Last year when fracas-gate was in full-swing, YouTube star Chris Harris went on record saying that the BBC would be “absolutely mad” for trying to continue the show with different presenters. “Does TG work without Jeremy? Probably not. Does it work without Richard and James too – absolutely not,” he wrote. After a change of heart later in the year, Harris joined the Top Gear team as one of the six presenters in the line-up.
On being approached by Top Gear, Harris said in a recent interview that: “It’s quite strange, actually. I was working in Spain on another shoot and my phone rang. The voice went: ‘Hello, Chris Evans here’. I went: ‘You joking!’ Chris Evans is big news, especially if you are my age and in the UK. He then went: ‘Have you seen the news?’ I said ‘no’ and that I was in Spain. He goes: ‘I’ve been given the Top Gear job and I just wanted to phone and have a chat with you’. We had a wonderful, wide-ranging 20-minute conversation about cars, at the end of which, he went: ‘I’m not giving you a job, I just wanted to have a chat with you.’”
However, Evans did inform Harris that he was interested in him being “a part of this” and that they would be in touch. In the past, Harris has admitted that his presenting skills were not up to Top Gear standard, although he has shown that he can at least talk to camera whilst driving. Despite his many YouTube videos, Harris laughs: “I had to do a screen test, which I’m sure I was terrible at. But I think they still need to throw you in front of the cameras in studio to see if you freak out.”
After agreeing to join the team, Harris said: “On the one hand, I like being in my comfort zone. You may not be aware, but I’ve been making web films for five years and have total control over them. And it’s a big leap of faith to drop into this big thing that I have no control over. But, and I kept coming back to this, you have to ask your 17-year-old self if you would take the job on Top Gear. And, you would say ‘yes’. You have to. It’s the biggest brand in the world. It’s like being a football player and someone from Leicester City asks you if you want to come and play. I’m nervous because I’m surrounded by some really big names/talent. But you can look at it in two ways: you can either get shaky and scared or you can try and rise to the occasion and match their work. There aren’t better people to learn from and there is so much to learn from these guys. I’m honoured to have been given the chance.”
After being asked to shed some light on what we can expect, Harris revealed: “It’s a clever line-up. It’s best described as a football side; everyone has their specialities and they get called onto the pitch as and when they are needed. There are two major players – Chris and Matt – at the front of the show. They rest of us sit on the touchline and wait until we’re needed, which is quite regularly. It takes the show away from being dependent on three personalities. You can’t try and emulate what went down before. It was brilliant. And, in this trade, it is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I think the breadth of it will resonate. It feels like a global show. It’s been shot on four continents; numerous countries. You will see every kind of weather imaginable. There is South Africa in it as well. It feels like the team has covered the globe to make this. You are going to see adventures. You are going to see challenges. You are going to see celebrities in cars, in a different format to how you saw them before. You are going to see some track work. You are going to see some more sensible car reviewing, but still with Top Gear colour and humour. It will never be dry. You will see a logical evolution of what you had before, but using this different method of having more presenters.”
Harris adds: “Driving a £5 million Ferrari on a beautiful French hillside road with a camera crew filming me was a pinch-yourself moment. Along with my first shoot at Dunsfold track. That was really special.”