Craig Ferguson is in the driver's seat. The Scotland native — best known as Mr. Wick on The Drew Carey Show — has just been named the new host of CBS's Late Late Show, but when we caught up with him via cell phone, he had literally been driving for the last 10 hours. "I have to be honest. My ass is a little sore," says the 42-year-old actor, who beat out comedian D.L. Hughley, former Ed costar Michael Ian Black and TRL's Damien Fahey for Craig Kilborn's old job. His aching backside aside, Ferguson was elated as he talked about his new gig (which starts Jan. 3) while making his way back from Vancouver, where he had just filmed a role for ABC's life as we know it.TV Guide Online: Did you see your victory coming?
I gotta say, if I was a betting man, I wouldn't have put the money on me. I'd never thought about doing a talk show in my life, and then about 30 seconds into guest-hosting [Late Late
], it was like I'd just taken crack. Like this is my thing — I don't wanna do anything else but this. I'm not doing this so I can do something else. If I do this and get this right, I'm good.
TVGO: How did you find out you got the job?
I had just flown in from New York to Vancouver, where I had been doing life as we know it
, playing Kelly Osbourne
's father. I got back to the hotel and [Late Late Show
consultant] Peter Lassally
and Rob Burnett
from Worldwide Pants [David Letterman
's production company] called me — and I knew it was either very good news or very bad news. They said, "It's you. You're in." And after I stopped screaming like a little girl, they said, "OK, try not to do that on the air." And that was it!
TVGO: Looking forward to being known in America as a late-night host instead of "Drew Carey's boss"?
There was a certain amount of anonymity that went with being Mr. Wick which I kind of liked. With this one, you don't get to be quite as anonymous. Every night, you're just being yourself. I think if you were trying to be something that you weren't, it would kill ya because...hold on a second, there's a giant truck that actually does want to kill me... [Reading back of the truck
] "How am I driving?" Not very well, my friend!... My concern about this guy is I think he might have escaped from somewhere. So I'm just gonna let him go [another short pause
]... And he's off.
TVGO: OK. Now, what did you learn between your first guest-hosting gig in October and your callback week of shows last month?
I think in a show like that, the more you try to "perform," the more you look like an embarrassing uncle at a party. It has to be a natural environment for you. And also, in a very kind of teacher's pet sort of a way, I sat down and watched miles and miles of tape of Johnny Carson
, David Letterman
and Regis Philbin
who, to me, are the three guys who do this better than anyone else ever has.
TVGO: You kiss-ass.
You can say that but show me somebody better than Letterman. I mean, really, he redefined the whole genre. And I said that before I had the job. I know it's kiss-ass now because I work for him, but it's true. It's easy to kiss ass if it's the right thing to do. Plus he's my boss — you're right.
TVGO: Nice sucking-up, though.
TVGO: How did the first guest-hosting gig come about? No offense to you, but we doubt they said, "Hey, let's get Drew Carey's boss in here!"
No, I think you're absolutely right... "Let's get the guy who says 'Carey, you're fired!' Get him! He'll be able to do it!" What happened was, years before — when I first moved to America — I did a sitcom called Maybe This Time
with Betty White
and Marie Osmond
. To publicize that, I went on The Late Late Show
when Tom Snyder
was the host. When I was on, one of the segment producers said at the time, "That guy should do more of this." And over the years, I was a guest on the show whenever I was publicizing or doing Drew
TVGO: Before you go, tell me about your role in the Lemony Snicket movie. You're playing a "person of indeterminate gender," is that right?
I play a half man, half woman, which I think is the same as being British.
TVGO: Was it flattering to be cast in that role?
You know, it obviously meant somebody thought I had a nice ass and that's always nice.
TVGO: Once again, on behalf of America: Congratulations, "Drew Carey's boss."
Thank you. You don't need to call me that anymore! Actually, you know what's funny? I was in New York last week and I went into a Starbucks and somebody went "Hey, it's that guy!" — and I was waiting for the Drew Carey Show
thing — and he went, "Hey, it's that guy from The Late Late Show
!" And I went, "Uh, not yet." And he went, "You will
be, buddy, you will be!"