Why Friends star Matt LeBlanc has been hired to co-host Top Gear

American actor, a car fan himself and a former guest on the show, will play the down-to-earth straight man alongside British radio host Chris Evans, who sometimes shoots from the hip

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 12:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 12:06pm

American actor Matt LeBlanc will be joining the motoring show Top Gear, making him the first non-British host in the BBC programme’s 39-year history.

The actor, best known for his role as dimwitted struggling actor Joey Tribbiani in Friends, will present the show with British radio host Chris Evans.

LeBlanc has appeared on the programme twice as a guest and holds bragging rights as the the fastest star to race around the track in a reasonably priced car. He also presented a spin-off called Top Gear: The Races, a capsule show highlighting some of the show’s epic clashes of cars versus other forms of transport.

“As a car nut and a massive fan of Top Gear, I’m honoured and excited to be a part of this iconic show’s new chapter. What a thrill,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc already spends part of his year in Britain shooting and promoting the Showtime comedy Episodes, for which he won a Golden Globe for playing a fictional version of himself. That show is expected to return for at least one more season, though it’s not clear when.

Other new Top Gear presenters will be confirmed shortly, the BBC said, adding that the show is expected return to TV screens in May.

Last year, the BBC announced it would not renew controversial former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson’s contract, after he was allegedly verbally and physically abusive to one of the show’s producers.

Clarkson later signed a deal for a new car show with Amazon Instant Video, along with his two former co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May.

Evans is best known as a radio DJ, television host and former tabloid fixture, all of which could bode well for fans. But the man doesn’t always give a lot of thought to the things he says out loud. For example, he once admitted on air to overdoing it with some magic mushrooms, which drew the attention of the police. If Clarkson’s lack of filter drew viewers to Top Gear, the BBC is hoping that Evans can provide a similar lure.

Evans is also a major car enthusiast. Among his collection: a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, which once belonged to Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car.

There was a lot of talk over who else might host the show, either instead of Evans or alongside him. LeBlanc was clearly hired to play the straight man role – the down-to-earth guy to temper Evans’s loose cannon. But LeBlanc also has a well-documented love for cars (and not just based on that Friends episode when Joey pretended to own a Porsche). He has a Ferrari of his own.

Additional reporting by the Washington Post