not following their rules or laws. The BBC wouldn’t allow it and I personally wouldn’t want to be involved in something like that. The faster track test that I do require a bit more accuracy and skill but that’s my role on the show. Paddy is a fantastic entertainer and a very funny guy and his timing is superb and Fred is fearless, utterly fearless, and brave and equally very funny as he has dropped some lines that I can’t believe. Their driving is really solid, they’re both good drivers and have driven fast cars. I’ve spent twenty years driving supercars around so I drive in a different way than them, but I’m not nearly as funny as they are so you can’t all do the same things.

I spend a lot of time doing it and I know my crew well so if I say I’m going to slide a car at 80mph around the corner the cameraman will say, Chris, can I stand there and I’ll say no, Greg, you shouldn’t stand there because you’ll never see your children again and I make very simple calls and I don’t take massive risks anymore, as I used to take them a lot when I was younger, but I’m very proud of the fact that I, or we, can drive to a high standard and I think you need that point of trust. All of us don’t need to be Louis Hamilton or that, but I’m a good test driver of cars and I think I’m at the top of my trade when it comes to driving cars and making them look exciting on camera. I think that is important for the viewer because would you trust Bourdain if he couldn’t cook? I think with “Top Gear” people can say why should we care what “Top Gear” says about the new Ferrari SF91 but Harris is kind of the one for driving supercars so that’s fine and I have to allow myself that one compliment because before “Top Gear” I was too modest and I would go ‘oh, I’m alright’ but you know what? I’m really good at that! I’m not very funny and I can be bloody irritating but I can drive a car!

Absolutely! You can break it down for people in such a way that they can understand and people do appreciate raw honesty and someone that is not just going to fluff up reviews. 

You always know in my trade when you are not doing your job and that is when all the car makers love you! If all the car makers love you then you are not doing your job! You have to be falling out with at least half of them … at the moment I am!

Is there anything on “Top Gear” that you would like to try that you have not yet had the opportunity? 

I have never done the Le Mans 24-hours! This is obviously me pitching for a free drive (laughs)! I’ve also never driven a Ferrari 250 GTO which is supposed to be the most expensive car on the planet and I would love to do a piece on one of those. Also, one of the things we have been looking at doing for the last couple of years is going to Alaska. I want to go and do a big film in Alaska. I think it is going to be a while before we can do it but that’s an ambition of mine.

“Top Gear” premieres Sunday, August 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America.

 

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